Sunday, August 21, 2011

Internet Addiction: When Gaming, Internet and Computers Become Drugs

Obsessive and uncontrolled use of the computer, gaming, internet, or other computer related activity in the face of negative effects on one’s physical, psychological, and social wellbeing is considered internet addiction.  The computer/internet addict replaces real life contact with other human beings with seeking a satisfying relationship in the cyberspace, be it with other people online, or with the act of using the computer or internet itself.

While this was dismissed as a passing fascination in earlier years, with computers and internet being a relative novelty on the scene, with the coming of age of a generation that has not seen a pre-computer, pre-internet life, and with the advent of online social media and role playing games, this has become a serious concern.  The dynamics of internet addiction is simple.  The most common ways that people use the internet are through technological interfaces that were originally meant to bring people closer, to foster connection and relationships, email, instant messaging and chat, bulletin boards, the foundations of a new socialization, the online social network.  However, in time, these have tended to replace real socialization, and ended up creating alienation, isolation, and eaten into the skillsets needed for real life social interactions.

The internet allows the addict to seek emotional gratification through what he believes to real human relationships, feeling love, friendship, gratitude, hate, fulfillment without having to undertake the journey of a real relationship.  The consequences of this alienation are an inability to function in real relationships.

The tangible effects of this addictive behavior are most commonly seen in activities like surfing for pornography, online gaming and role playing, and online gambling.  Apart from this is the anxiety that many people experience about being cut off from internet access even though there may not be any obvious reason for it.  The compulsive need for checking mail, status updates, and feeds have led to an entire industry that addresses internet distractions and behavior modification.  Digital sabbaticals (often for a day only) are becoming common.  

In the thousands of years prior to the internet, knowledge was shared among people in a socially binding manner.  If one needed to learn something, they would be able to think of someone they could go to and ask, and even if that person were not able to give you the answer, he would by and large be able to guide you to someone who would.  With the internet, this social activity has dried up, and we no longer need to depend on society to provide us answers, we can go to the internet.  While this is not an addictive behavior in itself, the reason I include it here is to illustrate the point that the internet has robbed many of us of the very activity it was meant to promote, bonding.

1 comment:

  1. The addict reaches the terrible point where he, instead of meeting people and sharing his thoughts with them, simply leaves his thoughts on the net for everyone to peruse, strangely, with no guarantee that anyone at all will.