Internet Addiction: A big joke or a real concern

Addicted to the Internet – no way!

Being addicted to the Internet seems like such a strange phenomenon. The word ‘addiction’ generally connotes negative feelings and stigma. It’s true that the Internet has some downfalls like fraud, piracy identify theft, etc. but it offers us so many amazing benefits. There are endless amounts resources available to us online. Staying in touch with friends and family has never been easier through social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram. Gone are the days of watching commercials and waiting until Monday night for your favourite show to start. Nearly every TV program is available to stream or download online at lightening fast speeds. The Internet even allows us to meet the love of our lives on countless dating sites. Just last year 30-40 million North Americans were using online dating sites and I can imagine the number will only grow in 2014.

Even our phones can keep us connected no matter where we are. It’s not uncommon to be able to connect to wifi while out at your favourite restaurant or even while shopping at the mall. It’s almost expected that places like these offer free wifi to best serve and satisfy their customers. A study even reported that cafes without wifi can expect 1 to 3 customers to leave per day, as well as discourage other customers from even wanting to visit.

With all these ways to keep us connected, it’s no wonder there’s been a drastic increase in time spent online per average adult. From 2010 to 2013, the average time spent online for an American adult increased from 3 hours and 11 minutes to 5 hours and 16 minutes, more than they spend watching television! Will this trend continue? With conveniences like online banking, schooling and shopping I can’t imagine time spent online to decrease anytime soon. Where do I stand in all of this Internet chaos? Probably right in the middle of it! I do my banking, use social media, take courses and of course – partake in fantasy sports teams, all online!

Long live the internet

It can’t be denied that the Internet has provided us with some life changing benefits. Let’s take a look at two compelling advancements. The Internet has an amazing ability to connect people. Specifically, world news is available to us with a click of a button. Before the ability to share information online, many issues from around the world would go unnoticed. Now, everything is different. You can be sure that the moment anything of significance, or otherwise, happens anywhere in the world, someone will write about it. Whether it be a Tweet, a blog post, a Facebook status or an article from a prestigious newspaper, the information is easily shared.

The Internet has also made way for online education. Not only are online courses available, entire degree programs are also offered online, like this one at Alberta’s Athabasca University. A benefit of the Internet for all these students is the accessibility of online databases that are full of research . Doing research online, opposed to the manual way in books, has enormous benefits to students. Not only does it save time, it’s not limiting in that you can search through hundreds of online journals at the same time.

In 1995, Canada made online education available to its students. From 1995-2003 there was continued increase in the number of Canadians enrolling in online courses and the number has been rising ever since. Currently, at least one million people per year in Canada take online courses, me included!


My little sister is nine years old and last week she had arranged to have a play date with her friend. Unbelievably, she couldn’t bare to leave her online game and she cancelled her plans. Although the Internet is abundant with services that can make our day to day living much easier – it also has its downfalls.

To miss out on social interaction because of an online game seems ridiculous. However, the truth is many people are faced with this challenge everyday.


The dark side of the Internet

Internet addiction is an emerging topic that I didn’t know much about. The studies conducted on this topic are primarily online self report surveys (how ironic!) that can be difficult to interpret. Still, South Korea and China have reported Internet addiction as a real concern for over a decade. In 2008 China was the first country to declare Internet addiction as a clinical disorder and a top health threat to young people. The country has opened 400 institutions to treat nearly 25 million “Internet addicted” individuals. In 2013 “Internet fasting” camps for school children became available to help curb Internet use in youths. In 2012, the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that Internet addiction can have similar effects on brain structure as alcohol and drug addictions.

There are also physical disabilities that could result from Internet addiction. I can imagine that being online for nearly 5.5 hours a day, as American adults are, could contribute to the obesity epidemic. Another potential hazard is developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in wrists from incessant typing after hours of being online. A more rare, but still possible condition that could develop from hours of uninterrupted computer use is Deep Vein Thrombosis. Being immobile for extended periods of time can result in stagnant blood in the legs and form a clot on a vein. What makes this dangerous is that this blood clot can break off from the vein and travel to the heart and could block blood flow, resulting in a heart attack.

My view?

I don’t particularly agree with the term “Internet addiction”. In my opinion, the Internet is an extremely powerful and overwhelming tool, which can push hobbies into an addiction. The Internet has such an unbelievable amount of content that it’s sometimes difficult for users to handle it appropriately.

This is why I believe it to be crucial that school children be limited to their use of online time. I feel that uncontrolled Internet use for youngsters could foster an inappropriate amount of time online.


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