Internet Addiction Made this Man Homeless
Andrew Ross, the depressing brother of Newsweek writer Winston Ross, is the star attraction of the magazine’s feature on how Internet addiction can destroy lives. In Andrew’s case, he’s homeless, subsisting on food stamps and free usage of a computer at a nearby university.
Basically a more detailed discussion of how people get addicted to the internet, the article’s point is scary and interesting at the same time, presenting internet addiction as similar to other “traditional” life-destroying vices like alcohol and drug use. Like those, suddenly cutting off access to a computer may cause more harm than good:
It’s a difficult problem to treat, says Jerald Block, a clinical psychiatrist at Oregon Health Sciences University who specializes in compulsive computer use. Among the three most common methods are antidepressants, treatment for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and extended retreats from the computer. Cutting off access too suddenly or without other treatment worries Block, he says, because the computer has often become a container for aggression and a major relationship for an addict. Removing those can lead to some very aggressive behavior, including suicide or violence against others, he says: “You’re cutting the way they’re dealing with all of their emotions.”
It was honestly very easy for me to laugh at people like Andrew Ross, or even that Chinese dude who died from exhaustion after playing 24 hours straight. How could anyone spend that much time on a computer—a tool—and not profit from it? I usually spend more than 12 hours a day in front of a computer, but at least a significant part of that involves making money for myself. There’s so much information available online, and if you’re not using it to improve your fortunes, what’s the point?
That’s until I realized that, as a smoker, I have my own, nonsensical addiction. What’s the point of smoking something that damages your lungs and shortens your life span? Nicotine may be relaxing, but it’s also tremendously addicting, to the point that I can’t go for several hours at a time without at least a stick or two. In other words, smoking cigarettes is actually detrimental, but I can’t seem to kick the habit. Just like how Andrew Ross was unable to break his addiction to World of Warcraft and the constant search for novel—but ultimately useless—information.
The point is that, based on the increasing documentation on the effects of internet addiction, we should start considering it a genuine problem, and not just a “punchline” as written by Winston.