An article in the Daily Beast/Newsweek called “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?”postulates that we are addicted to the Internet by virtually every definition of the word.
– “Americans have merged with their machines”–literally starring at computer screen “at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity, including sleeping.”
– Most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unableto be without their media links to the world.”
– “Every ping could be a social, sexual, or professional opportunity” so we get a (dopamine) reward for getting and staying online.
– Heavy internet use and social media is correlated with “stress, depression, and suicidal thinking” with some scientists arguing it is like “electronic cocaine” driving mania-depressive cycles.
– “The brains of Internet addicts…look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts.”
– Videogame/Internet addiction is linked to “structural abnormalities” in gray matter, namely shrinkage of 10 to 20% in the areas of the brain responsible for processing od speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information,.”
– The brain “shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy.'”
– “Most respondents…check text messages, email or their social network ‘all the time’ or ‘every 15 minutes.’
– “Texting has become like blinking” with the average person texting (sending or receiving) 400 times a month and the average teen 3,700 times!
– “80% of vacationers bring along laptops or smartphones so they can check in with work while away.”
– “One in 10 users feels “fully addicted’ to his or her phone,” with 94% admitting some level of compulsion!
At the extreme:
– “One young couple neglected its infant to death while nourishing a virtual baby online.”
– “A young man bludgeoned his mother for suggesting he log off.”
– “At least 10…have died of blood clots from sitting too long” online.
These are a lot of statistics, and many of these are not only concerning, but outright shocking–symptoms of bipolar disorder, brain shrinkage, and murderous behavior to name a few.
Yet, thinking about my own experiences and observations, this does not ring true for the vast majority of normal Internet users who benefit from technology intellectually, functionally, socially, and perhaps even spiritually.
Yes, we do spend a lot of time online, but that is because we get a lot out of it–human beings, while prone to missteps and going to extremes, are generally reasoned decision-makers.
We aren’t drawn to the Internet like drug-abusers to cocaine, but rather we reach for the Internet when it serves a genuine purpose–when we want to get the news, do research, contact a friend or colleague, collaborate on a project, make a purchase, manage our finances, watch a movie, listen to music or play a game and more.
These are not the benefits of a drug addict, but the choices of rational people using the latest technology to do more with their lives.
Are there people who lose control or go off the deep-end, of course. But like with everything, you can have even too much of a good thing–and then the consequences can be severe and even deadly.
Certainly people may squirrel away more often then they should for some un-G-dly number of hours at a computer rather than in the playground of life–but for the most part, people have taken the technology–now highly mobile–into the real world, with laptops, tablets, and smartphones being ubiquitous with our daily rounds at the office, on the commute, walking down the street, and even at the dinner table.
Is this a bad thing or are we just afraid of the (e)merging of technology so deeply into every facet of lives?
It is scary in a way to become so tied to our technology that it is everywhere all the time–and that is one major reason why cyber attacks are such a major concern now–we are hopelessly dependent on technology to do just about everything, because it helps us to do them.
From my perch of life, the Internet does not break people or attract broken souls except on the fringes; more typically it puts people togetherto achieve a higher individual and social aggregate capability then ever before.
If the pressure to achieve 24/7 would just come down a few notches, maybe we could even enjoy all this capability some more.
Now I just need to get off this darn computer, before I go nuts too! 😉
(Source Photo: here adapted from and with attribution to Cassie Nova)