January 25, 2013

Hi, I'm an American and My Addiction is the Internet


You know in movies or television shows how whenever they show a scene in which a former addict is attempting to recover from their illness, they go to attend some sort of meeting and it’s always held in some grimly lit room where if you can get through the chain smokers blocking the entry way, everyone then goes around and says their name and their drug of choice? Well, that scenario can be applied to almost all Americans, with their addiction now being identified as fast food -- I mean the World Wide Web.

It isn’t really that shocking if you think about it, since the Internet truly serves as a one-stop-shop where you find nearly any information or buy whatever your little heart desires. According to recent statistics released in conjunction by Nielsen and the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans use the Web every day and of that percentage, 45 percent leverage the connection to either send or read e-mail while 40 percent admit to using search engines like Google or Bing. In addition, Americans spend nearly 60 hours a month online and if you put those hours back-to-back, you’d be surfing the net for an entire month.

So while being able to turn to an extremely massive amount data just by turning on your computer and clicking your favorite browser brings many advantages to our lives, are they are any disadvantages? Researchers are now answering that question with a resounding yes, stating they are seeing an increase in what they are identifying as “Digital Attention Disorder” or aptly put, being addicted to social media and computers alike.

Interestingly enough, this term first came about when B.F. Skinner, a well known psychologist, was conducting a test using rats and pigeons and quickly realized that when given a reward, the animals quickly responded to whatever the doctor wanted them to do.  However, a Yahoo article revealed that “if a reward arrives either predictably or too infrequently, the animal eventually loses interest. But when there was anticipation of a reward that comes with just enough frequency, the animals' brains would consistently release dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that (basically) regulates pleasure.”

Right about now, you are probably thinking weren’t we just talking about people living and breathing just to go online? Good memory and yes, the above experiment actually coincides with this increasingly popular addiction as some researchers strongly believe that things such as texts and tweets, which can be considered positive reinforcement for active Web involvement, are actually motivating us to continuing browsing just like the rats Skinner used back in the day.

"Internet addiction is the same as any other addiction — excessive release of dopamine," Hilarie Cash, executive director of the reStart program for Internet Addiction and Recovery, a rehab program based in Seattle that assists people who can’t get off the internet. "Addiction is addiction. Whether it's gambling, cocaine, alcohol, or Facebook."

From a young age, not only Americans but a majority of people around the globe are taught how to use the Web in order to play games or find out more information about a particular subject. When searching through websites transitions from a healthy hobby into something that controls every hour of your day though, that is a big no-no. 

"The vast majority of the American population is mildly addicted to technology, and our clinic treats only very serious cases," Cash added. "Most of the people that come are young adult males around the ages of 18 to 30 who spend a lot of time on the internet. Their health is poor, their social relationships have turned to crap, they have no social confidence or real-world friends. They don't date. They don't work."

While in some cases the Internet can actually help a shy individual make friends, it may actually be hindering the masses from ever coming out of their shell and feeling comfortable communicating with people face to face.

In an exclusive interview with TechZone360, Mike Jude, program manager, Stratcast told me, "Frost & Sullivan research reveals that Internet usage is on the increase and shows no signs that this trend won't continue.  Our last survey indicated that the average respondent spends nearly three hours a day online, in addition to any time spent online at work.  Clearly, the Internet has become an important, if not essential part, of communicating and accessing content."

Below is a chart from the above mentioned survey:


In conclusion, negative behavior comes in all shapes and sizes so don’t let your Web habits overtake your life. If you feel you may a problem, be sure to contact someone who can help you before the Internet begins to overtake the short time we have here on Earth.










Edited by Rich Steeves



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