I read Eric Woods‘ article, “I think I may be addicted to the Internet” on March 8th, 2009 and I’m writing my blog response more than two months later, on May 19th, 2009, because I’ve been too busy on the internet to address it sooner. 🙂
Some people say that internet addiction exists and some say that it doesn’t. Some prefer to call the situation internet overuse. Either way, let’s look at those terms.
According to Webster’s, an addiction is: “2: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) 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“. Similarly (yet differently), Overuse is “too much use”.
This means that in order to define Internet Addiction or Internet Overuse, we would have to determine what’s “too much use”, and what constitutes a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance”. Here’s the problem with these definitions…
The people that make this stuff up don’t know how to use the internet.
Video games like “Cyberpunk” and “Shadowrun” foreshadowed the lives we live today, or that are POSSIBLE for us to live today, IF we know what we’re doing. The short version of the genre is that you can be more than you actually physically are by utilizing computers to enhance your knowledge or abilities. The fact that you’re reading this right now is evidence that we are now living in those times.
I did not write this on paper. I did not place it in a bottle and float it from my island to yours, where you happened to find it and read it and you’re the only one that ever will, unless you send it to someone else. I typed this.. On my own computer… Then I posted it to the internet… Then, somehow, you found out about it and got to the point where you are reading this right now, on some device that’s nowhere near me or my computer, and I got to tell you what I thought without ever seeing or actually speaking to you directly. Not only that… We now have one-to-many communication instead of one-to-one communication. I don’t need to tell you information and have you tell someone else. Someone else is finding out at the same time you are. Even if someone’s not reading this, they’re talking about it to someone that has or hasn’t read the same article. I’ve never been to Australia OR Africa, but people in those places and lots more have read my articles:
Does that make my articles any good? No. 😀 The point is that before you can call something “addiction” or “overuse”, you have to know what can be done with the technology. If you have no clue, all you see is that this person spends A LOT OF TIME on his or her computer and you will think that that time could have been better spent doing IRL stuff (In Real Life, for those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about).
The question becomes whether or not the time spent on the computer is detracting from “Real Life” or enhancing it. For instance.. I can walk out in the street and wander around aimlessly, looking for a good time. That would be time spent away from the computer and certain people would be happy about that. OTOH, I could be in front of my computer, checking social media sites to see what’s happening around town, WHEN it’s happening and WHO’S going to be there. This increases my IRL efficiency, because when I walk out the door, I know where I’m going and I know who’s going to be there when I arrive. If they’re not going to be there, I receive a message on my “portable computer” (alias smartphone), and I modify my actions and the events I attend based on the information I receive.
As a freelancer, lots of video editing work comes up at the last minute because someone screwed something up that they need me to fix or they found out that the person they hired couldn’t actually do what they claimed they could do when they gave them the contract. Thanks to technology, I can receive an email or text about a project and reply with “yay” or “nay” within minutes. Efficient.
Thanks to instant messaging services & applications, I can carry on simultaneous text conversations with multiple people instead of being stuck on the phone talking to one person. I can create a video that people can watch at their leisure, including in the middle of the night, while I’m physically ASLEEP, instead of my having to tell them something personally. I can broadcast live and have people watch in Europe and America all at the same time. All of these things help me build relationships with people FASTER and augment my internet presence. This isn’t even considering the USUAL things that people use computers for, like word processing, video editing, general work applications, for those of you that go to work.
So, do I spend A LOT of time on computers? Yes! 😀 Will I label it an addiction or overuse?…. Well.. When I’m the #1 Bill on Google instead of #5 or #6, I’ll think about it.