Are You a Net Addict?

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Earlier this week, my colleague Kellye Whitney wrote about the fact that many of you spend too much time in front of a computer, based on your responses to this week’s Web poll. Last I checked, more than one-fifth of you said you’re in front of a computer some 15 hours or more. I wonder how much of this time is expended on leisure activities on the Internet, whether gaming, blogging, reading or whatever—I’d guess a pretty good bit of it, actually.

 

The problem is that this can be taken too far. A recent article in the New York Times contends that up to 10 percent of Internet users in the United States are addicted and in need of therapy. The physical withdrawal symptoms of a Web addict—heavy perspiration and extreme apprehension and paranoia—are similar to those of alcoholics or users of hard drugs who quit cold turkey, medical experts say. Mentally, long-term exposure to the Internet can result in temporary lapses in one’s IQ. As a result, Web addiction centers that offer 12-step programs for afflictions like obsessive online gaming have begun to pop up.

 

However, many health professionals and other observers are unconvinced of the grave nature of the threat the Internet presents to its users, and thus, the need for treatment. I would probably count myself among the skeptics as well. After all, unlike controlled substances, the Internet is ultimately neutral, and the frequency and reasons you use it are entirely up to you. Yet I would add that it doesn’t hurt to turn it off now and then. My advice would be to get out of the house (or office) as often as possible to try new things and meet new people. As great as the Brave New Cyber-world is, it’s still no substitute for the real world.

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