Internet Junkie

Picture by: Alberto Ruggieri

Picture by: Alberto Ruggieri

By: Maya S.

Do you often find yourself compelled to use the internet? Have you neglected important aspects of your life just to be online? Do you waste hours at a time idly surfing the web? Are you completely consumed by cyber activity? You may be suffering from internet addiction.

“Man will see around the world. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span… The instrument bringing these distant scenes to the very doors of people will be connected with a giant telephone apparatus transmitting each incidental sound in its appropriate place”.

What John Elfreth Watkins failed to foresee in his early prediction of the internet (published in the Ladies Home Journal Circa 1901), was that there would be an array of people who have subjected themselves to living a virtual reality. These participants have fallen out of sync with realism, and managed to put their lives on hold in order to cater to the excitement of an online terminal; subjects whose crucial responsibilities and life obligations are no longer prioritized. Over the last decade such people have been thrown into a classification which researchers have identified as internet addiction. In the past internet addiction was not regarded as an actual clinical disorder, thus mostly left ignored. Only recently has it been recognized as an actual condition. Any type of habit that leads to a psychologically uncontrollable urge to continuously utilize an object where it results in personal trauma is defined as an addiction.

Internet usage, if not moderated can negatively lead to familial, social, and occupational hazards. It has adversely affected the lives of millions; women, men and children. According to statistics, out of the 196 million online users in 2006, six percent suffered from internet addiction. Such addictions were classified but not restricted to the following categories porn, gaming, surfing, online gambling, auction/shopping, cyber sexual affairs, and social networking. People found themselves obsessively using the computer in a manner much the same way one would taking drugs. Furthermore, studies have shown that internet junkies slowly withdraw themselves from their immediate group, end up late to work, miss important dates, slack in studies and fall behind in everyday routines. Victims often find themselves preoccupied with internet use and ignore friends and family. They acquire a sense of displacement where they’re unable to determine a difference between physical being and virtual identity. Internet addicts develop antisocial behaviors which result in social disconnection. This type of behavior is thought to be linked to specific upbringings, familial discord and challenges in one’s life and relationships. The internet is regarded as a therapeutic escape for some.

It is typical for online addicts to show signs of apprehension, aggravation and deception when confronted about their problems. They regress into a stage of denial and find excuses to validate their actions. One common excuse would be that they are simply filling a void. There have been cases of people whose internet usage has caused them to experience a complete disassociation from friends and family. The Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society conducted a study where researchers found that the use of the Internet could lead to loneliness and a decline in social engagement. The researchers also concluded that “the more hours’ people use on the Internet, the less time they spend in contact with real human beings.” Such studies indicate that online usage is in fact detrimental to one’s being and should not be viewed lightly. The ideology of corresponding internet use with an addiction is brushed off by many and thought of as an illusory condition devised for the sole purpose of attaining monetary gains through various remedial channels. But it is evident through specific cases and studies that an underlying issue of dependency on the information highway remains prominent and does exist. There’s definitely more to it than simply being a leisure activity.

For the last several years social networking has been the most utilized addendum on the internet market. It gives users the opportunity to create a personal online identity and join specific cyber social groups such as but not limited to myspace and facebook. These factions offer the most diverse interaction with individuals from all around the world. Activities included are blogging, chatting, page designing, visiting other member pages, and commenting on each other’s entries. Certain parties found themselves, for hours in a row, obsessively visiting their pages in anticipation of receiving feedback and making updates. Individuals faced an inability to discipline time spent on networking and callously ignored complaints made by love ones. These persons were abnormally absorbed into remaining in tact with their online communities. They took the network seriously and generally form close ties with other members. However with time some members experienced an elevation in stress due to altercations with members of that network. These internet users are extremely affected by such dramatization. They sometimes abandon the group, but ultimately search for another group to participate in and reclaim acclamation in order to sustain their habit.

The easy access to adult related sites and wide range of free content has caused an epidemic of return viewers; some to the point where it has caused adversity in their lives. Pornography keeps one thrilled with the idea of attaining virtual erotic fulfillment however illusory the end result may be. Men who are predominantly addicted to pornographic sites develop a void towards off-line intimacy. This adjustment in sexual behavior is the leading cause for relationship discord among male addicts. Partners of those consumed by cyber-pornography claimed a decline in physical sexual activity and in certain drastic cases even experienced a complete sexual withdrawal from real-life intimacy.

What do women like to do best? The leading cause for addiction among women but not limited to, is online chatting. It often starts with the entrance into various chat rooms where people meet an array of others seeking similar interest and discuss various topics ranging from everyday life to specific hobbies. They soon adjust and remain loyal to their most preferred chat room. This is where the addiction begins as chatters become familiar with people in the group. Discussions become the core for mental stimulation and pleasure, leaving off-line communication and responsibilities neglected. Slowly the chats evolve into private messaging where chatters personally grow attached to one another, sometimes romantically. These personal conversations usually result with an emotional dependency towards each other. In certain cases these connections escalate into online affairs and become the sole purpose for online use altogether. Chatters are confronted by significant others who are well aware of their online activity. They often respond with an immediate denial and lack of acknowledgement followed by spouts of anger and avoidance. Addicts develop animosity towards their partners while catering to the needs of their online love, whom they’ve designed to be the perfect match for them. Unfortunately it takes time for the addicts to realize that this “ideal person” is nothing more than a fantasy that they’ve devised in their head. Sadly, it may be too late to redeem themselves with their significant others who have been devastated by such a revelation.

Another major addiction is compulsive online gambling. People are attracted to the ease and comfort of the ability to gamble in privacy and within their homes. Unfortunately this easy access progresses to non-disciplinary impulsive gambling and loss of monetary funds. Pathological gamblers are usually cast with a disastrously rapid loss of funds. There is government awareness of online gambling addiction and attempts to moderate and illegalize internet gambling has produced ineffective, as it is possible to gamble on sites that are not established on U.S. territory. However, in September of 2006 a law was passed that would enforce transactions from banks and similar institutions to online gambling sites illegal.

The World Wide Web is not biased towards its habit forming victims. Children and adults alike have been lured into online gaming and fallen slave to the mind frame of non-stop game play. From game box junkies to PC gamers technological advancements have offered users the capability to connect with each other virtually and play simultaneously. This interactive development was devised for the sole-purpose of designing the never ending game. Unfortunately for its members they eat, sleep, and drink game.

A problem that is not taken seriously nor regarded as an issue altogether is compulsive online shopping and auction participation. Shoppers have reported a distinct urge to win auctions followed by a severity of bidding on items they don’t even need nor want. Shoppers also admitted to non-auction sales which were instilled by the satisfaction of finding a good deal. Spenders cater to the mental high of impulse buying through e-commerce channels. These habits have caused financial distress for addicts which has lead to detrimental loss of savings and a severe accumulation of debt. Although internet shopping can turn into a habit formation is one of the inferior problems associated with net addiction.

Addiction itself accomplishes a sense of mental pleasure, however momentary the benefit may be. Internet addicts seek relief of distress and tension that may be present in their lives. Cyberspace definitely has mood and behavior altering capabilities. It’s not as innocent an entity as some would think. It’s an outlet for people to escape problematic issues in their life, which could lead to unmanageable control and disproportionate abuse of online activity. There may be other internet types of online addictions that were not mentioned, but are usually associated and classified with one of the topics from above. They’re just not statistically significant enough to have a category of their own. Sufferers of internet addiction not only cope with a social dissociation, familial intolerance and work-related tragedies, but also deal with eye strain, sleep deprivation, back pain and other health issues. There are therapeutic treatment centers, rehab, and support groups available for regimen today. Recognition of internet addiction is being taken seriously and accumulating the attention it deserves. If you feel that you fall into any of the categories above it is advisable and recommended that you seek care immediately.