DIGITAL AMERICA

Caught in the Web?

// Posted by on 02/20/2012 (8:56 PM)

This morning, I read the same article on Al Jazeera as Cameron. Just as he did, I found it extremely interested, so I decided to do some further research on “Internet Addicts.” Now I hope that most (read: all) who are reading this are not so addicted to the internet that they forget to feed their (real or hypothetical) infant daughter because they were so completely consumed by an internet game of a virtual child (which the parents did in fact remember to feed). Sadly, these Korean parents, lost their daughter because she starved to death because they were so severely addicted.

This traumatic and heartbreaking story caught my interest. I decided to look into Internet Addition Disorder (IAD) which is believed by some to be a new mental disorder. (NOTE: It is not yet included in the DSM-5, but there is hope since “google” is now a verb in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) Since 2009, there have been Internet Rehab Centers popping up around the US, but is this necessary? For some, it seems like it is. One of the Internet Rehab Centers I explored was the Heavensfield Retreat in Falls City, Washington. The program at the center is called reSTART. ReSTART is a rather witty name since many wish that life was as easy to restart as their computers.

It’s slogan is something rather powerful… “connect with LIFE” insinuating that those who are addicted to the internet, do not have the ability, the power nor the choice to connect with life. However, this notion makes it seem like there is no such thing as a virtual life. I would argue that there is. The issue I have is that there is more than merely a virtual life. There is a real life; a life where individuals must connect personally, not just virtually, and enjoy the physical world around them.

Below is the list of symptoms that the program believes determines an Internet Addict based on a Mashable article:

1. Have a strong desire or impulse to use the internet.

2. Decreasing or stopping of the internet leads to withdrawal symptoms (e.g., general malaise, restlessness, irritability, lack of concentration, dyssomnia); and the above mentioned symptoms may be relieved by similar electronic media (e.g., TV, handheld games, gaming devices).

3. Continually increasing the amount of internet use and the extent of internet involvement to reach sense of satisfaction.

4. Use of internet in spite of its harmful effects; despite knowledge of harmful effects, internet use is hard to stop.

5. Difficulties controlling beginning, and finishing, and the duration of time of internet use; efforts to modify internet use may be attempted multiple times without success.

6. As a result of internet use, interests, recreation or social activities are decreased or abandoned.

7. Internet use is seen as a way to escape problems or to gain relief from negative feelings.

8. The extent of internet use is denied or minimized to teachers, schoolmates, friends or professionals (including actual time and expenditure of internet contact).

9. Everyday life and social function is impaired (e.g., in social, academic and workability.)

Does this list seem to define Internet Addicts as you image them? Anything you think should be added to the list?

Perhaps an even better questions, does everyone need to reSTART? Why are we, so incredibly uncomfortable with being disconnected even for day?


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Comments:


Kelsey said...

A brief video I’m sure we all know that beautifully illustrates your point about living.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUGmcb3mhLM

// 02/20/2012 at 10:13 pm

Max said...

Great video Kelsey, while the different symptoms laid out by Phylicia illustrate how extreme ones usage would have to be in order to be diagnosed with this addiction, I’m sure all of us can relate to the distraction the internet poses while you’re trying to write a paper or perhaps the desire to go onto social media sites while using your computer as inextricable from the usage of your computer. I feel the ‘addiction’ to be more applicable is you simply consider it as the need to use these sites whenever you’re using your computer.

// 02/20/2012 at 11:37 pm

Allison said...

The thought that there can actually be a diagnosable disorder for internet addiction is remarkable and quite honestly terrifyingly sad. I cannot imagine a life truly attached to the internet in the way that there people at reSTART are. I agree with Max in that a lot of people are ‘addicted’ in that they automatically use the internet and various social networking sites whenever they open their laptop. I imagine that for most people that is a trained behavior. They taught themselves to do that and could perhaps ween themselves off of that habit. Aren’t people predisposed to disorders? To the best of my knowledge there is typically a biological factor that is often displayed because of environmental factors. So could you really have a disorder? What kind of biological misconnection is there. Perhaps it goes along the same lines as having an “addictive personality”? Just thoughts…

// 02/21/2012 at 11:07 am

Tommy said...

I think that the article makes some pretty good points, and its clear that this is becoming an increasingly more serious problem. I do, however, have some problems with some of the information in the article. My biggest complaint is that the “experts” who are consistently referred to (“experts agree…”) aren’t always directly acknowledge, and sayings like “research shows” aren’t always backed up by a link to the research or even a complete summary of results. The only reason I think that this is a problem is because of the fact that “addiction” isn’t a disorder recognized by the DSM-IV-TR (the most recent edition psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health disorders); rather the DSM refers to substance dependence, substance abuse, and impulse control disorders. In my mind, an internet addiction would seem to be classified as an abuse, rather than a dependence, since a substance dependence implies tolerance and withdrawal (even though the article cites withdrawal symptoms, it states that they are mostly psychological; withdrawal symptoms are physiological). The most important point they made, in my opinion, was that there are a lot of complex underlying issues behind an “internet addiction,” and that the addiction itself is a byproduct of an underlying disorder. I think that this article throws around terms like addiction, and compares it to alcohol and drug dependence/abuse, to blow things out of proportion. Do some people need to cut back on their internet usage? Absolutely. Does that mean they’re “addicted” to the internet? Doubtful. Labeling something as an addiction, and opening rehab centers, is a pretty slippery slope in my opinion, and doesn’t even begin to cover the root of the problem for those who may feel “addicted” to the internet.

// 02/21/2012 at 9:15 pm

Cameron said...

Phylicia, your questions are poignant. For the most part, I believe that the list defines Internet addicts as I imagine them; however, I believe it should go a little further. I believe that many of us are addicted according to many of these conditions (at least I am); however, I do not believe that I am an addict. (Yes, I know, denial can be a sign, but hear me out!) I feel that numbers 6 and 9 get to the point, that it is not simply that one enjoys using the Internet and does so often, but that it hampers their other activities. They have fewer social interactions, spend less time on other activities that they used to, etc. Being an addict does not simply mean that you do it a lot, but that it hampers other areas of your life. Also, an inability to take time away from technology could be another sign. While we have debated whether a day off could be possible, I am speaking more of during a meeting or a meal or a conversation and we can not ignore a phone call or an email, that could be another sign that we’re addicts. I believe that these are the main things that should be looked at when deciding who is and is not an addict.

In our lives, I believe that we can apply these conditions. Yes, most, if not all, of us enjoy social media, use email to stay in contact with friends, family, co-workers, other students, professors, etc., and enjoy tv/video games, but it is when technology hampers other aspects of our lives that we become addicts. Consistently playing video games on the weekends alone, rather than hanging out with friends, could be a sign that you are an addict. Paying so much attention to our computers/smart phones, that we fail to miss the people and the world around us, could be another sign.

So while I still don’t think that I am an addict or that most of us are, I believe that we are close to becoming addicts, that it would not take much to push us over the edge.

// 02/21/2012 at 10:41 pm