February 28, 2013 – Michael Spatz
“I need to feel connected… somehow”
As the modern world changes, new discoveries are made – such as medicine, knowledge is increased and organized digitally, and new terms are created to describe every angle. There’s little doubt that technology aids us in our daily lives , regardless of where we look for proof. Today’s world is now one with gadgets, being connected, and always being informed and up to date. But through all the gadgets, digital information and networks, there are certain people that fall into a spiraling habit with their electronic hobbies. But what are these people doing and why are they so addicted? Is there help? I’ve decided to do a little detective work to search for answers to some of these cause and effect questions.
Since there are too many electronic habits, I’ve decided to find some of the most common habits: social networking including instant messaging and e-mail, video games featuring online gambling, and pirating media.
Although most of these could fall under “Internet Addiction Disorder” (IAD), the term itself is not yet published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) by the American Medical Association. You can overdo many activities on the internet, but it does not mean you are addicted to the internet itself. Different people have different e-preferences when it comes to getting their “fix”. Speaking of getting a “fix”, studies and research today have compared these internet enabled activities to physical substances, as brain structures have been show to correlate when it comes to internet addicts and substance abuse users.
Social Networking came into its own with the internet being available to facilitate the idea with instant online access. These online platforms enable users to share messages, details, and media with one another including pictures, blogs, music, pretty much anything that crosses their minds. E-mail and instant messaging are also functions part of the social networking platform. The general idea is to build a network of friends and discover details about others including their whereabouts or favorite color. Often, groups are formed with a large network of people to work towards a common interest or goal.
Recent studies suggest that Social Network/checking your email is more addictive than substances like nicotine and alcohol. It is thought that the higher addiction rate to these substances can be attributed to risk vs reward. The effort and negative consequences seem little compared to substances that have clear short and long term negative effects. Also, wherever you can get an internet connection, you can access social media, making it very readily available for generally no cost. Though Social Networking is still in its early life, more studies and questions are being documented on its effects. It is said that people may feel an urge to social network in order to get a sense of feeling connected with others easily, as opposed to getting similar feelings in a physical environment. There’s also always the potential that someone wrote to you or shared something you’d like to view. Usually there are notifications to facilitate announcing new relevant information but that won’t stop people from looking for it themselves. Also, people who may have lower self-esteem or are depressed, may be be more prone to becoming addicted to social networking in order to fill psychological voids. However, the same could be said for alcohol, or excessive television. So is the social networking addictive itself or is it just a common outlet? Like anything else, if you’re spending too much time, record and manage your usage to reasonable limits. While it has been suggested that there is a correlation between social network addicts and “bad behavior“, other consequences include potential to help create shortened attention span and ADHD. Lack of sleep could be common in extreme users.
Video Games have had their own niche market in the electronic entertainment industry for decades. Pong, a game replicating table tennis using pixels, was a game for 1 or 2 players, where they could face each other or the computer. While this type of multiplayer gaming has been around since the 1970’s, multiplayer games really achieved the next step in their development when games started incorporating online play. Nowadays, people can be by themselves yet be playing with millions of others from around the world on the same dedicated game network server. There are even cafes built for the main purpose of playing games online. The ability to play games online has made games potentially more addictive, with cases of some people losing touch with reality and letting games prevent them from realizing their life obligations. There have been reports of many deaths involving long gaming sessions without sleep or food. As a result, most games have warnings not to play for extensive periods of time, whereas some will warn you after a certain amount of time. “Don’t you think you should take a break?”
Another form of online gaming, online gambling, involves real-world money that you can win or lose at one’s own risk. Generally, you must be over 18 to take part in such activities. Pretty much every casino and card game is available to gamble online, from various companies all with their own unique bribes and reward programs. As well as online sports gambling. No longer do you have to go to the casino to gamble your money, the online ability to gamble from anywhere ensures less traveling and more comfort. Due the easy accessibility of online gambling, the potential for gambling addiction increases compared to the live casino. Sometimes it’s hard for players to remember their virtual chips are still real money, their income, regardless if they lose it all. Though online gambling casinos are not legal in the USA or Canada, Canadian players can play on online gambling sites supported in other countries. It is illegal to online gamble from the United States, regardless of where the site is supported. Young adolescent males are thought to be especially vulnerable and make up large part of the online gambling community. Common signs of an online gambling addiction include spending a large portion of time, placing larger bets, loss of income/assets, frequent obsessive thoughts of gambling, and preferring online gambling to other occasions and people such as family. There is counseling for this addiction and the term “online gambling” is being proposed to be classified as addiction opposed to a behavior in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Downloading and piracy affect various media including but not limited to: software, music, games, videos and now recently affecting the book industry with the invention of e-books. Piracy can take place intentionally or accidentally via now knowing the laws. If you buy a CD and burn it for a friend, you’re promoting piracy. If you send an email with copyright music, you’re committing piracy. But why would someone be addicted to downloading copyright media? For starters, it’s easily accessible online, and it’s free. Some people like to collect things and others like to collect free media worth value that they didn’t have to pay. Although piracy is at all time heights, it’s suggested that free media can also benefit the industry by being able to spread it further since pricing is not a restriction on the product.
Regardless of which electronic vice people turn to, there’s no denying that the new technological age has created new addictions and compulsive behaviors. Though some argue that these spiraling habits may not be addictive on their own, and are usually accompanied by other psychological complexities like depression or low self esteem, there’s no denying that these activities and their effects affect daily lives negatively. I believe that through further discovery and research, people will be able to better understand and control their electronic addictions.