The New Age of Addiction

This morning on the T-bana (the underground) a colleague told me about a family who had to give their child to the authorities because the parents could not control his game playing obsession/addiction. It had become so bad that when they tried to move them away from the computer to eat, to go to bed, to go to school, he (I am not sure it is a he..nor do I know the country of origin) became violent towards his parents. I did a quick search of the Internet but could not reference the source of this story, but there are numerous sites dedicated to help parents, and children, with this problem, which also includes computer and Internet addiction as a natural extension. It is in the news, and one Canadian site (TechAddiction) is quite comprehensive about this and includes links to some research statistics,  books, and other resources to help parents. However, I think it is applicable to people of any age. Dr. Brent Conrad created this site, and interestingly, comes from my hometown of Halifax and also went to my alma mater, Simon Fraser University (SFU)! Way to go Dr. C! He also has a blog on WordPress

I am not going to go into depth about this issue as I am not a medical professional. Instead I ask myself:

Addiction centralAm I addicted to the Internet and the computer?

I have had the following arguments in my head for some time. I am an expert at rationalization since I already have the mental predilection to become addicted/obsessed/ compulsive. Although I do not play video games, the following are my worries…

  • I have been known to play Solitaire/Tetris/Jewel Quest for ages —not because I like it, but I figured I could extricate myself before disappearing into a zone out, space out land of mind death. Although I can..
  • Break these cycles by drinking wine, eating chocolate, or watching a movie..in fact..
  • I can watch TV and movies for hours, I can read for hours (not that this is a bad thing), and now I can find myself checking my Smartphone in a compulsive  manner.

I should add that my Smartphone went to Brussels and had an accident. Don’t worry! She is alive…but I am without her for a few days…I am already aware of my behaviour (see the Art and Science of Blogging).

  • When I was young, I obsessively organized my room, sorted and valued my stamps, cut and pasted hundreds of recipes from magazines into binders. Today I electronically organize things—blog posts, photos, music, categories/tags, files. And then when everything is organized…I check my statistics, messages, Facebook, email…and then
  • For the month of November I focused on reading and writing for NaNo, a good thing although it has its own set of addictions (if you are reading this and simultaneously checking your stats you know to what I refer).I can read this, can you?

I do have a few things going for me that gives me that hope that I am still a functioning human, who just happens to like technology:

  • I don’t walk around with headphones on
  • I interact with people. In fact, I scare people on elevators all the time because I talk to them…
  • I don’t have cable/satellite TV
  • I have not played Solitaire for quite some time…
  • I can still read an analog clock or watch
  • I still love libraries and reading real books

My analysis is still pending, but basically it goes something like this:

I am writing this blog on a computer using the Internet. And dear SmartPhone, if you can hear me, when you return, I have a new Protection Bag to keep you warm, dry and safe. Yes, I am completely normal.

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6 thoughts on “The New Age of Addiction

  1. Back in the 1800, reading novels was perceived as being unhealthy, making people dreamy and weakened. In the 60′s, television was the root of all evil, in the 80′s there was a heated debate about video, 90′s it was role-playing games and today people are scared of the internet.

    So, I’m not scared!

  2. It strikes me as curious that one may “lose them self” in a book for hours-on-end and society sees this as normal – even beneficial – behavior. We often speak about a book that is “too good to put down” a “page turner” but do we suspect a reading addiction.

    How many people turn on the radio in the morning and listen all day long? Is this a problem?

    While the discussion regarding the video game zombie child may be couched in a concern over addiction I would be more inclined to turn the topic to one of parenting style (assuming those facts in evidence.) Addictive behavior may actually be present in that tale but I suspect the real trouble may actually be found earlier in that specific time line. That’s just a guess…

    I think “Tech Addiction” is a fancy new way to say irresponsible. If ones obsessive behavior gets in the way of important obligations it will not take long before the results of that behavior are obvious. The way in which the individual responds to warning signs is how they plot their way through life.

    If the old homestead has a leaking roof and all Grandpa wants to do is go fishing are we to assume he is a fishing addict? If the wood needs chopping and all he does is whittle is there something wrong with his head?

    No man is an island…

    • Excellent points. It is a fine line between what we consider “normal” or “healthy” behaviour in society (I use the term loosely) versus what might be normal and healthy for an individual. Everything we do has the potential to become an extreme behaviour, good or bad; recognizing this in ourselves is important. However, it is also important to be aware of our addictions or our limitations, in whatever form, and then be able to ask for help and not be judged for it. Aside from some negative aspects of the Internet, the access to information and to people experiencing similar challenges is invaluable. Of course, being discerning about that information is another discussion entirely. Thanks for commenting!

      • Self awareness is an essential life-skill to be sure. However I have to wonder to what extent self-awareness may actually lead to addictive type behaviors as the individual seeks to squelch the requisite internal duologue. As with any skill it takes practice to perfect.

        I found the following bit of wisdom laying around on the internet [http://answerbag.com/q_view/91207]:
        “”Awareness practice involves repeatedly bringing yourself *back* from being lost-in-thought, not compounding it and going deeper. To be able to observe thought, to watch it flow by, allows it to settle down on it’s own. When that happens, mental clarity increases and “over-thinking” decreases.””

        Point taken on the need for a discerning eye regarding internet content Amanda. In that vein: thank you for making Journey of Mixed Emotions such a welcoming alcove.

  3. Well you know. I have not figured out if my Iphone is a she or a he. But heshe is absolutely NOT an “it” because of all the codes, feelings, memories it (oops now I said it) has inside. And I’m addicted too. To my computers. We have 7 of them in the studio and I have 3 of them at home. And that is pure love and hate. I think it’s easier with machines because you don’t need to have all the layers between love and hate, as you need to have with people. So… being addicted to a machine is not just normal, it’s a way to live out your true emotions. And in that way you can more easily handle the “human layers” that we need to be social.

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