Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is widespread among many modern cultures. Some societies seem to be more prone to it than others. Take South Korea for example. 90% of the households in South Korea are connected to a high-speed broadband connection. About 30% of all the population under the age of 18 can be diagnosed with IAD. There’s an interesting article in the New York Times about a bootcamp for teenagers that have “web obsession”.
But online addiction is also common in our own culture. The reasons are many. Some people use it as a way to escape reality. The virtual worlds offer people the possibility to live a fantasy life, where the limitations of the real world don’t matter. Specially among teenagers, one reason why the internet life is so tempting is that it a lot easier to be popular online than it is for many to be popular in the real world. If you remember your teenage years, you probably recall how important being popular and being accepted by peers was to you – so it really doesn’t come as a surprise.
There is no clear definition when someone is actually suffering from IAD and when he or she is just a “nerd”, but as a general rule of thumb, if a person spends so much time online that his or her personal life in the real world suffers from it – whether it be private or professional life – then that’s an indicator that excessive internet usage is a problem
Oftentimes, people with IAD want to cut back the time they spend online but have trouble following through with that decision.
There has been one case where a couple was addicted to online gaming. Unfortunately, they had a child. They were so immersed in their online gaming realities, that the child nearly died of malnurishment because they didn’t take proper care of it. This is surely one of the most extreme cases of internet addiction disorder, but neglecting family obligations and household chores is quiet common among people suffering from this condition. And it just shows that it’s a condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Also, social isolation is quiet common. It’s kind of funny, because many online addicts spend hours and hours in so-called “social networks”. But that is not really a social activity. They are basically trying to compensate for something that is missing in their lifes: relationships with friends, neighbours, community and family members in the real world. Having a good time with real people is something that most online addicts experience way to seldomly.
The medical community might argue about whether it’s actually an addiction or not, but I think this discussion mission the point: excessive online usage is a problem that is out of control for many people. Dr. Jerald J. Block prefers to call this condition pathological computer use, and estimates that about 9 million US-Americans might be affected by it. Interestingly, the large majority of internet addicts are male, and only a small percentage is female.
- New York Times: In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession
- Cyberpsychology & Behavior: “Internet Addiction: Metasynthesis of 1996–2006 Quantitative Research”
- Parents Neglect Starved Babies to Feed Video Game Addiction