internet addiction

Why we find it hard to label internet addiction

Much of my blog is focused on the rise in attention many of us are putting into the internet and technology. To me at least it seems that tech is taking up more and more of our time and changing the way we relate to each other, society and indeed ourselves.

It has definitely had a positive effect on society, but there is also an undercurrent of negative change which, I have found, many of us find hard to look at and accept. I am met with many who say I am too negative and that tech does a lot of good and to focus on that. It reminds me of the book ‘Smile or Die,’ by Barbara Ehrenreich, which talks of how we must always look on the bright side of life without contemplating the bad.

If we look at internet addiction we can see that the subject is fraught with controversy in which many debunk the notion in its entirety while others, such as David Greenfield, talk of the negative effect of the internet and technology. In fact, there was a great documentary on the subject, called Web Junkies of Chinese boot camps that seek to cure people from their internet addiction. When they interviewed some of the people in the camps many of them would sit in internet cafes for hours, or even days at a time. Some not even getting up to go to the toilet but would instead use bottles to urinate in.

This seems like compelling evidence of an all-encompassing addiction to me.

Looking at scientific exploration and journals on the subject, however, we can see that the evidence is far from conclusive.

On the one hand we can see how people are so engrossed with the internet that it affects their lives but on the other hand, no one can make a legitimate case of internet addiction for it to be recognised and put in the DSM.

It seems something is not right here. If we look at definition of addiction it reads: “The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically  habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

The internet is littered with examples of the trauma caused by people not interacting with social media or being without their phones for just a short amount of time.

I did some research into the matter myself by switching my phone and internet off for 3 days and the results were startling.

Why do we find it so hard to fit internet addiction into a category?

If we return back to the documentary, we can see that the people in the boot-camp were all addicted to playing an ORPG (Online Role Play Game). However not everyone is interested in the fantasy-online world and instead seek stimulation from Social Media, or some may look at dating websites, others may go to chat-rooms or look at pornography, news, gambling; the list goes on.

The internet is a virtual world which has a different set of a diverse choice of options in what we choose to partake in and therefore, what we become addicted in.

The way I see it is that much of the internet is based around sitting in front of device in order to interact with the virtual world. This is why I feel that we are seeking to group all internet-based activities together. Therefore whether its pornography, games, YouTube, social media etc. you are doing the same physical action of sitting in front of a computer and using the internet.

To flip it on its head if we met a gambling addict we wouldn’t say they were addicted to the physical world!

This is where it starts to get complicated however, as a gambling addict who solely used web-based Casinos would not be labelled an internet addict, but a gambling addict.

It is easier to label someone a gambling addict as they are doing the physical action that leads to the stimulus which in turn, creates the addiction no matter what medium is used.

What occurs to me is how can we link all of these activities together into one encompassing addiction, namely internet addiction?

The internet has opened many new pathways that we can explore and yet we are still using the criteria which are based on the physical assessment structure.

What I think would help is to not look to classify internet as a singular act but instead to segregate and examine the effect of different virtual activities in order to understand the effect they are having on society and label them as the addiction in themselves.

Any addiction can be debilitating. ‘Therapy in London’ can help to understand and overcome your addictive tenancies so they no longer affect and control your life.

7 thoughts on “Why we find it hard to label internet addiction”

  1. Using the internet is like picking up a shot of alcohol for some people-immediate reward. You’re right-there should be subcategories. From clicking “like” on “memes” to stalking, there seems to be many internet behaviors that are maladaptive-even ones that are typically healthy, but if done excessively creates dysfunction I.e. insomia.

  2. Dr Archabald Hart and his daughter wrote a book “the digital invasion” that address many of the topics you have mentioned in your blog, you might find his research intetesting

  3. Internet addiction is not always considered an addiction because the negative consequences are not as clear as, say, heroin addiction. However, there is a sociological component to internet addiction that often gets overlooked: boys need to have a sense of adventure and modern life is not providing that.

  4. Thats an interesting concept. A sence of adventure. I think you are onto something with the clearness of the affliction of Internet addiction but I think it goes deeper than that. I see people with addictive tendencies in regards to the Internet and technology but because many are in the same boat it is not seen as big a problem. it is almost a socially accepted addiction.

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