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Internet Addiction

Internet Addiction
Research Paper Theme: Social Impact of
the Internet 8 October 1997 ABSTRACT The Internet is the largest source
of information in the world today. With its web sites and chat rooms, it
is a means of communicating with people in places all over the face of
the earth. Since its conception in 1973, the Internet has grown at a whirlwind
rate. 51 million adults, were on-line as of the second quarter 1997 in
the United States alone. Some say that the Internet is so enjoyable that
it is almost addictive. The problem is that researchers are beginning to
agree with them. Studies are revealing that there may be an actual form
of addiction involved with over-use of the Internet. Identifying which
category of addiction the Internet falls into is the problem. There are
no real answers yet because research in this area is at the beginning stages.


While lost in this so called Cyber Community for long periods of time,
people are neglecting other important activities like; time with the family,
socializing, work and health concerns. One of the most extensive studies
on Internet Addiction to date was conducted by Dr. Kimberly S. Young of
the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. In her study, she revealed concrete
evidence supporting the Internet Addiction claim. However, help for web
addicts is available. There are several web sites available for the treatment
of Internet addiction, as well as counseling centers and clinics. Is it
Live, or is it Internet? Internet Addiction The Internet is the largest
most versatile source of information in the world today. With its web sites
and chat rooms, it is a means of communicating with people in places all
over the face of the earth. But with all this power at our fingertips,
are there any negative impacts of using this interface? Are we as simple
humans capable of interacting with such a powerful communication source.

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Recent studies are beginning to uncover evidence that would suggest that
maybe some of us are not so capable of dealing with this technology. In
fact, as more research is conducted, experts are finding that the Internet
may even be addictive! Development of the Internet began about 15 years
ago. In 1973 the U.S. Defense Research Projects Agency initiated a program
to research the techniques and technologies for inter-linking various types
of networks.1 The objective was to develop communication protocols that
would allow networked computers to communicate transparently across multiple,
linked networks. This was called the internetting project and the system
of networks that emerged from the research was known as the Internet. Since
that time, various other research projects, to include those conducted
by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, have shaped and tailored this project to give us
the Internet as we know it today. (1) The Internet has now grown to include
over 4500 Service Providers in the United States alone. A survey by Christian
Huitema of Bellcore indicated that there were 26 million host computers
on the Internet as of September 1997.2 A survey conducted by Intelli Quest
Information Group Inc. showed that 51 million adults, age 16 or older,
were on-line as of the second quarter 1997 in the United States alone.3
With such a large portion of the population swimming in this seemingly
never-ending sea of information, what is the real impact of the Internet
on society? It seems that the majority of society thinks the Internet is
the greatest invention since the telephone. This is probably best justified
by the whirlwind rate at which the Internet grows. In fact, some say that
the Internet is so enjoyable that it is almost addicting! The problem is
that recent studies have shown that the Internet may not only be addicting
because it is enjoyable, but that a fairly large number of users are experiencing
addiction of a clinical form.4 Identifying which category of addiction
the Internet falls into is another problem. There are no real answers yet
because research in this area is at the beginning stages. A few researchers
are comparing the Internets effects to marijuana as a psychostimulant.


They argue that the chemicals in marijuana activate the same stimuli as
the Internet.5 Most researchers to this date do, however, agree that this
is some type of behavioral addiction. People can become addicted to activities
even when there is no physiological dependence or physiological addiction.


Overeating, sex, work, exercise and gambling can be addictive if done to
excess.6 Behavioral addiction means (2) that the activity alters your emotional
state in some way. The main way to determine if an activity is addictive
is if it is having a negative impact on some other important area of your
life. The questions to be answered now are, if there is such a thing as
Internet addiction, what are the effects of this addiction and why are
people falling into this trap? According to Dr. Maressa Orzack of the Computer
Addiction Services at Harvard Universitys McClean Hospital in Boston,
“The single greatest factor in becoming an addict is boredom.” “Theyre
lonely, and the Internet, with its chat rooms and endless information,
fills a need.”7 The chat rooms, whether they are used for sexual and romantic
encounters or just to talk to other people around the world, seem to be
the number one temptation. Others include fantasy games and the ability
to create false identities of oneself. Although this ability to create
a false identity is not one of the main lures, it does play a major role
when looking at the psychological effects of the Internet. Identity is
a key factor in everyones life. Without a sense of identity, or a confused
identity, people have difficulty socializing with others. They also have
a difficult time dealing with stress and the real world and therefore resort
to other measures where there is no direct contact with other people. On
the Internet, there is no direct communication. Therefore an insecure person
or a person with low self-esteem does not have to worry about what the
person on the other end of the link thinks about them. They may modify
their identity, work position, marital status, or any (3) other of a number
of characteristics that affect their role in life. The real problem with
this addiction, however, is its sociological effects. A number of people
say that the Internet is like traveling. They say each trip is like a new
journey and you never know where it is going to take you. The problem is
that they spend so much time on the net that they withdraw from regular
society. They escape reality into a culture with no real boundaries or
existence. While lost in this so called Cyber Community for long periods
of time, they are neglecting other important activities like; time with
the family, socializing, work and health concerns. Internet abuse has been
cited as a contributing factor in the disintegration of marriages and families,
and the collapse of promising careers.8 But is there really a problem or
are researchers just looking for something that is not actually there?
One of the most extensive studies on Internet Addiction to date was conducted
by Dr. Kimberly S. Young of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. In
her study, Dr. Young determined that Non-dependents were able to control
the amount they used the Internet and reported no adverse effects due to
its use. However, dependents reported significant changes to their lives
because they had simply lost control over there ability to limit the amount
of time they used the Internet.9 She compared the use of the Internet to
criteria traditionally utilized for other established addictions and found
significant identical values.9 She did, however, state that the Internet
itself is not addictive, but that specific areas such as the chat rooms,
play a significant role in the (4) development of the addiction. Research
is not, however, the only evidence that a problem exists. As the Internet
continues to expand, the number of horror stories increases. In Cincinnati,
a mother was arrested for neglecting her three young children because she
was spending too much time on the Internet. 7 It was reported that she
was spending 12 hours a day on line while her kids were locked in a room
in a filthy apartment. In addition to this case, all one has to do is browse
the Internet addiction sites to find many other people and their individual
stories. Now you will probably ask, If there really is an addiction, what
are the symptoms and is help available? The list of Internet Addiction
symptoms is long. Most Researchers in this area stated that any combination
of the symptoms could identify a person as an addict. The symptoms include:
— You neglect important family activities, social events, work responsibilities,
academic projects or health concerns to spend hours on the Internet. —
A significant person, such as a boss, close friend or partner, has complained
youre spending too much time or money on the Internet. — You are constantly
anticipating your next on-line session. — It becomes impossible to cut
back on your Internet time. — Losing track of time once on-line. — You
check your email compulsively. (5) — You develop cravings and withdrawal
symptoms when you are away from the computer. — You skip meals, classes
or appointments to get on the Internet. — You would rather talk to people
on-line than face-to-face. — You sleep less than five hours a night so
you can spend more time on-line. — You are having increased difficulty
discussing matters not related to the Net. The dilemma here is that most
people will not admit they have a problem (as with most other addictions).


Some researchers state that people may be using the Internet to substitute
for other addictions. When someone finally realizes they have a problem,
however, help is available. There are a number of web sites available for
the treatment of Internet addiction. They include sites like Welcome to
the Web Addicts Detox Page or “The Internet Anonymous Virtual Meeting Page.”
There is even software available for addicts. One such package is Grahams
Mac Shareware. However, trying to cure on-line addiction by going on-line
is probably not the best answer. Face to face counseling is probably the
best method for dealing with this problem. The availability of this type
of counseling is expanding rapidly. Over the past two years, two major
clinics have also been established to treat this addiction. One that was
mentioned earlier is at Harvard Universitys McClean Hospital in Boston.


The other is the Center for On-Line Addiction at the University of Pittsburgh
at Bradford. The latter is Directed by Dr. Kimberly S. (6) Young whose
research was also mentioned earlier. To this date, her clinic alone has
reviewed more than 400 Internet Addiction cases.8 The Internet has grown
rapidly since its beginnings in 1973. It has spread to all corners of the
earth bringing multitudes of information and communication capabilities
to people everywhere. The problem for some people is that it may be too
much to control. Addiction to the Internet affects the victim both psychologically
and socially. Research in this area is still in the beginning phases, but
the results warrant further studies. If you feel that you are losing control,
help is available both on and off-line. However, the best advice offered
by experts for when you begin losing touch with reality is to just pull
the plug. (7)
Bibliography
WORKS CITED 1.) Cerf, Vint. “A Brief History
of the Internet” Internet History. (12 Sep 97) 2.) Gehl, John & Douglas
Suzanne. “Internet Keeps Growing and Growing.” Edupage. 16 Sep 97 3.) INTELLI
QUEST. “Internet Survey.” Internet News. 04 Sep 97 (08 Sep 97) 4.) Smith,
J.W. “Internet Addiction” Internet Addiction.. 15 Nov 96 (11 Sep 97) 5.)
Blakley, Ben. “Mouse Potatoes & the Net, Is the Internet Addictive?
The Internet is Addictive!” Internet Addiction. (11 Sep 97) 6.) “Internet
Addiction” Internet Addiction. (11 Sep 97) 7.) Gong, E.J. Jr. ABC News.com.


Internet Addiction. (11 Sep 97) 8.) Tate, Gary “Welcome to my Internet
Addiction Page.” Internet Addiction. 4 Sep 97 (11 Sep 97) 9.) Young, Kimberly
S. “Internet Addiction: The Emergence of a New Clinical Disorder.” Internet
Addiction. (11 Sep 97)

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