Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted to…the Internet?

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Do you only socialize online? Do the words “community building” bring to mind Second Life? Do you update your Facebook status while you shave?

Well, no need to worry, because now there’s a place for you.

As Greg Beato reports in Reason, reSTART, a “five-acre haven in the woods near Seatle [where] clients pay big bucks to detox from pathological computer use,” recently took on its first client. Ben Alexander, a 19-year-old college student, checked himself in because he is obsessed with World of Warcraft.

As Beato points out internet addiction was considered a joke back in 1995 when “in an effort to parody the way the American Psychiatric Association’s hugely influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders medicalizes every excessive behavior, psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg introduced on his website the concept of ‘Internet Addiction Disorder.'”

Well, the time seems to be upon us where it’s no longer a joke. Beato writes about students at the University of Maryland feeling “anxious,” “jittery,” and even “miserable” when they weren’t allowed to use the internet for 24 hours as part of a study. Then there are the stories Beato highlights:

“[A] guy who spent so many sedentary hours at his computer that he developed blood clots in his leg and had to have it amputated…[A]n Ohio teenager shot his parents, killing his mother and wounding his father, after they took away his Xbox…[A] South Korean couple let their real baby starve to death because they were spending so much time caring for their virtual baby in the role-playing game called Prius Online.”

Those scenarios are no joke. That’s why the APA is considering adding internet addiction to its new category of “behavioral addictions.”

Beato also points to the very real consequences such a classification could have. “Picture a world,” he writes, “where the health care system goes bankrupt because insurers have to pay for millions of people determined to kick their Twitter addictions…Where employees who view porn at work are legally protected from termination.”

With folks like Arianna Huffington campaigning for less use of all our gadgets and a mad dash by many to close their Facebook accounts, the idea that we’re spending too much time online has become a wide spread one. But, as Beato sees it: “As the Internet weaves itself more and more tightly into our lives, only the Amish are completely safe.”


Image by mandiberg, licensed under Creative Commons.

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