Accidentally in Code

Internet Addiction

Posted on: October 7, 2009

I’m concerned I may be addicted to the internet. Yesterday there were various news articles about a study from Taiwan and we have a list of symptoms (emphasis added):

Internet addiction is usually characterized with symptoms such as spending a lot of time online, an inability to cut back on usage, a preoccupation with online activities, and symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety, boredom, or irritability after a few days of not going online.

According to this, then I’m addicted to the internet. Mind you, so is everyone else I know.

It seems to me though, that saying someone is addicted to the internet is the equivalent of saying that someone’s addicted to electricity, or running water, or public transport. An internet connection is part of the infrastructure of the average household. It’s something people reasonably expect to have, everywhere they go.

When I was in Hakuba (Japan) the guy at the desk of the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in, told me there was “no internet in all Hakuba”. I freaked out. I rely on the internet for work, for communication, and yes for entertainment too. I also find it fascinating that I had this experience in Japan – which is somewhere I think of as, and found apart from this to be uber-connected and high-tech – but never in China.

So I dispute that you can be addicted to the internet. I feel it’s more akin to obesity, which isn’t so much an addiction to food as an inability to manage the necessary consumption of it. But I do think you could be addicted to things you find on the internet – Facebook, games, pornography. So the question this leaves me asking is – are these children addicted to something specific, or just not able to manage their consumption?

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3 Responses to "Internet Addiction"

I’ve always been bothered by the pejorative connotation associated with the phrase “Internet addiction”, but I hadn’t come up with a specific argument. Your comparison of Internet to other kinds of infrastructure makes a lot of sense. Who complains of “daycare addiction”?

Probably the people from that link you posted a while ago… you know the ones who were being “liberated” from work?

[…] on how I think the internet is just infrastructure like electricity, running water, or roads, see this post. Clay Shirky – Why I Ignore 5 Year […]

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