Monday 7 February 2011

The Internet: Are we addicted? Or just dumb?

Is Facebook our crack cocaine? Do we roll up Twitter and smoke it as our weed? Does YouTube keep us all mesmerized as if our mouth is glued to the bong?

I've run across the idea of Internet addiction when people talk about porn. However the term "Internet Addiction" or "Web Addiction" is being applied to everything and everyone. We're not just hooked by porn; we're hooked by our computers and associated communication devices like cell phones, Blackberries and iPhones. We rely on the Internet; we rely on our communications and if we're not "plugged in", we somehow are going to go into withdrawal. True or false?

About.Com goes so far as to present a simple quiz. This asks such questions as "Have you neglected your interests, recreational activities, or social obligations because of your time online?" Is that one obvious? The multiple choices give as the "wrong" answer, "Yes. I have decreased all activities in my life that do not relate to my time online." Well, I, for one, am judging you to be off the rail.

There are 10 questions altogether. I passed with flying colours but I note that it is pretty easy to figure out what the "right" answer is so if you want, you can fool anybody into thinking you're not a crack head. Just make sure there are no reporters around when you trash the hotel room à la Rock Star.

About.Com: Web Addiction Quiz

I had to laugh after doing the quiz. At the bottom of the page, I see this

Is there really any such thing as too much Web time? Check out the following resources to find out!

The Best Web Sites:
  • Free Movie Downloads
    Find free movie downloads, download a movie player, watch an online movie, or catch the latest movie premieres with my list of the best places to find free movie downloads of all kinds.
  • Read Books Online for Free
    Read books online for free with my picks for the best free online books sites.
  • Google People Search
    Use Google to find people on the Web with free Google tools, services, and resources.
  • Search Engines
    All-purpose search engines, visual search engines, people search'll find all these and more in this list of search engines, a comprehensive guide to the best search engines on the Web.
What? Is this a joke? We're talking about Web Addiction and the supplemental resources available to us to find out about this issue all involve using the Internet not just to find information, but to use the Internet even more. Sorry, but that is a tad amusing.

Addicted to... ?
Let's make a distinction here, a distinction I find curious. When I first looked into porn on the Net (see my series Pornography: An investigation), experts were talking about people who spend endless amounts of time on the Net surfing for and looking at pornography. One specialist came up with an easy criterion by saying that if someone spends more than 14 hours per week, an average of 2 hours a day, going after porn, that person has a problem. My initial reaction was "Wow" that's a lot of time with porn.

However, in looking at other uses of the Net, I can see that the same idea may be applicable elsewhere. Various newspaper articles have been reporting on the quantities of time spent by people using Facebook, Twitter or texting via cell phones and Blackberries. One of my recent articles on Sex in the Digital Age quoted a survey which pointed out stats that prove some people will actually check their device if it signals a call or message - get this - during sex. What? You're going to check your cell or Blackberry during sex? [bursts out laughing] Now that is positively hilarious.

Surveys are showing stats of how much people are spending connected whether to social media or instant messaging and it's a wonder we are all not driving into brick walls.

On July 13, 2009, CNET reported that while DWT (Driving While Texting) is a problem, we need to pay attention to WWT (Walking While Texting). Alexa Longueira, a 15-year-old from Staten Island was texting and fell into an open manhole. Apparently city workers had just pulled up the cover, went to get security cones from their truck when the girl walked right over the spot. She fell in and suffered cuts and scrapes but was otherwise okay.

Intermittent Reinforcement
In my blog Would Skinner have owned a Blackberry?, I talk about the comparison between our prized devices and how we are no better than a pigeon in a Skinner box being tested for intermittent reinforcement. Like a gambler, our behaviour is being reinforced by the "payout" of getting a message or call and we are sometimes turning into stimulus junkies in constant need of our message fix. Heck, I point out how I've gone to the men's room only to hear people thumbing away on their Blackberries in the stalls. Good gravy, talk about multi-tasking.

Dumbing Down
Two articles from 2009 point out how the Internet with its need for speed and its need for messaging seems to be dumbing us all down. Rather than focusing on the meaningful, we seem to be focusing on communicating. Anything. No matter what. No matter how inane, insignificant or just plain stupid.

The Dumbing Down of the Dumb! by George Parker - April 28, 2009
In my opinion, the over reliance of technology is destroying literacy amongst the young. If you don’t believe me, just read the comments on any MySpace or YouTube page.

And no, it isn’t merely because texting shit on a mobile phone, or using my favorite bete noir, Twitter, encourages the bastardization of language while developing tactile dexterity, it’s because little, if any thought is given to the content of these texts. Logic often goes out of the window, to be replaced by rapid response. The new message is blasted out to large circles of friends or followers, who are busy cranking out more gibberish in an effort, not only to keep up with you, but to outdo you in the volume of replies from like minded churls.

Web addiction and dumbing down of the universe by bhatnaturally on May 5, 2009
I have stopped reading books of late. I can’t remember the last book I read. I have at least 5 books that were bought in the recent past but remain unopened. This is not something new. The reason: an affliction I called Webatitis.
... When I come across an interesting article on the internet, my first instinct is to share it on Twitter – not to delve into the article and read the subtext. So it’s all about speed, at the cost of assimilation. With tonnes of RSS feeds to read and links popping every second on Twitter, there is no chance in hell that all that content will be read.

Even when surfing the web, scanning the content superficially has become the norm and I have lost the patience to go through heavy or erudite stuff.

The effect is all around us. Text messages, news, reality shows, Tweets have all been dumbed down. Mindless prattle over substance.

Something to think about
How much time represents an addiction?

Is There Such a Thing as Sex Addiction?
By Linda Shrieves - March 9, 2010

Dr. Alan Grieco: Licensed Psychologist and is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (, as a Sex Therapist. He earned his B.A. from the University of Miami and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Memphis in 1980. In 1986, he completed a Post-Doctoral Clinical Fellowship at the Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis.

"If you're spending over 14 hours a week -- or two hours a day -- doing something sexual or quasi-sexual, like cruising the Internet for porn or cruising the streets looking for a particular type of prostitute, you're in the addictive range"

wikiHow: How to Quit Facebook

If you find yourself spending, say, 10 hours a week on Facebook...

CNN Health: 5 clues you are addicted to Facebook - April 2009

Newton (that's not her real name; she's embarrassed by her Facebook use and requested anonymity) says she spends about 20 hours a week on the social networking site.

Science Daily - Jan 19/2001
Risks, Consequences of Video Game Addiction Identified in New Study

Among this sample, pathological gamers started with an average of 31 hours of play per week, compared with 19 hours per week for those who never became pathological gamers.

Final Word
Is the adrenaline rush so important to us? Have we forgotten about the profound and are now fixated on the shallow?

When I come across an interesting article on the internet, my first instinct is to share it on Twitter – not to delve into the article and read the subtext.

Is this all an example of McLuhan's "The medium is the message"? Do Facebook, Twitter and IM represent a new medium which unto itself represents a message which is changing us and our society?

The Atlantic Magazine - July 2008
Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicolas Carr
I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.

The Evolution From Linear Thought To Networked Thought
by Scott Karp - February 9th, 2008
I was thinking last night about books and why I don’t read them anyone — I was a lit major in college, and used to be voracious book reader. What happened?
What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?

What if the networked nature of content on the web has changed not just how I consume information but how I process it?

What if I no longer have the patience to read a book because it’s too…. linear.


Addiction? Wow. [chuckles] People talk about porn but what about the rest of it? I'm a programmer / analyst; my job consists of using a computer. I blog using a computer. I research using a computer. 14 hours per week is the measure of an addiction to porn? Between my job, my blogging, writing for an online newspaper, researching and using my computer as my television set (I have no TV; I do everything over the Internet), I've done 14 hours in one day. Of course, not all of the same thing but I'm just sayin'.


YouTube: Girl Falls Into Manhole - Family Debates Lawsuit - July 13, 2009
A girl is texting on her phone while walking on the sidewalk and falls down a open manhole which had no cones in place around it because it was just opened. The worker had his back turned and was getting cones to place around it when the girl fell in, he helped her out and apologized. The family says it's not good enough and is seriously debating lawsuits. Girl had minor scratches and bruises and should be fine.


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Sheba Marx said...

I'm on OS and a fellow blogger comically described how she went without the internet for 6 or so hours yesterday at and went crazy. I was without for 4 days not so long ago and was a total bitch by the time it was over. We unemployed are particularly vulnerable. Enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

William that doth said it all..:)
Linda Seccaspina