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Summary:

While “Internet Addiction” isn’t, technically, an accepted clinical diagnosis, there are plenty of anecdotal cases of obsessive and compulsive use of the Internet that becomes socially deletirious. And people toting around wifi laptops and web-enabled cell phones would likely be considered at particular risk. Catherine Holohan […]

While “Internet Addiction” isn’t, technically, an accepted clinical diagnosis, there are plenty of anecdotal cases of obsessive and compulsive use of the Internet that becomes socially deletirious. And people toting around wifi laptops and web-enabled cell phones would likely be considered at particular risk. Catherine Holohan of BusinessWeek wrote a good article about the issue today.

“It’s not surprising that it is not defined yet, because these things change very slowly,” says Greenfield. “But when you are in clinical practice and you are dealing with people’s lives, you can’t wait for those issues to be addressed. There is a huge problem with Internet abuse in the workplace, and you can’t pretend that they don’t exist because there isn’t a label.”

So where do you draw the line between “use” and “abuse,” especially when being online all the time is considered a professional requirement?

  1. Why isn’t Gigaom or WWD researching the big, important issues like Newspaper addiction? My father is the prime example: He gets up every morning and reads the newspaper for a good hour before going to work. It doesn’t stop there though, he’s so desperate he takes it on the train to work as well! Even worse, the minute he’s out of the office, he reads it on the way home! That’s how desperate he is to get his fix! A clear case of Newspaper addiction if ever I saw one.

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  2. Leave it to people to set boundaries on what other people like to do and then label it a problem.

    BTW, I think I’m addicted to the letter Z and the number 5.

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  3. My sweetheart has her degree is clinical psychology and works as an academic advisor so, while I’m not an expert myself, I hear a lot of this stuff second hand.

    As I understand it, the difference between “use” and “abuse” is in how it impacts your life. In order to be diagnosed with a mental disorder (e.g., OCD, neurosis, whatever), you need to have a certain number of the symptoms (e.g. 7 observed in the patient out of 11 listed in the book), and it needs to have a deleterious effect on multiple areas of your life (work, marital, school, community, etc).

    Given that there is no actual diagnosis yet for Internet addiction, I think it would be fair to say that only the second part applies. So, if you are using the Internet so much that it is negatiely affecting (e.g.) your performance at work AND the amount of time you spend with your signifcant other AND you are skipping classes in order to chat online, then you probably have an addiction.

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  4. [...] On the other hand, sometimes it seems like no one thinks I’m really working. My husband has been known to make finger quotes when he asks me, “are you going to go work now?” My neighbors look a bit skeptical when they ask how my career is going. I feel sheepish when contractors working on the house see me obsessively checking my news reader; they probably think I’m just an Internet addict with nothing better to do. [...]

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  5. Very interesting topic here…

    I think David is right – to be “abuse,” it needs to be having a bad effect on areas of your life.

    Interestingly, China has a clinic devoted to treating internet addiction.

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  6. There’s an old japanese saying, that even the good things in life had bad side-effects if used too much. Definately something to ponder about.

    Internet,TV, etc. all have their advantages, but, if they start to take over your life, you seriously need to re-assess your priorities.

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  7. [...] On the other hand, sometimes it seems like no one thinks I’m really working. My husband has been known to make finger quotes when he asks me, “are you going to go work now?” My neighbors look a bit skeptical when they ask how my career is progressing. I feel sheepish when contractors working on the house see me obsessively checking my news reader; they probably think I’m just an Internet addict with nothing better to do. [...]

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  8. Please keep posting these “Are you an internet addict?” stories every 5 minutes or so. They are a great reminder that I need to get back to work :-).

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  9. Cool.

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  10. Cool.

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