"The Various Faces of Internet Addiction"
By George Martsoukos
When a person absorbs a chemical
into his or her bloodstream that in turn alters the brain’s chemical
make up, addiction is created. In this world of ever-evolving technology,
however, bits and bytes can foster addiction just as easily as heroin, cocaine
or alcohol. As technology evolves faster than our efforts to understand it,
we as a society must take a step back to evaluate the risks and dangers of
becoming more and more reliant on electronic devices.
Chat Till You Drop
Chat rooms have been around for
quite some time, and they are one of the most abused forms of communication
today. Some users spend more time chatting over the Internet than they do
interacting with real people during the course of a day. The appeal to the
end user is the complete anonymity offered by the chat room; this allows
for addicts to immerse themselves in fantasy; pretending to be any type of
person they can imagine in these virtual rooms.
Internet chatting has become
one of the leading precursors to marital infidelity. Many spouses regard
chat rooms as harmless, that nothing will come of their significant others
spending hours on end chatting it up with strangers that live in various
parts of the country. However benign this may seem in the beginning, though,
the aforementioned anonymity afforded by the Internet can harbor dangers
behind every screen name. Unfortunately, there really is no way of knowing
who may be a predator and who is just another average user.
The Message Board Troll
Message boards have become increasingly
popular with the average Internet citizen. They are usually highly specific
to one topic or to a small community of people. These Boards, BBS or Forums
are treasure troves of information as people can update previous posts with
a click of the button. Addiction to message boards is generally rare as it’s
not a real-time activity. Once the original post is up, it takes time for
someone else to come along and add to it or reply.
Online auction and shopping sites
can also be a source of addiction for many Internet addicts. These sites
offer the ability to browse and search thousands of products from the comfort
of one’s swivel chair. As surprising as it may sound, some people cannot
stop shopping once they get started. Many of products that the addict purchases
over the Internet are merely for the thrill of the bid rather than owning
something that is practical or necessary.
The Online Gamer
In the past, video games have
been very linear, similar to movies in that they have a beginning, middle
and an end. However, the Internet has drastically changed how people play
games. Online gaming is becoming a huge business and very real danger to
people with addictive personalities.
Massively Multiplayer Online
Gaming (or MMOs, as they’re referred to by people in the gaming industry)
allow users to connect to a server where thousands of other people play alongside
them in the same virtual world. These virtual worlds allow the user to create
a character in a sprawling world that has a dynamic economy, ownership of
items and/or property and a vast array of different locales to which real
time is actually required for travel.
There have been stories in the
news recently of players killing other players over a stolen item, a man
who played for 50 hours straight and eventually died after his heart stopped,
and people selling the rarest of in-game items for large sums of real money
on (what else?) online auction sites. These games offer chat, a sense of
community, and are always up and running. The worst part, however, is that
MMOs have no end. One cannot “win” or “lose” as the
games just keep on going as more content is added to them every month.
Why is It Dangerous?
Like any other dependency, Internet
addiction can cause the addict to lose touch with their real life responsibilities.
People who spend so much type on the Internet rarely make time for their
families, friends or love interests. Since the Internet is always open for
business, some users barely ever sleep, and without sleep the body cannot
Addicts often retreat to the
Internet to escape from real-world problems that they don’t have the
willpower to face. They hide amongst the exchanging of binary 1s and 0s to
relieve stress from a job, a tattered family life or even as an attempt to
stop a chemical addiction.
Too much of any one thing is
always bad for you. Technology has the power to strengthen our lives, relieving
us of some of the most mundane of tasks. But we must always be aware that
real life is out there, with so much more to offer than any stream of electricity.
- Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (for
example, do you think about previous online activity or anticipate your
next online session)?
- Do you feel the need to use the Internet with
increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
- Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts
to control, cut back or stop Internet use?
- Do you feel restless, moody, depressed or irritable
when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
- Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
- Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of
significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because
of the Internet?
- Have you lied to family members, a therapist
or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with the Internet?
- Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping
problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness,
guilt, anxiety, depression)?
If you answered yes to five or
more of these questions, you may have a problem with Internet addiction.
If you or someone you know has a problem controlling the amount of time spent
online, contact the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program at (410) 685-7878, ext