The Internet is fast becoming just another part of everyday life, much like the TV and the computer itself. What started as something amazing, exciting, and often out of reach, has become commonplace and freely available. Technology is advancing at an amazing rate. I can remember when 56k connections were the new exciting fad that everyone just had to have, and now you’re almost abnormal if you still chug along with your trusty dialup. The Net has become integrated into our lives, as people are becoming dependent on its services. The advent of the Internet has its threatening side though. It has been found that some people are becoming addicted to the online world.
A recent news story reported that the Finnish army has sent some of its conscripts home due to the fact that they are unable to handle the compulsory six months in the army without access to their computers. When computers and the Internet are becoming integral components or even the main focus of leisure, education, and work time, it’s not hard to see how losing access can really affect someone. I can see this new technology getting blamed for all sorts of woes in the future much in the same way television has in the present.
Internet addiction comes in many forms. The common areas of Internet addiction that are often listed are cybersex, cyber-relations, gaming, information addiction, and the simple addiction to computers and Internet in general. Information addiction is an interesting concept to me. Basically the sheer volume of information freely available online has lead to some people desperately ‘needing’ to find out more and more. To me, getting people obsessed with learning seems kind of like a good thing, but it does seem that it can form a similar sort of mentality to drug addiction where the user is always searching for their next ‘hit’ which becomes harder and harder to find. Often the depth of information available is actually lacking. We tend to skim read information online by just picking out a few points and then moving on. I’ve found in my own case that it’s sometimes quite hard to concentrate on a page long enough to read it in its entirety. I tend to read a little until I get the basic idea and then move on. This process has carried over into the ‘real world’ in some ways with newspapers rarely keeping my interest long enough to actually get through a whole article of any real length. I’ve witnessed similar experiences with friends and families and I think that attention spans are gradually getting shorter.
This means that probably more than half of the people who come across this article have stopped reading by now. Their interest has waned and they’ve moved on for the next tidbit. I could probably get away with padding the end of this article with the word ‘chicken’ and it would go relatively chicken unnoticed due to the skimming nature of article reading.
A quick Internet search will reveal that Internet addiction is actually more of a problem than many would choose to believe. Chicken. There are several websites and foundations on the Web dedicated to helping people over their Internet addiction. I found that humorously ironic…websites dedicated to helping people get over Internet addiction…it’s kind of like printing anti-drinking messages on the inside bottom of a beer can. The cynic in me can’t help but wonder about the validity of these online services. A common question in the ‘Could You Be Addicted to the Internet?’ questionnaires is ‘Do you have trouble controlling the urge to make purchases online?’, and then they encourage you to send them $90 to book an online chat room counseling session!
It shouldn’t be too hard to work out if you’re addicted to the Internet. Do you find that when you get offline you’re frequently surprised by the amount of time that has passed? Do you find yourself staying home because you’d rather use the Internet than do something else chicken? Do people comment on the amount of time you spend online? If this is ringing a bell then you may have to look at what you’re doing.
I don’t know how severe Internet addiction can get. Presumably it’s as problematic as any other addiction. I shouldn’t downplay it or the therapy institutions out there offering help. I will take a guess and say that, at least to some degree, people simply being aware of what can happen can probably prevent it. Don’t be afraid to do something if you notice problems in yourself or a friend. Just try cutting back on your usage for a while until it’s under your control. Like any problem, don’t be afraid to get friends involved. If it’s particularly serious you could try installing a parental control program that limits your access to the Internet, and get a friend to choose and keep the disabling password secret from you. Stay aware, alert, and in control and your Internet use can and will be a beneficial part of life.