Negative Effects of Internet Usage

Internet addiction seems to be a common, and almost expected, issue in today’s society.  We are expected to be online to check our email, get on social sites, do research for classes or work, participate in online banking, and other activities that are now considered normal.   “A Review of the Research on Internet Addiction” provides insight into what is considered to be internet addiction, factors in this addiction, addictive potential, and treatment.  One thing I found very interesting is the allusion that internet addiction is tied to staying up late and refusing to take morning classes.

Internet addiction seems to happen all day, not just at night, so I found this piece of information somewhat strange.  Another interesting factor I found was that internet addiction was linked to other addictions such as compulsive gambling.  I have seen this occur many times in the games I play.  People will become addicted to an online game and will participate in activities within the game that involved gambling for in game money, items, and many times real money.  I have watched friends spend fifty dollars in one night trying to get items from a gambling application within games such as MapleStory.  This addictive behavior certainly seems to be tied together.

One thing I was very interested in looking at in this article is the idea of assessment.  With how much we are expected to be online in our society, I thought it would be very difficult to diagnose or assess internet addiction.  I would really like to see the questions given to individuals studied for assessment that were used in this article.  I think it would be very interesting to answer the question myself or have friends answer them to see if we qualify as “addicts”.  I also found the idea which applications facilitated addiction very intriguing.  When people tend to think of an internet addict, they think of the teenage or twenty-something male with pasty skin who has his eyes glued to the screen for a WoW raid.  Many of us now think of 4-chan hackers in this category as well.  The research seems to back this stereotype with the idea that online games and chat rooms are more frequented by addicts while email and research applications are used by non-addicts.

With the growing concern for internet addiction, the idea of treatment has arisen.  While some say completely taking the internet away from an addict is the only way to cure addiction, it seems almost extreme.  The internet is expected for many class projects and jobs, so it would be almost impossible to perform these tasks once the internet is taken away, though the addiction may have caused problems with classes or work before this.   The idea of normalization seems to be a better option considering today’s society.  This is the idea of limiting usage by looking at your excesses and doing the opposite.  The idea of using concrete things seems to also be a good way to restrict your use, though this would take a lot of practice for many addicts.  I have had friends fail to meet me on time because they had “one more thing they had to do” on Tribalwars or Facebook.  Concrete restrictions would be very useful and restriction and understanding the need for the restriction of internet time, but as with all addictions, it would be a slow process for many.

Internet usage and addiction is a common factor in the lives of students.  Many students use online applications to do homework, get in touch with group members for projects, talk to friends and family while at school, play games for fun, or watch online videos.  In her article “Students’ Technology Use and the Impacts on Well-Being”, Shelia Cotton looks at how this internet usage impacts the daily lives of students.  Her article seems to tie in with the classroom setting very well since it looks at how the media suggested and encouraged by educational programs are not necessarily analyzed enough to understand how these resources are helping or hurting students.  An interesting find in this article is that the negative effects of internet usage on well-being are negated when social factors such as “closeness to friends and online interaction with strangers” is taken into account.  The idea of internet being tied to depression is actually tied to those who are lonely, and may possibly be counteracted with online socialization.

Cotton also addresses internet addiction in her article.  She notes that experts believe internet addiction can be “redefined as deficient self-regulation” rather than addiction.  She argues that the definition between technology use and addiction is not clear-cut and must be further researched.  She also states that current research is not generalized enough in universities and does not focus on social impacts since university studies are usually more interested in internet use for studying purposes.

One thing I found very interesting about this article was the idea of multitasking.  Many students tend to multitask while surfing the internet.  It is very easy to research, talk to friends, coordinate with classmates, and watch online videos all at the same time.  Many of the younger players on online games such as MapleStory will sign on and ask for help with their homework while playing the game.  This practice, however, tends to make homework take longer than it would have if the individual was working alone due to the distraction of conversation and gameplay.

The article “Internet Paradox Revisited” also looks into the effects of internet usage on well-being.  A common finding between this article and Cotten’s research that I found interesting was the idea that extroverts gain more positive interaction through social internet usage while introverts experience more negative effects.  This is due to the internet’s role in communication.

The idea that internet as a communication facilitator over distance is very popular and is one I share.  I spend much of my time online each day talking to my younger brother.  He has started school in Utah this year and our only communication is from online interaction since he hates to use his cellphone.  My brother is a somewhat shy individual who spends much of his time programming games or looking up scripts on the internet.  Without instant messaging and other communication online, he would not have much communication aside from his roommates.  This, however, seems to also have a negative effect since he does not feel the need to socialize with others in a face to face setting.  He does not tend to enjoy the presence of others and likes to be alone most of the time, though he does have moments where he wants someone to talk to or play games with.  His isolation over the internet seems to put him into cycles of depression that he comes out of once he has found something new to entertain him or has had a chance to socialize and play games with people he is close to.

This seems to reflect the research done in this article in that the social impact is affected by how the individual uses the internet.  Many individuals who spend a lot of time on the internet seem to prefer this over face to face discussions and only disclose what they want other to know rather than trying to build deeper relationships.  The idea of “drive by” relationships reminds me of chat roulette, where people never know who they will be talking to and generally only talk to this person for a short time before moving to another conversation.  This is a common trend with chat rooms where people will chat with other for a while, but will not really get to know them or build deep relationships.  While this type of communication seems to show a trend toward depression or a lack in many communication skills, the research done on this occurrence is considered controversial and will probably need to be studied for many more years before conclusive findings are discovered.

A very important area of study is addressed in the article “Student Use of the Internet”.  Since there is a growing concern with internet usage and addiction, it is important to address student use and how the internet can help or hinder students.  The internet has a strong allure for college students since they tend to have easy access to the internet, are expected to be online for research purposes, and are no longer governed by the need to share internet time with family and siblings.  The horror stories of students staying up on the internet for days straight seems to be a common occurrence in most research, particularly in the gaming realm.  Players will stay on for days on end trying to level characters or do party quests and instances.

This growing problem has brought about many studies to try and identify the hours spent using the internet as well as the outcomes of this usage in college students.  Studies have found that many students have a dramatic increase in their internet access upon starting in college, which helps in facilitation of internet usage.  An interesting find of the study was the drop in chat room usage and increase in instant messenger usage.  The use of instant messengers takes away some of the random stranger conversations that come from a chat room.  While many instant messengers allow you to browse for people to talk to, many people simply use instant messengers to talk to people they already know.  Another interesting find was the amount of online time spent related to coursework.  This number has increased significantly and could account for some of the long hours spent on the internet by college students.

One of my favorite quotes from this article is as follows: “Apparently students have a tendency to get absorbed in their sue of the Internet and lose track of time”.  This seems to be very apparent as I have already seen people who realize they have missed a class or are at least ten minutes late because they were checking Facebook.  There are also individuals who realize they wanted to go to bed two hours ago and got absorbed in a game or something they were reading online.  This reflects the 84.9% of respondents to the article’s survey who gave a positive response to losing track of time while on the internet.  These same individuals tend to lose sleep because they have stayed on longer than expected or because they say “one more hour of training my character and then I’ll go to bed”.  However, the article highlights that many individuals also lose sleep due to working on coursework on the internet rather than playing games.  This is an interesting find to look into with future use of online media in the classroom.

The diagnosis, legitimacy, and treatment of internet addiction is addressed by many studying internet usage.  The article “Internet Addiction: Consensus, Controversies, and the Way Ahead” by K Chakraborty, D Basu, KG Vijaya Kumar addresses the ideas surrounding internet usage and addiction.  An interesting part of this study highlights that the internet should not be considered a source of gambling or an object of addiction.  I found this interesting since many people become involved with online gambling and often become addicted to it based the addictive qualities surrounding gambling.  They also note that it is difficult to pinpoint what makes the internet addictive since it encompasses so many different applications and appeals to many different types of users.

The idea of internet addiction is novel because it revolves around something that is behavioral rather than physical.  The idea of addiction has moved more into the realm of behavior in recent years, making internet addiction a much more understandable problem than it once was.  Young, a research pioneer in the idea of internet addiction, suggests that it is difficult to define internet addiction or come up with criteria because it is so vast.  He offers the term “pathological use of electronic media” to be more encompassing of the overall internet issue, but he does not suggest it is the exact diagnosis at present.

Young offers criteria for diagnosing internet addiction: viz: applications; emotions; cognitions; and life events which often trigger Internet use or ‘Net binges’.  These criteria allow for understanding of usage based on comprehensive information about the user rather than just looking into how much time is spent using the internet in general.  As the other articles have found, internet addiction is tied to lack of sleep, poor job or school performance, certain types of depression, and a lack in communication skills.  The internet was found to be a distraction in the workplace and led to poor academic performance in students who spend large amounts of time using the internet.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

About Kori Birch

Student in the Liberal Arts program focusing on Communication, particularly online communication and its effects on the classroom environment.