Internet Addiction Not Quite An Addiction…

from the keep-trying dept

Over the past few years, the desire by plenty of folks to label just about any new popular technology as “addicting” has been well covered (yes, we’re addicted to articles about bogus technology addictions). The latest research, though, at least is willing to admit that there’s no actual evidence that people who use the internet a lot suffer from a clinical disorder — though they recommend more studies should be done (and, of course, the press coverage buries this result towards the end of the article, and has a headline calling people net addicts). What’s interesting is that the study doesn’t seem to show much harm from excessive internet use. A small percentage say their relationships suffered due to excessive internet usage — but how do you separate out the cause and effect there? Considering that a group of people in the study said they went online in order to escape depression or bad moods, it seems just as likely that many of the relationships that suffered were suffering already — and the internet just exacerbated the situation or was used by one party to “escape” the bad situation. While it’s also worth noting (as the original article does in its headline) that nearly 9% of people tried to “hide” some of their internet usage from family, friends or employers, it hardly seems like that, alone, is an indication of addiction.

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Comments on “Internet Addiction Not Quite An Addiction…”

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RagingMax says:


You’re showing denial, like all addicts do >:)

Internet, like many other activities, can be addictive for the purpose it offers short satisfaction and helps “mask out” a bigger problem. People get back to the Internet looking to fix their mood with games/chat/information overload.

It’s the same type of addiction as gambling.

It’s purely psychological, but accidentally all our actions are indeed driven by psychological activity.

Jeremy Simoson (user link) says:

Old school's comprehension problems.

I think that a majority of the people who do this “research” are probably too old to have grown up with the internet like our generation has.

They see anything that they don’t understand as bad and then set out to prove it so. When someone wants to believe something they will find the evidense they need and if they can’t find said evidense then they will just use propaganda techniques such as labeling using the internet more than a certain period of time (who in hell can be the one who thinks they know what a “healthy” amount of time is?) are ADDICTS.

They love the term addict because people’s minds automatically jump to thoughts of crack heads and the like.

When the older generation is dead and gone, the general public will all know what we have known for years; the internet is just a tool to obtain information, communicate instantly, and get entertainment value.

It’s the best invention in human history.
Thanks Al Gore… :S

Emceay says:

When the older generation is dead and gone, the general public will be busy doing “research” on how robots or cybernetics or e-paper, or virtual reality, or private space travel, or nanomachinery are all addictive in some way shape or form.
Taking a deuce is addictive if your mindset makes it so.
All positive reinforcement is addictive. I’m tired of “studies” attempting to make a case for politicians to take yet another thing away from the people. Freedom of choice is for future convicts and the illusioned.

henry says:

reading and listening to music also addictive

I haven’t seen any studies lately on how much reading or listening to music are addictive. Or, for that matter, chatting with friends. TV was addictive not too long ago, but that’s I guess that’s become passe.

Oh, come on! Any activity that one overindulges in can be called addictive.

Let’s see where someone compares the amount of time that a person spends on the internet vs. the amount of time chatting with friends or listening to music or other more socially acceptible (for now) activities.

musterion (profile) says:

What the heck is well adjusted?

It appears to me that all these so-called studies simply build more dissatisfaction in peoples lives. You are either too fat, too thin, too stupid, too smart, over sexed, under sexed, too studious, not studious enough, etc. What the heck is “normal and well-sdjusted”–it is a fantasy. ABout the only recent study that shows some interest to me in this area is the correlation (not causation) of early TV watching and the rise of autism. I, for one, restricted TV watching of my children when they were young. No cable, and lots of nature programs

Louis says:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

I especially find the “symptoms” of internet addiction amusing:

“disregard for health or appearance, sleep deprivation and decreased physical activity and social interaction with others, as well as dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive motion injuries of hands and fingers”

“Repetitive motion injuries of hands and fingers”!!?


Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Louis beat me to it

with #7. But I’m going to post it anyway :p

“It said signs include a disregard for health or appearance, sleep deprivation and decreased physical activity and social interaction with others, as well as dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive motion injuries of hands and fingers.”

Ok. One at a time:

1) Disregard for health or appearance. Ok, the health one, while vague, may constitute a concern. Kinda. Maybe. But appearance? Is that really a concern? A medical concern? If so, than I know some terminal mf’ers.

2) sleep dep. Yeah, it could be a medical concern, but many of the people I know who are on the computer at 3am instead of sleeping are doing so because they have insomnia, not because they want to lose sleep. Besides, it’s like a child threatening to hold their breath to get their way… Eventually nature will take over and they’ll pass out. And start breathing (or sleeping, in this case) again. It’s nature’s way of idiot-proofing you.

3) Decreased physical activity. Gee, ya think?!? Anything you do that is not physical in nature is going to decrease your physical activity. Hell, driving to work in the morning is decreasing your physical activity since you’re sitting on your butt for 1/2 hour or so. I guess I shouldn’t sit at my breakfast table reading my paper in the morning because I might stop moving. OH CRAP! I DON’T MOVE WHEN I SLEEP!!! Dear Sweet Jeebus NOOOO!!!

4) [decreased] social interaction with others. I have decreased social interaction with others but that’s because I hate people. Not because I like the computer more. And besides, regardless of what some may say, online gaming or chatting is social interaction. Just not the traditional going-out-to-seedy-smoky-noisy-bars kind of interaction.

5) dry eyes. Are you serious? MY EYES CAN DRY OUT!??!?!??!?!ONE!!1 OMGWTFBBQ!!!11!!!ONE! Time to buy stock in Clear Eyes and move on.

6) Carpel Tunnel Syndrome / Repetitive Motion Injury. I love how they list CT & RMI as two separate things. CTS/RMI went out with the Ergonomic Craze. Yes, it’s something to watch for and it’s something to take steps against (like buying those gel pads and sitting up straight). But it’s not some silent menace that’s claming the wrists of millions of unsung victims here. Every time you buy a computer, it comes with no less than three manuals on how to property sit and align your peripherals to reduce CTS/RMI.

Bottom line… if this is the best you can do for showing the “dangers” of “internet addiction”… I’m going to give my half-assed “ohnoez” and go back to my coffee… to which, yes, I’m “addicted”.

Taylor Hicks says:

Internet has peaked

The internet has pretty much peaked in terms of it’s useful contribution to mankind. It offers quick communication and information sharing. No self-respecting researcher would use it for justifiable research…it’s proven too unreliable. A waste of time.

“Breakthroughs” like file-sharing, music and video downloads, porn and entertainment distribution will continue, I’m sure. But it’s usefulness for genuine advances in human development have ended. It’s convenient for email and VoIP, but it hasn’t stopped wars, it hasn’t cured cancer. It’s just a fancy $1000 phone and movie player.

Yeah…thanks Al Gore.
Taylor (yeah…that Taylor)

Charles The Tech (user link) says:

Yes and no

Internet might not have cured cancer but it has sped up the process and flow of information between researchers.

If it’s unreliable then you need to get off of wikipedia. Google has a feature for peer reviewed research articles etc. Like any source, books, encylopedia, you have to vet the source. You wouldn’t get civil war history out of a book published by the KKK nor would you take medical advice from a 14 year old’s myspace article on the benefits of asprin.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Censorship

“I’ve read articles in recent days about e.g. a Korean girl who electrocuted her father because he disconnected her internet access. Linking to such articles is suppressed on here though, because Mike doesn’t like being shown wrong.”

Or because Mike knows that it’s not applicable to the conversation. Some girl going crazy has nothing to do with the internet or studies of its addiction. It’s a girl going crazy.

Mike “suppresses” them because he doesn’t need to waste time or space linking to every single thing that everyone might feel is related. That’s what Google is for. It’s not Mike’s job to do your research for you.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Censorship

Or because Mike knows that it’s not applicable to the conversation. Some girl going crazy has nothing to do with the internet or studies of its addiction. It’s a girl going crazy.

So if a heroin addict kills her father because her father made her go cold turkey, it has nothing to do with heroin?

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Censorship

“So if a heroin addict kills her father because her father made her go cold turkey, it has nothing to do with heroin?”

Different situation, as we’ve been trying to illustrate. When going cold turkey on a drug (the ones that are actually addictive, at least), you experience altered states of mind that can lead you to extreme acts you otherwise wouldn’t do.

These altered states are due to the readjustment of the body to chemicals no longer being available, or available at lesser quantities (such as endorphins in a psychological addiction).

This so-called “computer addiction” lacks such an adjustment. You may see people “freaking out” because they can’t get online, but that’s caused by the stress of not being able to get work done (either real job work, or personal work) and putting things on hold.

There may be people out there with a personality that would leave them vulnerable to a psychological addiction to being online. But those people are addictable to anything and everything they do. The point we’re making here is that the internet is not addictive; regardless of the one or two cases we hear about that represent an extreme departure from the norm. And certainly, the internet is not some scourge that needs to be defeated. This is just sensationalist media trying to play on fears.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Censorship

You’re forgetting that stress in of itself is a mind-altering factor. Many psychological disorders can be attributed to stress of one sort or another.

I would definitely say that players who immerse themselves in their games do experience hightened levels of endorphines and other brain chemicals. The game becomes an obsession with the payout being emotional release.

As for people who “freak out” when they can’t get on, that is often a stress factor that is due to the design of the game more than the addiction of the player. For example, many MMORPGs place a penalty on players who are inactive. If it’s a turn-based game, being away from the game means a loss of turns – which means slower advancement. If it’s a strategy game being offline means that someone can attack your character (or empire) and without being online there is no one to prevent additional damage. If you factor in the social aspect of many games, the obsession is to see who can advance the quickest. If it’s a party (group) type of game like World of Warcraft, then going offline can have negative reprocussions. First off, your buddies are counting on you to be a productive member. Secondly, if you go offline and the game doesn’t relocate your character to a safe area, then it’s highly likely that your next online session will be your last with that character.

Another factor is that players who have paid for their gaming experience want to get their money’s worth. Much as with any all you-can-eat buffet, if you’re not getting your money’s worth then you’re just not trying hard enough. So if you look at your monthly bill from Everquest and it’s $30 then you start doing the math. If your friend, Bill, pays the same rate but his character is 20 levels higher than yours and you’ve only played 20hrs, while Bill played 80… then it’s simple math that Bill is getting more value for his money. If we then factor in what we did with our time while Bill was contently playing, like take the wife out to dinner, go to the movies, rent a DVD, drive around town or go to the mall…you spent a lot of $$ whereas Bill didn’t. So, in that mindset, it’s not too difficult to see why people might become obsessed.

BlackCow (user link) says:

better then TV

Someone asked me “liek dood are u addicted to the intarnet , that’s really dumb”. So I asked this guy “Well what do you do when you get home from school.” he kind of fumbled and said “errr I dunno but it’s not on the computer” After further interrogation I found that basically all he did was watch TV and sometimes play basketball out side. So hmmm, what’s better to be addicted to, communicating with people, sharing ideas, and sharing your creations and art on the internet or letting the Fox network force feed you content on the TV. As long as you don’t spend all your time on the internet doing/looking at useless crap, like myspace and ebaumsworld, and actually learn and talk to people are create things then how is it a bad thing.

Jetakai says:


Hi…I’m an internet addict…I guess that is what you call someone whose hobby involves computers…unlike people who spend all their times tinkering with their cars (not a car addict of course) or all their time going from one sport’s season to another (not a sports addict) or someone who spends all their time in their garden (a gardening addict)…when did hobbies and relaxation become and “addiction”. Few people I know use their computers for only one thing…we read, play games, chat, make art, write, do research (yes…there is good research on the internet, you just need to stop being lazy and get things from more than one source). You think printed books are better than the internet? It can take a year for a printed book to make it into print and during that time things change…think not…Try picking a topic and going to the library to research it…try diabetes…you will find as much controversy there as on the internet. Not stopped war? How do you know…As the internet world expands people are beginning to meet up with people from other countries, to see them as friends in games, to talk to them and see their points of view…It may not stop a current war, but who is to say that better understanding in the future won’t stop one then. Lets see…yes…I really want to go to a bar to talk to a bunch of drunken people so I can get interaction…ooo, smoke filled…wow..there we go! One more thing, I AM the older generation…and I’m a girl…don’t stereotype…I can probably kick your tush in any number of games. LOL I think the whole addict thing is a last ditch from the Media who don’t understand it, and don’t want people looking for information on their own…how can they spoon feed them information if people think for themselves!

Justin (user link) says:

Re: Addictive?

…I can probably kick your tush in any number of games…

Jetakai, You had me up until this point. Come on maybe you can beat me in “Disney Princess”, “Polly!: Super Splash Island”, “Lizzie McGuire: On the Go.”, or maybe “Barbie Groovy Games for the GameBoy Advance Game System”

But lets be honest, I’m going to mop the floor with you when it comes to “Bob the Builder”

Sorry this took so long but I had to look up really bad/sterotipical ‘girl and boy’ games.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s the thing:
You’re gonna hear trash talk about the internet, just like you hear trash about candidate X, or automated voting schemes.
The real risk is this:
At some point the masses on the internet will realize that a perfect democracy is possible, and the ruling class will no longer be needed. Possible because of the internet.
That is a risk to those currently in power, that want that power to be available to their decendents… Any spin that can slow the progress will keep the status quo longer. Spin, Hype, Paranoia, Lies: Keep the weak, weak, keep the disenfranchised, disenfranchised. Use any means possible.
That said, if your life is less productive because of your internet usage, rather than more, you owe it to yourself to consider the possibilities.

Bob says:

“2) sleep dep.” – What you fail to realize is that people have died from excessive sleep deprivation (MMORPGs). Most of the deaths I’ve read about were from extensive lack of sleep accompanied with massive amounts of caffine and nicotine, however the driving force was the will to play on. This is an addiction can lead to psychological changes which can then feed the psychosis.

A good typist functions on a near subconcious level when interacting on the net. In games it’s the immersion factor where a player blocks out much of reality to focus on the game. This can be exploited though, when in this state of mind you’re more likely to express things that you wouldn’t normally tell people and are more open to suggestion. Being immersed is why people are often called anti-social and have issues with their spouse. By ignoring them they think you’re being rude or worse, that the computer has somehow corrupted you. It’s the same thing as spouses who get upset at their mates for being sports fans.

“Addicted to eating, breathing, blood circulation and sleep.” – Breathing & blood circulation are not addictions. There is no implied will. Sleep you have some control over although lack of REM sleep can lead to health issues. The same goes for eating, although food addiction applies to over-consumption not excessive dieting.

Re:#28 RM is nothing new, it’s often associated with the construction industry.

addictive personality says:


i’ve been addicted to a lot of drugs over the years (including crack, alcohol and herion, but not ice), computer games, computer programming, tv, books (i mean to the point where i would spend weeks in a room reading books or watching tv leaving only to perform basic survival routines).

let me tell u that ALL the ADDICTIONS are the SAME. you might get some unplesant physical side effects when kicking some drugs but the physical effects assuming they don’t kill you are pathetic compared to the psychological dependancy (escaping something perhaps?)

there’s nothing special about an addiction just cause it has a physical part. the mind is a far stronger force to be reckoned with than the body and the mental component of an addiction is always the stongest component.

Scott says:

Addiction to the internet

The definition for addiction is “anything” that a person can become psychologically or physically dependent to. The internet offers some an escape from facing reality of their own lives, instant gratification,and being able to communicate impersonally with out fear of rejection. Just as chemical narcotics do. As with chemical narcotics getting enjoyment from the internet can release dopamine into the receptors which is the same as using drugs, and makes the internet addicting.

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