Human culture has been revolutionized by the internet and how we do things. It has effectively transformed the world into a ‘global village.’ It has enabled real-time, unlimited access and sharing of knowledge to facilitate humanity’s well-being, development and prosperity. There is no doubt that society has benefited a lot from the internet, but it has also had a lot of unprecedented negative side effects. Internet addiction is one of the most influential challenges that mankind has faced in the modern age. Internet addiction can be defined as a compulsive or habitual activity that involves not only excessive use of the internet but also withdrawal as well as negative effects. Such negative effects include social isolation, dishonesty, fatigue, and poor academic performance just to mention a few. The aim of this study paper is to establish the causes of internet addiction, its effects as well as recommend some solutions to address the problem.
The information age has effectively moved all manner of human activity online. Commerce, communication, education, warfare, gaming and entertainment are just some of the human activities that have been digitized. Simply put, man now lives online; with just a few clicks, you can have everything you need from the comfort of your human. Not only that, the internet has changed how we function psychologically and it plays a critical role both in our private and public spaces. It is no wonder that some individuals get addicted to the internet, it comes with an unprecedented kind of convenience; everything is just a click away. The most complete definition of internet addiction is as follows,’ the repetitive use of the internet that has the potential to result in social, lifestyle, and ultimately cause health imbalance. Every behavioral addiction is a manifestation of deeper underlying issues such as emotional stress.
Internet addiction has in recent times been recognized as problem that needs to be addressed especially among teens and young adults. Several countries have recognized internet addiction as a health issue that results in a mental disorder. Among the youth, addiction to the internet causes an improper lifestyle as well as impaired personalities. The prevalence in internet addiction can be attributed easier access to information technology. Education in first world countries in now computerized and kids are being exposed to the internet and technology at an early age. Internet addiction has been studied for a while now and even the though the literature on the same is limited, there is a consensus on the fact it is a real problem that needs addressing. (Griffiths 15) Research shows that most of the people who are addicted to the internet are not aware of this as a problem. Members of the public do not consider surfing the internet for long hours a problem. In fact, among teens it is considered hip and cool. These are some of the reasons I find this research topic significant and in need of more attention. The internet is a large part of our today; come tomorrow and it will permeate every inch of our lives. It is therefore very important that we understand the cause and effect of internet addiction.
To understand the reasons for addiction to the internet, you need to establish what activities these teenagers and young adults engage in while online. Some of the activities they engage in while online are quite harmless if not constructive. Using the internet as a learning tool is advisable because of the wealth of information that is available online. Most learning institutions use the internet as a learning tool for students in the distant learning programme. For this research we are focusing on the negative side of surfing the internet which usually starts with harmless activities. Gaming is the one of the most addictive activities for the younger generation even when it is done offline. This compounded with the internet creates a whole new dimension for the problem of gaming addiction. (Jerald 26) Virtual reality games immerse the participants in a fantasy world that is completely different from reality because of the interactive environment. With ‘friends’ from all over the world, you don’t have to stop playing when it is time to go home; the fun continues via the internet. This is initially harmless fun and games until kids start skipping classes, sleeping too little and so on because all their time is spent online. It also affects the social life of participants as gamers end up substituting their real life friends with their internet friends. Gaming is just one of the types of addictive surfing behaviors.
There are other subtypes of addictive internet behaviors such as sexual pre-occupation. There are endless sites on the internet that are loaded with endless sexual content such as pornographic videos. (Gao 29) Just like gaming, pornography easily captures the imagination of young minds as curiosity takes over. To top it all, access and sharing of pornographic content is anonymous. Activities involved with excessive online sexual pre-occupation include viewing, uploading, and downloading of sexual content as well as participation in chat rooms for adults. It is said that young minds are easily malleable, so if this kind of behavior goes on uncheck it could result in deeper psychological and sexual issues later in life.
Another subtype of addictive behavior revolves around text messaging and social media. Communication is not limited to emailing and writing letters anymore. The advent of social media allows access and sharing of information in real time. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and content websites such YouTube have changed how we interact. (Xiong 31) It has however been discovered that social media has become a new way of escapism from social life by most. Entire lives are being spent online because of the anonymity that comes with communication online. Those addicted to social media show signs such as loneliness, social retreat and eventual loss in confidence.
Internet addiction may be a habit that is prevalent among teenagers and the youth but this doesn’t mean that is limited to this age bracket. This is problem that transcends age, gender, income level, level of education and ethnicity. The theory that has been put forth on internet addiction claims that the internet habit-forming behavior is an extension of other addictions. (Li 19) For instance, those with a gambling problem find the internet as a more convenient and cheaper way of feeding their addictions. In the same way those who have sexual issues tend to spend too much time surfing pornographic sites. The internet has just compounded pre-existing problem so that if you are a spontaneous shopper, you spend countless hours going over the catalog at e-Bay, Alibaba or Amazon.
Another major cause of internet addiction is social disorders such as anxiety and shyness. This is because people who have trouble socialization are more comfortable behind a computer screen or a mobile phone because it offers anonymity. Moreover, online interaction is less personal than meeting people face to face. Everyone wants to develop a connection with someone. Therefore, even shy people want to meet and interact with new people. The internet facilitates interaction without the personal touch that comes with a one-on-one interaction. It is said that on the internet you can be anyone you want to be, this means an individual can control how other people perceive them as opposed to how they are in reality. The allure of the internet is undeniable.
The internet can also serve as a coping mechanism for those who have depression. In the same way that stressed people turn to alcohol and drug use to numb the pain, others turn to the internet. The internet is rife with content that can serve as a distraction from the world outside, all you need to do is turn on the computer and content to the internet. For people going through a hard time or with depression disorders, the internet helps them escape into an alternate reality. Peer pressure also plays a huge role in internet addiction. When your friends spend too much time on the internet, it begins to appear more socially acceptable, trendy even. To people who spend less time on the internet, excessive internet use stands out. However, among those who spend a lot of their time online such as gamers of dungeons and dragons or world of Warcraft, it is fairly normal.
The topic of internet addiction is a topic that is generally overlooked in most health circles. To gain insight or understand the extent of the problem that is posed by addiction to the internet, there are several facts that need to be grasped as far as the issue is concerned. According to the center for internet addiction, at least one in every eight American’s is addicted to the internet. In addition, they also stress that addiction is not measured by the amount of time spent online but rather by how the time is spent and the negative effects that come as a result. If the use of the internet negatively impacts your school work, your play, your work or even your health, then you are addicted to the internet. Moreover, if an individual feels the need to lie about the time they spend online, or how the time is spent, or they are pre-occupied with their online activities, or they find it really hard to control the amount of time they spend surfing, they may as well have an addiction. A lot of people spend most of their time online but some are actually doing productive activities such as working, shopping, learning, and paying bills because of the convenience. These individuals fall under a different case cannot be referred to as addicts.
Research suggests that people of Asian descent in countries such as China and South Korea have more prevalence for internet addiction than those in the west like United States. In this countries, reports suggest that at least thirty percent of the country has an addiction problem. (Deng 38) The problem is also gender sensitive with males showing a higher addiction percentage than their female counterparts. In addition, among the subtypes, cybersex and cyber-gaming are the two most prevalent ones. The internet gives sex addicts and cheaters are new way to cheat via chat rooms, dating websites and pornographic sites. Moreover, the internet provides a new frontier for gamers to pursue their hobbies and this might result in an addiction. Finally, the problem of addiction to the internet is more severe among individuals who suffer from depression, social anxiety or addiction to substances or other harmful activities. Children brought up in the digital age are prone to spend a lot of time online. They learn online, get entertainment online, and even work online. Our lives are largely dependent on information systems and technology. This is all evidence of the extent of the problem that were are facing if we do not get ahead of this. If we continue to ignore internet addiction, most of the adults in the future might end up being addicted to the internet.
As with any other problem with addiction, there are several options as remedies for internet addiction. As previously stated, there are several triggers of internet addiction including depression and anxiety. Treating these disorders once treated can result in the recovery from internet addiction. (Marlatt 22) Moreover, in extreme cases medication can be used to ensure that internet addicts do not harm themselves. According to studies by Mount Sinai School of Medicine there is a drug that has shown promise in the treatment of addiction to the internet. This drug is known as Escitalopram and it resulted in positive outcomes with the test subjects. Beyond that clinical trials have shown little promise towards treating internet addiction.
In conclusion, my research has led me to believe that the internet addiction is a serious problem just like any other addiction. It is relatively new and hence research on the matter is a bit inconclusive; this makes it an area that requires more attention. Several things however stand out as far the problem is concerned. The internet cannot be avoided, not in this digital era. Instead, its users should be advised on how to use it without risking forming a habit or dependency. Most people have no idea that they are addicted and concerted effort should be made to educate people on the signs and symptoms of addiction to the internet. Moreover, kids and teens should be educated on the pragmatic use of the internet early in their lives because that’s when they are malleable. Failure to do this will result in a failed generation addicted to the internet, whose learning and working is compromised. Moreover, their physical and psychological wellbeing will be compromised and they will be lacking in social skills necessary in the real world. In essence, we risk becoming zombies. Finally, those addicted are not lesser beings and should not be stigmatized or ostracized. Instead, those around them should support their recovery efforts. (Young 39) After all, anyone can be addicted.
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