In 21st episode of season-2 of Boston Legal, a mother filed a suit against a company making video games. Her claim was that, company making addictive games and this addiction took her kid’s life as he forgot to even eat for almost three days. During that trial, a person, who involved in creation of games, was also called. He revealed that they create games in such a way, that dopamine level can be increased and player become addict. Nowadays, every company involved in such business, using same strategy. This harmful addiction of internet includes games like candy crush or any mobile application or social media networking nowadays. No one can deny the advantages of such internet, but addiction of everything is bad.
Use of internet is so much prevalent that researchers believe that among 2% and 9% of users of internet become addictive. Such addiction is considered serious health problem in China, Taiwan and South Korea. As a result they have initiated various education program and treatment plans to curtail this issue.
For internet addicts, internet is more important than work, school, family or friends. If you’d try to restrain them or stop them from using internet, they may face depression or anxiety. In USA it has been recognized as official medical disorder but there are still many countries failed to do so.
In 2014, a documentary film name “web junkie” was released regarding internet addictives in China. This film was documented in the internet addiction treatment center, situated at Daxing County, a suburb of Beijing. Young internet addicts were sent over there for their treatment. Some of them were sent against their will, even some of them were tricked through drug to send them over-there. This treatment includes medication, discipline, physical activity and therapy sessions.
This treatment program was necessary in China, because internet addiction is as strong as drug addiction. As quoted by one of the program administrator that
Internet addiction is as strong as junkie’s hunger for drugs. That’s why we call it electronic heroin.
Source (Internet and Social Media Addiction-by-
Andrea C. Nakaya)
This is not only in the case of China, as social media and internet addiction is now a worldwide major concern.
Relation of dopamine with addiction.
What is dopamine? It’s a transmitter produced by human brain and plays very important role in addiction. Study shows that among others, internet use motivate the release of dopamine and creates pleasure feeling. Whatever causes dopamine release, can be addicted and forces to engage in order to re-experience that gratifying feeling. Many addictions, including internet, drugs and alcohols are related to this dopamine release. In some junkies development of dopamine is so strong that in case of non-availability, they would be unhappy and anxious. Therefore addiction object would become so important for addictives than anything else in the world.
Frequent use of internet.
Everyday use of internet and social media is so much common nowadays. According to U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, 75% of US householders had computer and 95% of them uses it for internet. It has been estimated that as of now, about 90% population of developed countries uses internet. There may be different reasons for use of internet, either it may be for shopping, communication, entertainment, even for banking. Mostly technology experts believed that internet have surrounded every part of social and personal life. You can even see around, that internet is so easily accessible that it is flowing our lives just like electricity. You’ll feel disabled without its access.
When excessive use becomes addiction.
One can think that internet addiction is very much possible for everyone, but it’s not that way. Experts believe that internet addicts spend much time online and this usage has become most important thing in their lives. Mr. Kimberly Young, in 1998 created self-assessment test for internet addiction researchers. As per this test, addiction indication also includes:
- Desire to spend, as much as possible, time on internet;
- Feeling moody or restless;
- Unsuccessful efforts to diminish internet use;
- Using internet to escape unhappiness or other issues;
- Feeling irritation when trying to reduce time online.
Whether social media addiction is a serious issue?
It is still a discussion over the issue that whether addiction of internet and social media are serious problems. Some argues that threat of social media addiction is being exaggerated. They said that spending online time is normal because internet has now become central to every aspect of life. Either it be shopping, entertainment, communication or earning.
Some psychiatrists like Mr. Allen Frances, said that simple spending online time is not an addiction. Neither can it be reckoned as mental disorder nor an addiction just because someone loves to don an activity. Some may argue that, enhancement of productivity and provision of enjoyment, are positive aspects of internet. He quoted that
This is more love affair and/or tool using than enslavement and is not best considered the stuff of mental disorder.
On the other hand opponent argues that spending large amount of time online, is nothing but addiction of internet. This is one of the biggest problems nowadays. Because, internet has become vital part of our lives, therefore everyone is susceptible to internet addiction. One of the opponents Mr. Greg Beato quoted that:
As the Internet weaves itself more and more tightly into our lives, only the Amish are safe.
Internet addiction vs. Drugs addiction.
Critics believe that social media addiction and internet addiction are familiar with other addictions like drugs and alcohol. Such relationships have been explained by Medical Center of Bradford as:
Individuals addicted to alcohol or other drugs . . . develop a relationship with their chemical(s) of choice—a relationship that takes precedence over any and all other aspects of their lives. Addicts find they need drugs merely to feel normal. In internet addiction, a parallel situation exists. The internet, like food or drugs in other addictions, provides the high and addicts become dependent on this cyberspace high.
Gamer and physician Mr. Andrew P. Doan expressed that just like drug junkies, internet addicts will continue their internet addiction. While exemplifying a gamer he quotes that:
Like a cocaine junkie, video game addicts will do things to keep playing that they would never do in their right minds. . . . It is common for addicts to pretend to be sick so they can skip work, lie to loved ones to get out of commitments, and many other uncharacteristic behaviors, all so they can keep their digital drug flowing.
Believe me, it’s not an exaggeration, as an unfortunate incident happens in Ohio in 2007. A 7-years old boy shot his parents when they took away his Halo-3 game.
Addictions of video games.
Out of many online activities, online gaming is one which is linked with internet addiction. In-fact, many treatment centers which dealing with internet addiction issues, reported that most of the addicts are gamers. It has been found in treatment center China, that most popular type of gaming addiction Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. In such games people around the world forming groups, compete in a virtual world and competing tournaments. Earlier World of Warcraft was this kind of game and nowadays a new game i.e. Pubg (Player-Unknown’s-Battle-Ground), is in field.
These games are consists of never ending goals e.g. candy crush. Even I was addicted to this game almost cleared 550 stages, and thought it’s almost ending. But, when I came to know through my friend that he cleared 950 stages and it’s still continuing, I quit. These games are so much addicting as they contain so much goals to achieve. One gamer in treatment center quoted that:
There’s always a new item to be had or quest to be done. There are so many activities in these games that can consume your whole day in a heartbeat.
Causes of internet addiction.
Who believes that internet or social media addiction is possible, they may disagree over its causes. It is believed that addiction is genetic result e.g. development differences, gender differences or variation in brain chemistry. Some argues it’s due to nature of internet which causes addiction, because it is highly engaging medium, difficult to avoid. Some of critics put the burden of blame on affordable smart-phones, through which internet is easily accessible from everywhere. However, some differs such addiction are indications due to mental health disorders like depression or anxiety or personal problems.
Internet addiction affecting well-being and health.
It is believed that spending more time on the internet can seriously harm your health and wellbeing. In this regard Bradford Medical Center says that
Internet addicts struggle to control their behaviors, and experience despair over their constant failure to do so. Their loss of self-esteem grows, fueling the need to escape even further into their addictive behaviors. A sense of powerlessness pervades the lives of addicts.
However, some argues that internet life, while mostly connecting with it, is a new future tendency and not as-such harmful. They say that nowadays internet is vital part of work and your life. A renown journalist Tony Dokoupil says that:
Don’t kid yourself: the gap between an ‘Internet addict’ and John Q. Public is thin to nonexistent. One of the early flags for addiction was spending more than 38 hours a week online. By that definition, we are all addicts now, many of us by Wednesday afternoon, Tuesday if it’s a busy week.
Although some may experience damages, but even then for many others internet makes life much productive and more entertain-able.
Addiction for some, profit for some.
Some online industries work hard to profit from people’s interest of being online surfing. It includes companies and individuals, creating social networking websites, various online activities and online games. In this way they attract people to their websites and keep them engaged as long as possible. Such internet addiction is good for their business, and that’s the reason companies are investing millions of dollars to make their websites more attractive. They track your interest and improve their program, just like a yummy cheese trap for a mouse. Mr. Steve Henn while expressing about game makers quoted:
As we play games, game developers are tracking every click, running tests and analyzing data. They are trying to find out: What can they tweak to make us play just a bit longer?
With more and more sophisticated techniques, such addiction will grow speedily. Even some conscious persons now started to use simple phones for their regular use, just to avoid internet contact. High-tech industry executive, Mr. Bill Davidow warns that:
As companies learn how to use neuroscience to make virtual environments more appealing, that number [of people who are addicted to the Internet] will undoubtedly increase.
And it seems inevitable because huge profit of product comes through addiction. He mentioned that:
The leaders of Internet companies face an interesting . . . imperative: either they hijack neuroscience to gain market share and make large profits, or they let competitors do that and run away with the market.
How to beat social media addiction.
With growing internet addiction at massive scale, problem remains as how to overcome this addiction. Because either some countries did not consider it as addiction or they failed to focus on treatment of internet addiction. Some countries, including USA have treatment centers regarding internet addiction. Other countries have also started to open such treament facilities, with the growing awareness of such addiction. Some Asian countries like, China, South Korea took this threat seriously. For instance, government of South Korea has state-sponsored counseling for internet addicts. Further to stop such addiction in youth, education programs also have been initiated.
Government of China, also focusing on treatment of such addiction. Unlike automobile or any other such like technology, internet is new technology and concept of internet addiction is even newer. There is still ongoing debate, whether such addiction exists or not, if yes, then how it affect the people and what are causes of addiction. We need to find solution of our problems because all-over the world, internet is becoming a fundamental need of our lives.
Problems with such treatments are that, in countries like USA, such treatments are very costly and not covered by insurance. However, use of internet can be limited by managing its use, addressing problems and undergoing cognitive behavior therapy. Or it can also be controlled like China did, by employing military style boot camps for internet addicts.