What is an Addiction?
"Compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful" - Merriam Webster Dictionary
Internet addiction disorder (IAD) or Internet overuse is the problematic or pathological use of computers and the Internet space to the extent that interferes with daily life. Online activities which are considered troublesome, interfering with normal life such as compulsive online gambling, excessive shopping, excessive social networking, playing online games, compulsive watching of internet videos and pornography, excessive blogging, and email use are considered signs of IAD.
A Generation Of Internet Addicts
According to a poll survey by SodaHead in 2012, 61% Internet users feel addicted to it. 73% teen users between the ages 13 and 17 reported addiction while those between the ages 45 and 54 spend the most time online. 71% of Internet users between 18 and 24 years of age, 59% between 25 and 34 years, 54% between 35 and 44 years, 40% between 45 and 54 years, 39% between 55 and 64 years and 44% above 65 years reported addiction.
In a study Social Lives Vs Social Networks over 24% Facebook users admit to have missed important moments in real life while trying to broadcast or share them over their social networks. According to a 2012 report in the Mashable, researchers in China working with Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) conclude from their study that too much Internet usage can cause structural damage to the brain.
American Journal of Psychiatry's article about Internet addiction says - “1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives; 2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible; 3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software or more hours of use, and 4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation and fatigue."
Is Internet Addiction A Mental Disorder?
In 1995, Ivan Goldberg, M.D. was the first satirically proposed Internet Addiction Disorder or IAD is a disorder, describing it in terms similar to “pathological gambling”, a well-established mental disorder.
The ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM-IV), a reputed international mental health encyclopedia is set to include Internet-use disorder or Internet Addiction as a condition “recommended for further study” in its May 2013 edition. The listing of the disorder by DSM-IV is taking it a step closer to classifying it as a mental disorder. It is an acknowledgement that the risks of technology overuse require more research and could lead to a formal diagnosis.
In “The Relationship Between Depression and Internet Addiction" published in CyberPsychology & Behavior, Dr. Kimberly S. Young says that research links Internet Addiction Disorder with pre-existing mental health issues such as depression and is not an independent disorder by itself. In a Korean Study of IAD, “Internet Over-Users' Psychological Profiles: A Behavior Sampling Analysis on Internet Addiction” pathological dependency on the Internet results in a number of negative life consequences including breakdown of marriage, job loss, incurrence of debt, and failure to succeed in academics. This further fuels depression and other mental health issues.
By the close of 2012, Facebook passed 1.06 billion monthly active users and 680 million monthly active mobile users. Americans alone spend over 53 billion minutes each month on the social networking site.
Over 41% of the regular Facebook users are addicts. Over 63% Facebook users admit to being stressed by delaying their responses to friend requests. 32% feel guilty about rejecting new friend requests and 12% feel generally anxious about the social network itself. 22% Facebook users comment on their friends’ posts each day, 26% like their friends’ content. 15% users update their status each day and 20% comment on their friends’ photos each day. On the whole Facebook generates 3.2 billion likes and 30 million photo uploads each day.
Facebook Addiction, though referred to in jest is increasingly becoming a real problem. In her book, The Facebook Diet, author-illustrator Gemini Adams has added 50 cartoons depicting telltale signs of Facebook addiction. She has also prescribed tips to overcome the addiction.
In the April 2012 issue of the widely circulated journal Amsci, researchers from the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen and The Bergen Clinics Foundation in Norway published their forays into the "Development of a Facebook Addiction Scale". While the scale may still not be widely endorsed or accepted, it certainly points to the need of investigation of Facebook addiction.
"It's not unusual for people to get so obsessed with online gaming that they forget to eat and drift towards an anorexic and undernourished state. You can play online with people around the world, so it can be at odd times of the day – when it's 5pm in Chicago or evening in Japan. You have a relationship with characters in the game that give you an artificial feeling, created by your body's natural endorphins, when you have killed some monster or solved a problem." - Peter Smith (Counselor) in The Guardian.
Addiction to online games is another growing concern in many parts of the world. 70% of Internet users in Korea play online games, and over 18% of these gamers are game addicts. In response to the public outcry over growing online gaming addiction in Japan, major social game operators in the country have restricted on-line spending by players under 15 years of age to 5,000 yen a month.
In 2009 a 17-year-old resident of Ohio, Daniel Petric, shot at his parents after they confiscated his Halo 3 videogame. The parents feared he was playing it too much.
In 2010, a South Korean couple let their newborn daughter starve to death while they were away at a cyber café playing an online game through the night. The couple was sentenced to prison following the incident.
In 2011, 20-year-old Chris Staniforth from Sheffield, England died from blockage to his lungs caused by playing his Xbox for 12 hours. The deep vein thrombosis which killed him is triggered by sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
In 2012, an 18-year-old youth identified by his last name, Chuang, died in an Internet café in Tainan, Taiwan after playing the computer game Diablo 3 non-stop for over 40 hours.
"Those suffering from video game addiction may use the Internet to access massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and multi-user domain games (MUDs). MMORPGs are networks of people, all interacting with one another to play a game to achieve goals, accomplish missions, and reach high scores in a fantasy world. MUDs combine elements of role-playing games, fighting, and killing in a social chat channel with limited graphics." – Illinois Institute For Addiction Recovery.
Some of the top on-line games are Asheron Call, City of Heroes, EverQuest, Final Fantasy, Ultima Online, Vanguard, and World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft had over 10 million subscribers in February 2012. Star Wars: The Old Republic gained over 1 million subscribers within the first three days of its launch in 2011.
Online Gambling and Internet Pornography Addiction
Online gambling and Internet porn addiction are two other growing concerns which are rapidly addressed by IAD rehabilitation therapists. According to a report in the Independent, online betting is now a £2bn industry. There are over a million problem gamblers in the country, including over 500,000 hardcore addicts. According to a US report the total revenues from online casinos were to be $12 billion in 2005, $15.2 billion in 2006, and $29.3 billion in 2010. About 4% teenagers in the country are believed to be online gambling addicts.
According to reports over 12% of the websites on the Internet, about 24,6500,000 sites are pornographic sites. Each second over $3,075 is spent by 28,258 users on Internet porn. In the US alone there are 40 million regular visitors to porn sites. The global Internet porn industry is estimated to be at $4.9 billion while in the US it is pegged at $2.84 billion. The exposure of teenagers and children to Internet pornography is a growing concern with parents.
Cyberloafing & Goldbricking
"The terms cyberslacking and cyberloafing have been used to describe voluntary acts of employees using their companies’ Internet access for nonwork-related purposes during working hours. With the ubiquity of the Internet in employees’ offices today, the temptation to cyberloaf seems to be great for many employees. A survey by Websense.com in 2006 found that the average American employee spent about 24% of his/her working hours on cyberloafing activities" - Stephany Schings, Communications Specialist in an article published by the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology Inc.
"Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement" was a research conducted by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore. They presented the results of their study in San Antonio, Texas, at an Academy of Management conference. As a result of their study the researchers found that surfing the Internet boosts productivity. They believe, that when a person takes a break by browsing the World Wide Web, they tend to visit sites that they like. This has a significant restorative function and is both “pleasurable and rejuvenating”. The study cautions employers against restricting access to the Internet at workplaces.
“Goldbricking, in today's terms, generally refers to staff who use their work internet access for personal reasons while maintaining the appearance of working, which can lead to inefficiency. The term originates from the confidence trick of applying a gold coating to a brick of worthless metal - while the worker may appear industrious on the surface, in reality they are less valuable” – Wikipedia. Even as early as 1999, Goldbricking was costing American business over $1 billion by way of computer resources alone. In 2010, the American Management Association reported that cyber-slacking resulted in over 68% businesses losing money and time. If 1000 employees in an organization spend 1 hour each day cyber-slacking, the organization could lose up to $35 million each year.
Internet Addiction Rehabilitation
"Facebook, Twitter, SecondLife...are making it possible for tens of millions of Americans to believe things which are not true about themselves and to lose their ability to find real direction in life. They can believe they have hundreds or thousands of friends (which is both false and intoxicating to the ego)" - Dr Keith Ablow, The Mind of the News, Fox News, January 2013.
Author-illustrator Gemini Adams in her Huffington Post news report admits that the Web is constant, always on, and sometimes there's a sense that if you're not active on it, people will forget about you, or not even know who you are.
In August 2009, the Heavensfield Retreat Center became the first rehab center in the US to announce an addiction recovery program for Internet Addiction Disorder. reSTART, a 45-day program promised to bring balance back to the sufferers of this controversial diagnosis. In 2010, the Capio Nightingale Hospital in London, (famous for having treated singer Amy Winehouse's drug addiction) announced the launch of a rehabilitation program for children as young as 12.