Thursday, October 19, 2006

Internet Addction or Compulsive Behavior?

Seed Magazine has published an article on Internet addiction . I'm always skeptical about new addictions, whether they be Internet addictions or sexual addictions. To illustrate my skepticism, look at this quote:

Stanford researchers interviewed 2,513 adults in a nationwide household survey. Because Internet addiction has not been clinically defined as a medical condition, study questions were based on established addiction disorders.

Research indicated that nearly 14 percent of the respondents found it difficult to stay away from the Internet for several days and that slightly more than 12 percent often remained online longer than expected.

More than eight percent of the people surveyed said they hid "non-essential" Internet use from family, friends or employers and nearly the same number went online to flee from real-world problems.

Nearly six percent of the respondents felt that their personal relationships suffered as a result of their excessive Internet use.

Substitute "television" for "Internet." What percent of the population, (a) finds it difficult to stay away from TV for several days; (b) watches TV longer than expected; (c) hides non-essential TV use from others; (d) watched TV to flee from real-world problems; and (e) felt their personal relationships suffered from excessive TV-watching?

The last one may be a little iffy, but I've heard a lot of women complain their husbands sit in front of the TV all day, while the husbands rationalize it by saying "I've worked hard all week and I need a little relaxation." I've heard alcoholics rationalize their drinking the same way.

Are we a country of TV "addicts?" I doubt it, although we obviously watch TV too much. I do think that in the social and behavioral sciences, we tend to take concepts and stretch them too far. This is a good example of it.

Never forget that people can do anything compulsively. That includes eating, sex, and (I kid you not) counting. Let's leave "addiction" to substance abuse.


Mike Ray said...

Good points.

"addiction" represents the usual objectification of behaviors we see in so many contexts. We don't possess a certain kind of environment that reinforces being in front of a computer/TV/whatever, we possess an "addiction". This addiction, like physical diseases, possessions physical dimensions. Perhaps a chemical or "brain" dimension. Thus to cure this /thing/ we possess we need to perhaps take medicine for it. It's an addiction, a disease, a thing.

That competing activities can hurt other activities is very true. A writer whose writing interferes with family life hurts her family. A marathon runner who trains incessantly hurts her family. A surgeon who works 120 hours a week hurts her family. That it is television, or gaming, or "the internet" is just another name for a competing activity.

Perhaps people aren't as enjoyable to be around as they used to be. If so this is because they don't possess a "thing" called "social skills" or "charm". Instead of encouraging people to discover ways of being more socially enjoyable or charming perhaps we can come up with drug to cure the "lack of charm/skills"?

Marty said...

I have seen internet addiction in myself. Does the mean I need addiction treatment. I don't think so?
I must admit it can become compulsive, well for me anyway!

London Counselling said...

Addiction means to repeat the same thing over and over again, which can be associated with compulsive behaviour. Although the individual loses the control over him/herself in both disorders, there are slight differences between addiction and OCD.