Based on the topics of a few of the other articles this month, the subject of addictions seemed highly appropriate to me. I'm not talking about drug tolerance, which is what we tend to think of when we hear the word "addiction", but rather more general addictions – to chocolate, to a book series or anime or perhaps the most common for us HOLers, to our computers. Both "Computer Addiction" and "Internet Addiction Disorder" have in fact been researched and have earned their own page on Wikipedia (whether or not they truly exist as "addiction disorders" is still an undecided point however!). In this article I will mostly be reflecting on "Internet Addiction Disorder" (or IAD – yes, it even has a snazzy acronym of its very own).
IAD, as I said above, quite possibly doesn't truly exist by itself. It has however been suggested that this "excessive" use of the internet can be due to compulsion, obsession or perhaps as a form of self-medication (from stress in real life etc). It does, when you think about it, seem incredibly unlikely that the internet itself is an issue: a gambler will always gamble, a shopaholic will always shop. Relating this to HOL a little more, people can get just a tad excessive over things besides the internet and IRC; RQTers having a discussion about Twilight (yes Jenna, seriously you created an obsessive bunch of people), or anime or TV shows (see Cassie's Cranky Corner for examples of fangirling addiction issues *G*). As a whole, I don't think the internet is the cause of any of this behaviour, it simply provides people with another way in which to "get their fix". I think in terms of IRC, this is particularly aided in that it's very easy to find someone else who shares your addiction and can provide you with yet more.
Nursing an internet addiction is (almost?) always more fun than whatever real work we have to do – it's definitely a wonderful method of procrastination. That said, I know that sometimes I do wish afterwards that I'd stopped faffing around (procrastinating, putting stuff off) earlier and not left my real work (or at the current moment, my Alte article) quite so last minute. To me, this means that there has to be something more to an addiction than simply to "put off other stuff". How then do we define an addiction to the internet?
Four things can be used to characterize IAD, and unsurprisingly they can be applied to almost any type of addiction you can think of.
I) Tolerance – requiring more and more time on the internet to achieve satisfaction.
II) Withdrawal symptoms – apparently these could include tremors, anxiety, dreaming about the internet and (in)voluntary typing movements of the fingers.
III) Continuous losing track of time – spending longer on the internet than intended.
IV) Socializing less or concentrating less at work as due to the amount of time spent on the internet.
Going by this list I would sincerely doubt that many HOLers actually suffer from too bad of an addiction – after all, I think most of us tend to be on IRC because we're enjoying all (or at least most) of the time there, rather than only starting to enjoy it after a few hours! Item III on the list I fear I can relate to, although I think this is mostly due to poor time management on my part rather than addiction. The people most commonly "addicted" to the internet tends to be the youth of today – basically anyone who's grown up since computers (with internet) became common household items, as such it's entirely possible this "addiction" problem is simply how society is changing due to this technological advance.
Of course, the fact that IAD isn't even classified as a proper addiction hasn't stopped people trying to explain it with science – linking it to hormones, chemicals, neurotransmitters and perhaps even chromosomes. No one has produced any concrete evidence linking it to any specific chemical etc. However, apparently some drugs (naturally produced by the body) or hormones can affect the synapses in the brain, especially ones such as epinephrine (adrenaline). These "signals" can cause the brain to give out incorrect information and can cause (possibly) the "high" that we typically link to running and some other recreational activities – depending on the individual involved.
In conclusion, I'm not going to say whether IAD does or doesn't exist. I am however going to make what I feel is an important point – within reason, does it even matter? Surely there are far worse things people could be doing with their time? I'm sure there are better things too, but the internet provides a great source of information and from my experiences I'd definitely say it's sparked a number of new interests for me. As long as we understand that we have to live in the real world too (whether we want to or not isn't the point *G*), well, who cares?