Internet Addiction is Frighteningly Real

Many Boston College students can commiserate with each other over how distracting and even “addicting” the Internet is, especially social media. While some students can usually buckle down and work past this horrible procrastination aid, many people cannot remove themselves from their computers.

Image via mandiberg/Flickr.

Image via mandiberg/Flickr.

Internet addicts go online for comfort and to escape reality. They may spend hours and even days dedicated to being online and playing games. While it may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately this dependence has now become reality.

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers have always been a popular subject, especially when associated with celebrities. There are countless stories out there about Charlie Sheen, Demi Lovato and Lindsay Lohan and their experiences with rehab. But have you ever heard about rehab for technology? The reSTART center right outside of Seattle was created in 2009 for addicts of technology – particularly video games.

Image via aibrean/Deviant Art.

Image via aibrean/Deviant Art.

Joey M’Poko, for example, is a typical patient in the reSTART program. Wbur.org describes M’Poko’s personal life as “unstable” and that he “moved around a lot.” Six months ago, M’Poko moved to the US and had trouble adjusting. M’Poko then discovered that his computer could “solve” that for him.

"I mean, I have people I would consider to be friends there, only because I spent most of my time with them. I got to know them," he said to NPR. He was so comforted by the Internet that he told wbur.org he would spend hours at a time gaming or watching movies. M’Poko says he had bad hygiene and lost weight.

Broadband availability throughout the US. Image via FCC/Wikimedia Commons.

Broadband availability throughout the US.
Image via FCC/Wikimedia Commons.

The Internet was where M’Poko felt most comfortable. "I started to feel like a person again. I could totally zone out all the pain, all whatever, and just go into this total world of fantasy, and it was awesome," he said. "I didn't have to care about anything else."

Other stories run along a similar vein. One addict did not attend his college classes for weeks due to his addiction to gaming and the Internet, another lived in a homeless shelter due to his inability to get a job and be productive.

If you are concerned about your Internet usage, Dr. Hilarie Cash, executive director of the reSTART program,  developed a list of indicators that can help determine whether or not you are truly addicted. “Are you getting enough exercise, sleep and quality time with the people you care about? If [the behavior] is interfering, then there's a problem there somewhere,” she says.

Cash has studied Internet and technology addiction since the 1990s. She maintains that if you answer yes to three or four of the following statement you may be suffering from Internet abuse, while more than five affirmations suggests addiction:

• Increasing amounts of time spent on computer and internet activities

• Failed attempts to control behavior

• Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and internet activities

• Craving more time on the computer and Internet

• Neglecting friends and family

• Feeling restless when not engaged in the activity

• Being dishonest with others

• Computer use interfering with job/school performance

• Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or depressed as a result of behavior

• Changes in sleep patterns

• Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome

• Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

You can also take this online test to determine whether or not you are truly addicted to the Internet. For students who prefer to stalk Facebook rather than turn in their homework on time, taking the quiz may be worth the effort.

Featured image via Rock 1997/Wikimedia Commons.

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