I love the internet. I grew up on the internet. From playing flash games as a young kid to watching anime as a young adult, I was no stranger to the diverse amount of opportunities it had to offer. However, I’ve also overused the internet. I don’t think I’m the only one who has looked at the clock and realized that hours have gone by that were all wasted on youtube videos and funny news headlines. The internet is a wonderful place, but with its constant influx of new content, it can become an addictive entity. While some may have a pervasive need to check their phones, even at the expense of real life interaction, some consequences have been much more dire. For instance, according to The Daily Beast, a South Korean couple was charged with involuntary manslaughter, as their child died of malnutrition as the couple devoted their time to a virtual avatar called an “Anima.” This case brought about restrictive legal measures against internet use geared towards minors, but the problem seems to still be visible. In 2014, a 22-year-old man let his infant starve as he played computer games at a local internet café.
While the two cases above are extreme, it would be prudent to acknowledge and understand the addictive nature of computers. In Europe, diagnosed internet addiction rate ranges between 1.5% and 8.2% of the population (depending on the country) according to a “pubMed” article by Weinstein A. and Lejoyeux M. In regard to the United States, according to the Stanford News, a study showed that more than one in eight Americans showed at least one sign of internet addiction. Across the world, internet rehab centers have begun to rise to prominence, providing programs such as wilderness retreats, exercise programs and group therapy sessions. According to the American Psychiatric Association, internet addiction is not officially included as an addiction, but it has been recommended for more study. Current studies point to the fact that internet addiction closely mirrors the tolerance and withdrawal symptoms of existing addictions. There are some that argue that there isn’t anything to worry about at all. The Atlantic quotes Charles O’Brien, the founding director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, in regard to his view of internet addiction and rehab, “The fact that we have treatment programs doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s really an addiction, […] This is a free country. You can set up a program to treat anything you like, including possession by the devil or by space people.” While O’Brien makes a valid point that one can set up a program about virtually anything in the United States, that still doesn’t erase the fact that people addicted to the internet still seem to exhibit similar addict behaviors to those with substance abuse problems. To O’Brien’s credit, however, the APA article about internet addiction was modified a year after the Atlantic article was posted. Internet addiction is still undergoing research, and it will take time before we have more solidified facts and treatment methods.
Internet addiction is a dark reality that is rarely talked about. I gather that part of the reason is that perhaps we do not want to admit that we ourselves, while not to the same degree as the cases above, may be on the internet more than we ought to be (including myself). Perhaps while reading this you wondered yourself about how healthy your intake of internet was. I too admit that I have had to force myself to cut back on my internet intake because of the effects it was having on my life in the real world. While the average person may not be to the level of forgetting about his or her child or requiring a week-long retreat into the wilderness, it may be beneficial for all of us to take some time away from the internet and reconnect with the real world and find a healthy balance between reaping the benefits of a new technology and letting it rule your life.