I don’t mean the Integrated Access Devices like the smartphones, though they are very much related to what I would like to bring up here. I am referring more to the Internet Addiction Disorder that is becoming a big, albeit silent, menace in our society today.
Initial statistics regarding this matter already indicate an alarming rate of people affected by this disorder. This is now a huge worldwide challenge to face, and it would be good if we start with our own selves.
How do we describe persons who are affected by this disorder? They are persons who are not able to disconnect from the Internet. They live a life which is absolutely dependent on the web. Their entire way of life is shaped by being in front of the computer at the expense of their family, friends, work and even their health.
To them, the Internet has become their outlet to relieve stress or to alleviate anxiety. They have reached the point at which they are not capable of controlling their use of it, even losing sleep because of it.
The signs of this addiction are actually quite easily observable. They include large amounts of time spent on the Internet, neglect of important commitments, not paying attention to or denying the complaints of others who express concern about Internet use, constantly thinking about the Internet.
Other signs can be an inability to limit time or keep track of time online, lying about the time spent on the Internet or with videogames, becoming socially isolated, an increased tendency to anger, the lowering of quality of one’s study or work, and a great feeling of euphoria when one is in front of a computer.
There are a variety of factors behind this sad phenomenon. The most obvious is that the Internet and the allied devices can be so irresistibly attractive and engaging. While these technologies offer a lot of good, when one is not properly prepared to handle them, he can easily fall into excessive use that can inhibit the development of authentic relationships. He falls into pure self-indulgence and fails to attend to other more important areas of his life.
For the specific forms of IAD, we can cite the following: cybersexual addiction, compulsive online gambling, multi-users dimension addiction which involves a form of role playing, cyber relationships which involves establishing affective relationships that are exclusively online and which allow the person to maintain an idealized image of the other, and information overload addiction.
Certain personality characteristics and emotional states also make one vulnerable to IAD. These characteristics can include excessive shyness, low self-esteem, insecurity, and melancholy. Also previous psychiatric problems like depression, attention deficit disorder, anxiety or a stressful environment can increase the risk of IAD.
Other predisposing factors can include impulsiveness, being in a bad mood, frustration in the face of physical or psychological problems, or the exaggerated search for strong emotion.
Added to these conditions is the easy access to the Internet, plus the possible anonymity that the Internet provides together with its affordability. All these can create a perfect storm for anyone to fall into IAD.
We need to see to it that we are aware of this danger and be prepared to tackle it. Obviously some virtues would be needed like temperance and prudence. At bottom, we really need to invigorate our life of faith and piety not only to protect ourselves from this danger but more to give ourselves the proper sense of direction in our life.*