|Is this all just a Bunch of Hype?|
Created by Andy Oliver
There is debate among users as to whether there really is such an addiction, and as to whether it's a bad thing. Some people feel that the Internet is just a harmless, friendly tool for gathering information, making new friends, and passing time. Mental Health Net sponsors a discussion room about different topics related to mental health. There were several responses from people across the United States. Some of the people agreed that it is indeed possible to become addicted to the Internet. Others claimed it was all a farce. One of the participants, Charity, believes there is no such thing as Internet Addiction Disorder. She says there are many activities in life that she gets pleasure from engaging in, yet she does not believe she is addicted. She says, "Maybe the computer is just nicely interactive in a world of increasingly isolated people. And it's quiet, which is a very nice thing." Scribe, another participant, holds that maybe there is such a disorder, but it may not be all bad. He says, "...a person may spend a lot of time on the Internet, as I do, because I have finally found the 'bottomless' source of information. There is no last passage to this reference book, and if I am addicted to anything, it is knowledge... Are we not all addicted to something, which keeps us interested in living?" (Mental Health Net, 1997)
Others such as Young and other psychologists, feel that used in excess, the Internet can become hazardous to one's mental and physical health. By definition, an addiction does interfere with normal, adaptive functioning. So if someone is addicted, his or her functioning is maladaptive. This may manifest itself in a few of the symptoms classified by the American Psychiatric Association, or it may manifest itself in all of them.
The New York Times reported last August about IAD, providing true stories about individuals who think they might be addicted. The paper tells the story of one woman in the Pacific Northwest who was divorced by her husband because of the enormous amount of time she spent in front of her computer. Her fixation with the Internet apparently caused her to forget to buy food for her children, to take them to their doctor appointments, and to buy enough oil to heat her home. There is also the story of the seventeen year old boy from Texas who was suffering from Internet withdrawal symptoms. When he was brought into the alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, his body convulsed about, and he through tables and chairs around the rooms (Belluck, 1996).
It seems obvious that Internet Addiction Disorder does indeed exist. The question arises of who, if anyone, is to blame? Should it be the individual who chooses to participate in any on-line activity--from research, to chat, to just "surfing" the Net? A contemporary and pressing issue involving alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and even state- sponsored gambling faces legislatures today. Is it the suppliers of these addictive substances and products that should take responsibility for the problem? LavaMind, a company that produces computer games, quoted one of their customers in an advertisement on their web page. "Why is this thing so damned addictive?" is what the customer had written to LavaMind (LavaMind, 1997). Should the programmers and on-line services providers, like the drug dealers on the street, or the nicotine fixers at R.J. Reynolds, or the Commonwealth of Virginia Lottery marketers be held responsible for how and how much people use their products? Not everyone gets addicted to drugs or the lottery. In fact, it seems most people who do use the Internet, even in large quantities, never get addicted. It is hard to say who, if anyone, should take the blame. Programmers and service providers should be responsible enough to create appropriate products, and provide services in the ways that best serve the public, while maintaining their competitiveness. Consumers, however, should take responsibility for themselves and "know when to say when". If not that, then at least "tie one on". Unfortunately, if there are those that are predisposed to addiction, they might not be the ones to recognize a problem when it is happening.