The idea of Internet addiction first surfaced in 1995 with a deadpan joke posted to psycom.net by a psychologist named Ivan Goldberg. (See the Internet Addiction Disorder origin story). He may have been joking, but there's good reason to take it seriously.
Hi. My name is Michael Plotke, and I'm an addict.
... Scary words. I get a shiver just looking at them.
I don't know if I actually qualify for the psychological label of addict. In fact, there is debate among psychologists if it is possible to be addicted to the Internet.
A bit of history. The idea of Internet addiction first surfaced in 1995 with a deadpan joke posted to psycom.net by a psychologist named Ivan Goldberg. From there it caught the imagination of the Internet (ironically) and the world, particularly China.
Personally, I believe Internet addiction has two levels. The first is addiction to Internet itself, meaning the medium, regardless of the content. This is similar to television addiction. The second is an addiction to activities available on the Internet, the most obvious current culprits being pornography, social networking, and gaming. In my opinion, this two tier addiction arrangement has confused the issue and slowed the progress of psychological investigation.
My situation is that I have developed a compulsion to check the Internet, and certain websites in particular, for updates and responses. To make matters worse, I can feel it growing and encroaching on meaningful responsibilities. I'm afraid if I don't make a stand I will
begin continue to harm myself and others.
Currently my compulsive behavior is linked to specific websites, thus I decided to block those sites in my hosts file. If you've no idea what a hosts file is, it may be a good idea to ignore those footnote links and let someone else block sites for you. The trouble for me is that I know very well how to unblock those sites.
Very few things are impossible, but if it is difficult enough people will find a less torturous path. One of the most serious aspects of Internet addiction is the availability. Creating a barrier reduces risk.
Although for certain addictions there is fair consensus that a complete break is more likely to succeed than a weaning process, each addiction is different. I believe Internet requires a duel pronged approach due to its twofold addictive nature. Harmful sites should go cold turkey, while the Internet use generally should be reduced. I have no clinical evidence nor proof of any kind, but I find my instincts about these kinds of things to fairly accurate.
I have blocked a dozen sites but one of the worst, both as a source of compulsive visiting and stress, has been Facebook. It also provides a tremendously valuable service, so I remain unsure what course makes the most sense.
It is important to note that a large part of why the Internet is addictive is by design. Most websites are intentionally crafted to ensure you feel compelled to returns as often as possible. By doing so they increase their revenue and expand their influence.
While this is a highly personal essay, I want to stress that these concerns certainly apply to countless friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers. Even more importantly, they apply to guardians attempting to ensure a safe and healthy environment for their dependants.
Best of luck.
The comics are courtesy of xkcd.com