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Published:November 4th, 2015 13:25 EST
Internet Addiction - when reset button is not enough - enough is enough

Internet Addiction - when reset button is not enough - enough is enough

By Krzys Wasilewski

Some claim it is the worst plague of the 21st century. Some say it does more harm than heavy drinking or smoking. Still others argue there is no problem at all. Whatever the opinions are, Internet addiction has become a serious threat to all of us surfing the net.

What is Internet addiction? Unlike other addictions, it does not have a direct impact on your health. Of course, too intensive a journey through adult sites may give your heartbeat an unexpected acceleration, just like too many hours in front of a monitor will end with sore eyes, but all in all, the Internet is harmless. Unlike in alcoholism or smoking, there are no physical symptoms that could alarm relatives or friends. If the addict locks himself or herself away, the secret will never leave the four walls. To make the things worse, the line between normal Internet use and pathology is very thin.

According to Rudolph G. Briggs from State University of New York, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is characterized by seven basic diagnostic criteria, among them increasing tolerance of long online hours, withdrawal, and unsuccessful efforts to control Internet use. " He says that 80 percent of surveyed internauts reported five and more (out of 10) signs which indicate them as potentials addicts. Failure to manage time, missing sleep and meals were among the signs mentioned the most often. But despite the extensive research that has been carried out in the last couple of years, Dr Briggs admits that Internet addiction remains a mystery.

The Internet is unlike anything we`ve seen before. It`s a socially connecting device that`s socially isolating at the same time, " says Dr. David Greenfield, the author of Virtual addiction. " He is also the author of virtual-addiction.com " a website highlighting the danger faced by millions of internauts every day. Dr. Greenfield began his studies in the early 1990s when only few people could tell what World Wide Web is. Now, when hundreds of thousands of new users gain access every day, Internet addiction has become a problem comparable to the tide of narcotics in the 1960s and 1970s. He launched the website because, as he says, cyber addiction may be as dangerous as heroin or cocaine. With a good number of articles on the virtual world (ranging from cybersex to Internet abuse), seminars and expert advice, the site is a useful compendium for worried parents and everyone interested in the Internet addiction.

The Internet clearly has a role to play in today`s information age (...) However, the very nature of the Internet also lends itself to abuse, leading people to exhibit behaviors that are counterproductive, isolating and abusive " to ourselves, our families, our employers and the community at large, " concludes Dr. Greenfield.

Some psychologists do not agree with Dr. Greenfield. What he calls addiction, they perceive as a harmless attitude. Internet in certain ways can be quite absorbing, but I don`t know that it`s any different from an addiction to playing the violin and bowling, " says Sara Kiesler of Carnegie Mellon University. It seems misleading to characterize behaviors as `addictions` on the basis that people say they do too much of them, " she adds. Ms Kiesler and other psychologists see the problem somewhere else: not in the nature of the Internet but in the nature of its users. Every day hundreds of millions of people from around the world boot up their computers and get lost in cyberspace. Not all of even the most ardent internauts become addicted, however, what leads to a conclusion that the Internet itself is not addictive itself. Stress, loneliness, even bad grades may make people want to escape the troublesome reality and, since the Internet is cheap and widely accessible, choose cyber entertainment over alcohol or narcotics. In other words: stay away from the Internet if you cannot be responsible.

The Internet may be a great tool to learn new things, meet international friends or even fall in love. But the Internet may also be dangerous, especially for inexperienced users who often lose their way in the labyrinths of cyberspace. And sometimes reset button is not enough to stop. 

 How Clinical Psychology is Improving our Understanding of Internet Addiction