8/1/2012 11:13:00 AM Editorial Internet addiction makes big leagues
Courtesy the Daily Courier
It's not as if we advocate a return to manual typewriters and carbon paper, to scavenging through dusty library troves for information, but a disturbing trend is developing that is capturing the attention of mental health care professionals all over the world: Internet addiction.
Click. You're checking the box scores. Click. A news item catches your attention about the ballplayer's wife and an alleged affair. Click. The guy she was said to be seeing has posted a video about his arcane hobby. Click. It's uncertain how you got there, but you're listening to an Armenian reggae band covering Toots & The Maytalls. Click. The clock says it's mid-afternoon and you realize you haven't had breakfast or even gotten dressed.
Along with containing virtually all of the world's knowledge in bits and bytes, the Internet has achieved a new distinction. According to a recent article in Newsweek Magazine, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will, for the first time, include a category for "human-machine interactions" as a form of addiction in its next edition.
It seems that Internet obsession is crossing a line separating habit from disease, a line pioneered by alcohol abuse some time ago, when the notion of the humorous town drunk faded into oblivion as alcoholism came to be considered a sickness.
Virtual reality can be a lot of fun. Assuming identities other than our own was once the province of science fiction writers who imagined the wonders of traveling through universes known and unknown while never leaving the comforts of home.
Now that it's possible, though, unintended consequences have arisen. From the start of the Internet age - not all that long ago, believe it or not - some have wondered what effect the accessibility of everything would have on personal and familial relationships.
And now we know. In households all around America and the world, a common scene now finds mom and dad and the kids all in the same room but worlds apart in where their minds are as they peer into laptops and tablets and smartphones, reaching for the combination of electrons that will satisfy some undefined curiosity, rarely sharing even a glance, much less a word.
We can't go back, nor should we. But maybe we should log off a little more often.