Some of you may have noticed the news apps that are popular on Facebook at the moment, laid on by the likes of The Guardian and The Independent where you can see what online newspaper articles your friends have read and then if you sign up to the app, you can read them as well. Unfortunately some of these, after reading, I've looked at the date and realised they were written in 2005 or earlier, I even read an Independent one the other day which was written in 1999, but I've seen a more recent one which I thought brought up quite an interesting but serious and relevant danger of the internet. It was written in 2010 and was about a Korean couple who allegedly let their own baby starve to death while they were obsessively raising a 'virtual baby' on the internet. (1) The article mentions at the end how there are thought to be links between depression and internet addiction.
This got me thinking about how the internet has such a moreish appeal. This story is definitely not the first one circulating about the consequences of internet addiction, and definitely not the first time that it has actually proved fatal. I wonder what it is about the internet which is so appealing? No one seems to be addicted to reading novels or watching TV, and I think this is because these things only really serve a single function, where as the internet can cater to all sorts of different needs. In a way it is a kind of umbrella device which cannot be singularly defined. Its breadth seems to exacerbate addictions that are already present , perhaps to gambling, gaming, shopping or pornography, and as using computers can be quite a solitary activity, I can see how excessive use is linked to depression.
I think again this related back to our discussions earlier in the term about social networking websites like Facebook, where you can create your own persona and can hide behind a computer and not have to face up to reality. Similarly perhaps, with something like online gambling, you do not have to be seen walking into a bookies or a casino. I think some of the appeal of the internet that is at the same time a large risk, is the veil it casts over reality, which seems to place people a step back from what they are doing. The news story referenced really shows the power of internet addiction and how it is a complex psychological disorder. Similarly, the statistics mentioned in the middle part of this Guardian article (2) are quite shocking. If you're worried you about being a internet addict, there are plenty of online tests you can do to find out (3). A bit ironic don't you think?
(All accessed 18th November 2011)