by Mike Masnick

Doctors Addicted To Publishing Reports About Internet Addiction

from the oh,-look,-another-one... dept

It seems like every few month, some psychologist likes to come out with a new report trying to drum up some business talking about some technology addiction, with internet addiction being the most popular. Usually, these are pretty blatant attempts to play on people's fears while getting new (lucrative) patients. The latest report appears to be no exception. The coverage talks up the same old story about how people may be addicted to the internet and how it's a huge risk. While the article notes that not everyone in the psychiatric business agrees, it doesn't go into any of the details about those who don't agree with the designation. Our biggest problem with the claims of "internet addiction" is that it's so broadly defined, that it could apply to plenty of people who are perfectly well-adjusted. The question should only matter if it's somehow impacting the person's life. The details, within the article, suggest that while the researcher behind the report talks up internet addiction, she's really discussing much more specific issues: such as a gambling addiction, pornography addiction or your garden variety case of depression. Classifying it as "internet addiction" is more focusing on the symptoms of a problem rather than the actual issue, and is both misleading and potentially damaging -- but guaranteed to make headlines.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    techwiz18, May 9th, 2006 @ 11:38pm

    Not Addiction

    The growing usage of the internet should not be classified as the emergence of a new addiction; instead, this tread is evidence of general acceptance of a new life medium. As the technological singularity nears, the general population will be increasingly connected with the electronic representation of human civilization. As faster more intelligent technologies continue to emerge, the internet will evolve and people will find themselves spending more time interacting with the ever growing, progressively sophisticated human-machine network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    luxrs, May 9th, 2006 @ 11:41pm

    how many TV addicts do you know?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    luxrs, May 9th, 2006 @ 11:45pm

    how many TV addicts do you know?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    LaundryMan, May 10th, 2006 @ 12:01am

    internet addicts

    Oh my Goodness.
    I must be a laundry addict.. A couple of loads a day...with my two cups of coffee...oh no....
    Is there a psychiatrist in the house?
    I am coming apart.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    STJ, May 10th, 2006 @ 1:19am

    Um, my job is working on the net, 10 hrs/4 day per week. I also have things I do on my own time 2 hrs/day. Am I addicted?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Ponder, May 10th, 2006 @ 1:34am

    Oh no..

    I brush my teeth twice a day, I must be addicted to tooth paste! I don't seem to be able to live without a phone of some kind these days, I must be addicted. My parents drive cars every day, they must be addicted to cars!
    Hello!!! Just because I do something regularly doesn't mean I'm addicted!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    dorpus, May 10th, 2006 @ 2:42am


    Unless techies really do seek help for their internet addiction, they are obliged to posture about how well-adjusted they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Dewey, May 10th, 2006 @ 3:08am

    addiction in a subtle sense??

    I'm not a shrink, but I've studied this issue extensively in my own life via meditation & somatic psychotherapy. I define addiction as "any repetitive habit that helps me avoid certain emotions or experiences". If you've ever seen one of those dogs that "slinks" along, appearing very low, thin and almost tiptoeing past you; my hypothesis is that (like many people) this dog is trying not to be noticed. Pavlov would say that in his past, "attention" was usually negative. One version of that in my past is that I "slinked" away from women who could actually hurt or disappoint me. I did this without realizing it, and yes, the dog and I were both addicted to a "sense of safety", whether real or percieved. We were trying (unconsciously) to avoid an experience that we predicted might happen if we engaged! Perhaps some people who are "well adjusted" are tending toward passing time on the internet for some reason of which they are not yet conscious??? Perhaps not...each of us must determine for ourselves.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    ummmmm, May 10th, 2006 @ 3:44am

    yea, anyway

    why are you being so defensive? They are obviously much much smarter that the rest of us. I mean come on, they found a job where there are no tangible products produced, the end result can't be identified and no time line or estimates for completion of their work can be established. We are idiots compared to them. Ok, that was the 5 min I allowed on the net. Got to go take my meds now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    cleo, May 10th, 2006 @ 6:14am

    the other side...

    ...on the other hand, there are people who spend pathologically high amounts of time on the net, skipping meals, skipping socialization etc.. these people have setbacks in their careers, their family-lives due to this. what do we call that? addiction?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    J3FF, May 10th, 2006 @ 8:08am

    Interweb addiction

    I'm addicted to the internet. So freakin what. I can think of worse things to be addicted to than a finite amount of free information. It would seem the side effects of this addiction are terrible and include knowledge, open-mindedness and the ability to freely communicate with others I would have no interaction with normally. The withdraw is the worst though, random bouts of stupidity and those old inet delirium tremors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Kilroy, May 10th, 2006 @ 8:14am

    I was addicted for a long time...

    I would say that I was addicted to the online video game WoW. I would miss meals, put off chores, get snappy with friends, avoid social interactions in real life and I have even missed work a few times to play it all day. When I was at work, I would count down the minutes till I could rush back home to check my in-game auctions and mail.

    One day I realized that the video game was ruining my life. I quit playing. I made friends and even started doing some free lance web design. I now play the game only 6-7 hours a week (compared to the 50-60 I was putting in before) and I am satisfied with that.

    I think it is completely possible to be addicted to the internet for the some of the same reasons that people get addicted to gambling. Those of you who mock the psychologists’ research, please don’t. There are people like me who are still out there, rotting away in a world that doesn’t even exist and they don’t even know it yet. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, good for you, you aren’t addicted to the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    DittoBox, May 10th, 2006 @ 8:59am

    It's not an addiction.

    I can quit anytime I want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    anonymous coward, May 10th, 2006 @ 9:49am

    Easy test...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Intergalactic Hussy, May 10th, 2006 @ 12:21pm

    So, is reading the newspaper (cover to cover everyday) also defined by said doctors?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Tech Reader, May 10th, 2006 @ 12:56pm


    I read TechDirt every day... I'm addicted... you bastards

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Bob, May 10th, 2006 @ 1:19pm


    Avoidance behavior often leads to compulsion whichis a sort of self-imposed addiction. I know people who would rather lay around reading books in ALL their spare time. Getting them out of the house is difficult if they're current book is engaging. Some people read excessively to avoid doing or being something else. If I can't separate my hand from my Human Interface Device long enough to go out to dinner with freinds or take the dog for a walk or attend my brother's college graduation, I have a problem. It's not so much an addiction, but an aversion to anything else. The root of the problem is not in the books one escapes into or the Internet. The root is in the individual's coping ability. This compulsion overpowers the individual who may eventually generate an addiction. hey wanna go see the new movie? Nah, I gotta go home, log on and frag my competitors all night.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    ahess, May 10th, 2006 @ 3:33pm

    gaming ourselves to death

    Sounds a lot like what I wrote on "gaming addiction" a few years back.

    Ten O'Clock Tech
    Gaming Ourselves To Death
    Arik Hesseldahl, 11.05.03, 10:00 AM ET

    Pick a popular consumer technology and there's probably some overpaid academic expert somewhere who's calling it addictive.

    For years misemployed wags in academia have sought to warn society about the dangers of Internet addiction. The idea became so popularized that earlier this year a summer camp opened in Germany for the express purpose of curing children affected with the "disorder." Naturally, government social services picked up a considerable piece of the tab.

    This month a private mental health care provider in Britain said it had started treating patients with cases of addiction to text-messaging--that is, the short text messages you can type on wireless phones. The reward--that you send a message and someone answers back, making you feel less lonely--is what makes it addictive, the theory goes.

    And now scientists at a conference on videogaming being held in The Netherlands this week say that videogames are addictive. Those who suffer from symptoms, however, shouldn't be treated as addicts--and there is no medicine to cure the problem, they say.

    According to Stephen Kline, a professor of social psychology at Simon Fraser University quoted in a Reuters story on the conference, 15% of those he surveyed who play Everquest, an online role-playing game operated by Sony, describe themselves as "addicted." You could probably get the same result from anyone who's played Atari's Civilization III or Microsoft's Age of Mythology or Electronic Arts' The Sims, all complex games with highly involved plots.

    Part of the motivation for all this academic inquiry into the psychological well-being of videogame players in recent years have been tenuous connections between high-profile incidents of violence, such as the 1999 shooting rampage at Colorado's Columbine High School and other incidents in which people who play a lot of videogames have killed themselves or others.

    As is so often the case, it is the purveyors and not the consumers who will ultimately get the blame for the "connection," however inconclusive, between provocative content and anti-social behavior. It's a fact of life that videogame companies--like TV broadcasters and comic book publishers before them--have had to cope with.

    It's important not to buy into these half-baked conclusions unexamined. For every study publicized that concludes there's a link between aggressive or anti-social behavior and videogaming, there's another that finds quite the opposite.

    Take one survey of college students by the Pew Internet and American Life Project published earlier this year. Among the findings: More than 60% of the students surveyed who liked to play videogames reported that they spent about the same amount of time studying for classes--about 7 hours per week--as students tend to report generally.

    Gaming also apparently contributed to their social lives in a positive way. One in five said they felt that gaming helped them make new friends, while nearly two-thirds expressed little concern that gaming would take away time that would otherwise be spent with friends and family. Only a few, most agreed, were likely to become addicted to videogames.

    But the broad stamp of addiction can get applied to nearly any behavior these days, which on the one hand cheapens how seriously we view truly self-destructive addictions to drugs and alcohol. Spending 12 hours playing a videogame may be an unproductive use of time, but it doesn't constitute self-destructive behavior the way snorting cocaine does.

    There once was a time in the early '90s when people who spent more than an a few hours a day using the Internet would be laughed at for being addicted. Fast-forward to 2003. By that standard pretty much anyone who uses the Internet in the course of their work day, which is pretty much anyone in a desk-bound job these days, could meet some arbitrary early-1990s standard of addiction.

    As the Internet morphed from a digital novelty to a must-have tool for communication and research, popular opinions have necessarily adapted. People have grown to use it more because it has over time grown more useful.

    A similar argument can be made for videogames. In the 1980s, early videogames were pretty simple affairs. A squarish character would do battle with poorly-rendered monsters in simplistic environments where plot was all but irrelevant. Since then it has grown into a $10 billion industry, and videogames have evolved into an increasingly influential part of a complex modern diet of media choices like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and books. When was the last time you heard of a case of "newspaper addiction?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Andrew Strasser, May 10th, 2006 @ 9:26pm

    Well there are those....

    I think they call them conspiracy theorists... not sure really just a term I've heard used.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    T, May 11th, 2006 @ 3:03pm


    Yes there are underlying problems with addiction. Do you really think that people are not addicted to the ease of not having to get up to find what they are looking for. In the case of porn, men and women are becoming more and more addicted. You would be naive to think this doesn't effect someones life directly or indirectly and it should be addressed. This is a growing problem lurking under the scope. Beware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    TR, May 11th, 2006 @ 3:17pm

    Excuses, excuses

    I find that people's expectations have lowered. They say "Its better that I look at internet porn than go have sex with a stranger", or "I could be doing something worse". This is enabling dangerous behavior. It ultimately leads to neglegence, laziness. and many other negative attributes. Stop making excuses for unaccountability. Games and porn for example take away from the important things in life. First of all, its a sin, but who cares about ones sins anymore right? We are justifying ourselves and expecting less of each other. Don't get trapped into the internet and gaming world, you will eventually regret and that leads to self esteem issues etc.. For those who don't admit its a problem haven't held themselves accountable for their actions. This is ruining our society; our family life, our sex lives and ultimately our spiritual growth. This is sad. Take control of your life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Celloman, May 15th, 2006 @ 2:20am

    You can become addicted to anything

    As others have posted - if an activity/behavior, etc., seriously impairs one's "normal" social functioning, then it becomes a problem - either labeld as dependency, addiction, aversion, isolation, etc.

    I find those commericals for "Non-habit forming" Tylenol PM quite funny because their "non-habit forming" statement is false. OF COURSE you can become dependant on Tylenol PM (its sedating ingrediant: Diphenhydramine which is an antihistamine -- trade name Benadryl -- found in many other OTC sleep aids like Nytol, Sominex, Unisom, Compoz, and Excedrin PM). If you become dependant on it to get you to sleep eevery night, then I'm pretty sure that means you're in the HABIT of taking it!! Histamine receptor sites are not in anyway connected to "addiction" pathways - but you certainly can become psychologically dependent on it to get you to sleep. Even though it's not crack - some people take large doses of diphenhydramine recreationally to experience hallucinatory effects as it floods the brain's auditory and visual centers. It's also very toxic at higher dosages. But - I digress.

    Yes, you can become addicted to being online - just as you can become addicted to anything else. Addiction is not reserved for checmical substances. Addicition is a complex state involving emotional/psychological and physiological/behavioral components. I would add that those "addicited" to the internet are also suffering from a mood disorder - particularly depression - and are using the internet while isolating themselves as an escape.

    I dunno if any of that made sense. But who the hell cares?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Artie Caton, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 11:24pm

    Re: internet addicts

    Please, someone help me. Is there a doctor in the house? I find myself wanting to plug my wheelchair in at least 3 times a day. If I stay out for 6 hours in a day, I could actually find myself craving a 4 plug day.
    If plugged in wrong, the stimulation becomes quite explosive, literally...

    For the person with the two loads a day problem: Would you be my sponsor?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    John, Jun 22nd, 2006 @ 9:53pm

    I quit my addiction

    I used to be heavily addicted to online gambling. Luckily I was able to stop with the help of my wife and a software program offered by www.problempoker.com. Stopping from gambling was one of the hardest things I ever done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Steve, Dec 13th, 2006 @ 2:30pm

    Internet Addiction

    It exists.

    Look what happened to Kimveer Gill!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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