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The Internet – A Health Hazard

The Internet – A Health Hazard

There are a number of addictions that almost everybody knows, the most familiar being that of drug, alcohol etc.(addiction to substances) and those of gambling, shopping etc.(addiction to activities or behaviors). But have you heard of what is known as “Internet Addiction”. Well there really is such an addiction, one of the bad effects of the Internet, in spite of all its other benefits.

In some respects, Internet addiction is just the same as other activity or behavior addictions. Internet addiction starts off with the casual use of the Net and slowly progress to the use of the technology in dysfunctional(abnormal) ways. It is the belief of some that it is the spending of a lot of time on the Internet as the nucleus of the disorder, but that is not as important a factor as the way the use of the Net is interfering with their normal day to day functioning – with the person’s school work, job or his or her social life. At the extreme end, there have been cases where the person enters the Internet chat rooms for people with serious illness and pretending to be afflicted with that particular illness just to attract attention or get sympathy.

There is no known reasons why a person gets addicted to the Internet, but several theories have been proposed. One theory finds places it on a similar footing to that of a compulsive shopper who experiences a pleasurable feeling when he or she goes on a spending spree – driving to the mall, entering a favorite store, checking one’s credit card etc. In the case of the Internet addict, he is supposed to get a similar feeling of euphoria when he boots up the computer, logs on to the Internet and goes to his/her favorite websites. Another theory theorizes that a person may have a gene or a combination of genes that renders a person more susceptible to addictions just like the genes that affect a persons vulnerability to alcohol.

There is also the possibility that the use of the internet might be reinforced by pleasurable feelings and thoughts, in addition to having features of an activity addiction. Though the concept of an addictive personality is suspect, there is the possibility that a person who has one addiction might be prone to another addiction, even the use of the Internet.

There may also be familial reasons for the addiction. For instance, the person might surf the web to shut himself off from a family quarrel. Social or peer pressure may also cause too much use of the Internet. Lack of social skills that enables a person to meet another in person might push them into meeting people online. Trying to ape the behavior of others might also start off the addiction. The interactive use of the Internet seem to be a more likely cause that is likely to lead to this addiction.

Another twist to the problem is whether this type of addiction is just an example of the use of technology to support another addictions. One such activity that immediately comes to mind is online gambling. Yet another is online shopping instead of going to a mall. It has to be decided as to whether Internet addiction is a pure form of addiction.

Some of the symptoms of Internet addiction include the use of the Internet for an excessive period of time, lack of sleep, declining grades, poor job performance, fatigue, apathy and racing thoughts. False statements may be made about the time spent on the Internet may also be some of the symptoms related to Internet addiction.

There may also be familial reasons for the addiction. For instance, the person might surf the web to shut himself off from a family quarrel. Social or peer pressure may also cause too much use of the Internet. Lack of social skills that enables a person to meet another in person might push them into meeting people online. Trying to ape the behavior of others might also start off the addiction. The interactive use of the Internet seem to be a more likely cause that is likely to lead to this addiction.

Previously, those reported to be addicted to the Internet were labeled as young, social misfits, introverts and computer oriented males. But the wide availability of computers have changed this concept. Now such seeming addicts can be seen in any age group with any discrimination in race, color, creed, gender or level of education etc.

Currently, this type of activity has not been officially treated strictly as a form of addiction but some criteria has been laid down for treating it as such. They include:
– Preoccupation with the Internet,
– Necessity for spending more time on the Internet to feel satisfied,
– Unsuccessful attempts to shorten the use of the Internet,
– Feelings of restlessness, depression, irritability when away from the computer, and
– Repeated spending of lengthier time on the Internet.

At present there is little or no specific treatment for this type of addiction as it has not been officially recognized as one. Abstinence for the Internet is recommended by some, others feel that it may be unrealistic to completely cut off use of the Internet. As computers have come to stay and have permeated into every aspect of life, it will be difficult to avoid computer use. But since Internet addiction has a close resemblance to other activity based addictions the treatment also follows the same lines.

Since Internet addiction can affect the academic standing of student or the employment status of an individual, it has to be treated. But prevention is better than cure, especially in addiction cases and it is better to avoid excess use of the Internet. And the best way to do it is to engage in other social activities out of the influence of the Internet. More research needs to be done to find out ways to use new technology rather than wait to let it bring up some aftereffects.

Oliver S. Daniel is a Freelance Writer of a variety of articles and can be reached at jayasingh.daniel@yahoo.co.in. His personal website is http://www.oddjams.com/

 
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