Can you be addicted to the Web? Oh, yeah
July 1, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
ATLANTA (CNN) -- How much time do you spend every day at the CNN Interactive web site? What about your other Web stops? Newsgroups? E-mail?
Hopefully you keep a handle on the amount of time you spend on-line. However, psychologists say, if you really can't help yourself you may be addicted, like a growing number of people who surf the Internet.
'Net addicts have existed for the past several years, but according to psychologists and therapists, more people are literally hooked today than ever before in the Internet's history.
"I would have to say I spend a good five hours a day, if not maybe six."
"I couldn't guess how many hours a week I'm actively on, but I'd say under 80."
"I stay here all night sometimes. Actually, about every night."
They're in computer labs on college campuses, in so-called "cyber cafes," in their homes, and in the workplace. Asked how they feel if they have to go without their fix for a few days, many describe withdrawal symptoms.
"I get kind of grouchy. It's kind of like not taking a shower for a couple of days, you start feeling like, euugh," said one, shuddering.
University of Maryland psychologist Jonathan Kandell counsels students who come to him on the verge of flunking out. He says their predicament often stems from spending too much time on-line.
People can be addicted to spending time with their computers "just like they can have an addiction to any behavior -- gambling, running, exercise. I mean, people get addicted to all kinds of things," Kandell said.
Some therapists say addiction to the Internet, as with other types of addiction, is often used as a way to escape or mask larger problems. "There is almost always an underlying issue, whether it's family difficulties or depression, or anxiety, or academic problems or social problems," said Kathy Scherer of the University of Texas at Austin.
And while the phenomenon of computer addiction is still new, experts have already developed a list of signs indicating excessive use:
- Falling grades or trouble in the workplace
- Difficulties with relationships
- Feelings of anxiety or emptiness when not on-line
- Lack of control over time spent on the 'Net.
Addiction treatment often requires the addict to avoid the problem substance. In a world increasingly hooked into computers, it isn't always possible or realistic to permanently go off-line. Kandell believes that the drastic step of completely giving up the on-line world is only necessary for a few addicts.
"I think for most people, as long as they're aware of what's going on, they can use it at least in limited ways, but I think they have to be careful," he said. "Like with any addictive behavior, there's always the possibility of a relapse."
Kandell predicts that as society becomes more computer-literate, we will see more Webaholics. Most people, according to popular wisdom, will not get in the sticky situation of getting tangled in the Web.
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