Beware the Irresistible Internet?

The title is taken from the New Scientist1. I turned their title into a question. One of the themes of the Healthymemory Blog is that transactive memory, of which the internet is a very large part, is good for you. It provides resources not only for maintaining a healthy memory, but also for personal growth and enhancement. Consequently, I might be unduly sensitive about articles that are critical of the internet.

One criticism is that people can become behaviorally addicted to the internet. A behavioral addiction is a recurring compulsion to act in specific ways which may be detrimental on the person’s well being. Psychiatrists, however, are not happy with the notion of a “behavioral” addiction. For them, addictions need to be physically based like alcohol or heroin addictions. So they use the term “impluse control disorder.”

The New Scientist article cites the case a court in Hawaii allowing a 51 year old online gamer to proceed with a case against NC Interactive. He claims that NC Interactive’s online game Lineage II contained insufficient warnings regarding its addictiveness (make that impulse control disorderliness for any psychiatrists reading this article). He claims to have spent 20,000 hours playing this game since 2004. I’ll leave it to the reader to draw conclusion regarding a court that would allow such a lawsuit to proceed, but I find it ludicrous to portray the user as a helpless victim.

I do not deny that there are people who, due to their abdication of personal responsibility, do engage in maladaptive behaviors (or impulse controls). And I am pleased that there are programs designed to help people get over these maladaptive behaviors (or impulse controls). But I believe that any effective program has at its core the willingness of people to accept responsibility for their behavior.

Although I am a strong advocate of the potential of the internet for cognitive health and personal development, I do not believe that all internet behavior is beneficial. In most cases, I think the result is the simple wasting of time; nothing dramatic like a behavioral or impulse control disorder. It is a good idea to conduct personal audits periodically to assess whether we are using are time wisely. I would include time spent on entertainment, recreation, or relaxation as time spent wisely, provided there are no adverse effects.

1Marks, P. (2010). Beware the Irresistible Internet, 11 September, 24-25.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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