Originally created 12/16/06

Is Internet addiction real?

The debate is growing over Internet addiction - mainly, does it even exist? And if it does, are there far-reaching implications?

To answer the second question first: Oh, yes. It could change the entire way businesses deal with employees. Say you fired a worker for spending too much time on the Internet. Then Internet addiction gets recognized as a legitimate addiction, perhaps even covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means businesses would have to bend over backward to accommodate these newly anointed addicts with medical leave or counseling. And these people would be effectively immunized against getting fired.

The word "addicted" is tossed around so casually today ("Wow, I am so addicted to chocolate!"). Even if you believe some people are addicted to the Internet, isn't that like believing alcoholics are addicted to visiting liquor stores?

It's not the Internet itself that's the addiction; it's what the Internet provides. A guy who spends hours on end looking at, say, online pornography isn't an Internet addict. He's a porn addict. The 'Net is merely the neutral catalyst for that addiction. If anything, the Internet merely makes it easier to acquire or maintain an addictive personality. Surely there's compulsive Internet use out there. But addictive?

Yes, we know that many psychologists are signing on to the Internet addiction argument. But so-called Internet addiction isn't the problem here. The problem is that people are using their Internet compulsion to escape or ignore - or give in to - the problems they already have. Treat the real problems, not the Web-surfing symptom.


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