Sunday, February 21, 2010


There have been a growing number of reports in the popular press about excessive use of the Internet under the guise of “Internet addiction,” “Internet Addiction Disorder” (IAD), and “Internet Addiction Syndrome” (IAS). For many people, the concept of Internet addiction seems far-fetched, particularly if their concepts and definitions of addiction involve the taking of drugs. Despite the predominance of drug-based definitions of addiction, there is now a growing movement which views a number of behaviors as potentially addictive including those which do not involve the ingestion of a psychoactive drug .
Research has suggested that social pathologies are beginning to surface in cyberspace. These have been termed “technological addictions” and have been operationally defined as non-chemical addictions which involve excessive human-machine interaction. They can thus be viewed as a subset of behavioral addictions and feature core components of addiction, i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse. Young  claims Internet addiction is a broad term that covers a wide variety of behaviors and impulse control problems. This is categorized by five specific subtypes :
1) Cybersexual addiction: compulsive use of adult websites for cybersex and cyberporn.
2) Cyber-relationship addiction: over-involvement in online relationships.
3) Net compulsions: obsessive online gambling, shopping, or day-trading.
4) Information overload: compulsive Web surfing or database searches.
5) Computer addiction: obsessive computer game playing.
Put very simply, a gambling addict or a computer game addict who engages in their chosen behavior online is not addicted to the Internet. The Internet is just the place where they engage in the behavior. However, in contrast to this, there are case study reports of individuals who appear to be addicted to the Internet itself . These are usually people who use Internet chat rooms or play fantasy role-playing games — activities that they would not engage in except on the Internet itself. These individuals to some extent are engaged in text-based virtual realities and take on other social personas and social identities as a way of making themselves feel good about themselves.
In these cases, the Internet may provide an alternative reality to the user and allow them feelings of immersion and anonymity that may lead to an altered state of consciousness. This in itself may be highly psychologically and/or physiologically rewarding. Furthermore, as with other addictions, the activity
can totally take over their life and cause many health-related problems, including both traditional withdrawal-type symptoms and anxiety disorders, depression, and insomnia. It would appear for those with an Internet addiction disorder, the health consequences can be just as damaging as other, more traditional addictions. The good news is that the number of genuine sufferers appears to be small. However, the number will almost certainly increase over time as more and more people go online. Because of the small numbers of genuine known cases of Internet addiction, this author is unaware of very few (if any) organizations that have any practices specifically addressing this issue in the workplace .
There are many factors that make Internet addiction in the workplace seductive. It is clear from research in the area of computer-mediated commu
nication that virtual environments have the potential to provide short-term comfort, excitement, and/or distraction. These reasons alone provide compelling reasons why employees may engage in non-work-related Internet use. There are also other reasons, including opportunity, access, affordability, anonymity, convenience, escape, and dis-inhibition, which are outlined in more detail in the next section on Internet abuse.
Case studies of excessive Internet users may also provide better evidence of whether Internet addiction exists by the fact that the data collected are much
more detailed. Even if just one case study can be located, it indicates that Internet addiction actually does exist — even if it is unrepresentative. There appear to be many people who use the Internet excessively, but are not addicted as measured by bona fide addiction criteria. Most people researching
in the field have failed to use stringent criteria for measuring addiction that has perpetuated the skepticism shown among many academics. The main problems with much of the research to date is that:
• the sampling methods used have been questionable,
• the measures used have no measure of severity,
• the measures have no temporal dimension,
• the measures have a tendency to overestimate the prevalence of problems,
• the measures used take no account of the context of Internet use,
• there is no survey work to date that conclusively demonstrates that Internet addiction exists.
Case study accounts  have shown that the Internet can be used to counteract other deficiencies in the person’s life .
Most excessive Internet users spend vast amounts of time online for social contact (mostly for chat room services). As these cases show, text-based relationship can obviously be rewarding for some people and is an area for future research both in, and outside of, the workplace. As can be seen, Internet addiction appears to be a bona fide problem to a small minority of people, but evidence suggests the problem is so small that few employers take it seriously. It may be that Internet abuse (rather than Internet addiction) is the issue that employers should be more concerned about. This is therefore covered in more detail in the following sections.

1 comment:

  1. I should be an advocate to responsible internet usage as a subscriber of an Australian broadband service provider. I need to make sure my kids won't suffer that condition.