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Hooked On The Internet

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How do you know when you're addicted to the Internet? You tilt your head sideways to smile. You dream in HTML. Your wife says communication is important in a marriage, so you buy another computer and a second phone line so the two of you can chat'. The above list of "symptoms" can be heard in various permutations as often as the "blond" jokes. For many people the very idea of being addicted to Internet is enough to produce smiles and laughter. Even the term "Internet Addiction Disorder" was coined by a sarcastic psychiatrist who thought some of his colleagues were going over the top when they started to report symptoms. But though some think Internet Addiction is a joke, for the growing numbers of people it is no laughing matter. "Intended as an informational conduit for researchers, academicians, students and computer professionals, the Internet' now hosts a growing number of lay users, and a growing number of addicts", says Sarah Lehrman, a psychiatrist who, realizing the problem, has started an on-line support group for users hooked on cyberspace (58). This new addiction, developed by our technological nation, has become a "condition from which an estimated 5 million Americans suffer, or one out of every nine Internet users", estimates the author of Digital Drug Marilyn Elias (13). According to many experts, it is becoming clear that millions cannot control the habit of spending endless hours in front of the computer screens, and that addiction to Internet can cause as much damage in people's lives as alcohol, drugs, and gambling.
Why is this new epidemic so widespread? Computers are rather inexpensive: even one thousand dollars can buy a perfectly adequate one. Daniel Dern, a well-known author in many computer related fields, states that "no fewer than 55 million US households - more than 50 percent of all American families - own at least one" (45). Connection to the Internet is also inexpensive: an unlimited access can be bought for less then 20 dollars a month. The modem - the device that links one computer to another via phone lines, has become standard equipment on most new machines, and so has the software for many online services. Not only do CompuServe, America Online, Prodigy, and most other Internet providers give away their software, most offer free online trial to new subscribers. People are drawn into trying a new "fad", only to realize they cannot control it. As Sarah Lehrman notes, "rather then becoming the technological savior of our time, the Internet just might be emerging as the addiction of the millenium, surpassing even TV with its pervasive grip on our minds and souls" (60).
Dr. Kimberly Young, a psychologist ...

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