Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
The Internet Books Media Book Reviews

Virtual Addiction 85

We all know some Net obsessives -- people into gaming, IRC-yakking, trading, shopping, auctioning, coding, IM'ing, even moderating, just a bit too much. The problem isn't that the Net is dangerous, just that's it's so damned interesting compared to work or school. Sometimes it does interfere with life. Dr. David Greenfield has written a calm, useful non-phobic book for the people he calls "Netheads, cyberfreaks, and those who love them." He cops to being a bit addicted himself. (Read more).

Virtual Addiction
author Dr. David N. Greenfield
pages 227
publisher New Harbinger Publications
rating 6/10
reviewer Jon Katz
ISBN 1-57224-172-1
summary handy useful guide for the Net-obsessed we know and love

If the dangers of working, living and playing on the Net have been overstated by political moralists and the media, our dirty little secret is that this is a compulsive culture. Many people do have trouble from time to time balancing e-mail, IM, gaming, coding, IRC-chatting, arguing, shopping, trading, even moderating, with the demands and balance of real life.

The Net is a magnet for brainy, even addictive obsessives, an outlet for their curiousity and creativity that is often much more appealing than home, school or work. So Dr. David Greenfield's book maybe handy help for "Netheads, cyberfreaks, and those who love them," as he puts it.

Greenfield knows what he's talking about. He writes about the intrinsically compulsive elements of life online for shoppers, gamblers, sex-chatters, auctioneers, gamers and kids. He doesn't present the Net as a dangerous menace, just a place so diverse, challenging and compelling that many of the people who go online regularly sometimes struggle with finding the right balance between life online and off. The book is really about balance and perspective, always useful to think about. And there are few college kids or tech workers who don't know somebody who's dealing with this issue in one form or another, if they aren't themselves. The perils of cyberlife are real, if wildly overstated by a phobic society.

Greenfield wrote this book (out in paperback for $12 bucks) because he found his own time online was getting too intense. He describes himself as a "true cyberfreak with technophilic tendencies," and offers useful information about warning signs and remedies. He also believes the Net is going to become much more addictive as it becomes even more interesting and ubiquitous.

Greenfield believes that multimedia stimulation, ease of access, twenty-four-hour availability, lack of boundaries, loss of time, disinhibition, stimulating and creative content are all factors that can contribute to compulsive, even addictive Net use.

"The line from my perspective," he writes, "is when it interferes with your life significantly." If somebody enjoys being online six or eight hours a day and they still lead a healthy and balanced life, there's no problem. But, he says, he isn't certain that anybody can spend most or all of their spare time online and still have a truly balanced life.

This book is sensible. Greenfield's style is easy and straightforward, and the book could be valuable for employers, peers, colleagues and friends concerned about themselves and other people who sometimes struggle with balance and perspective in a culture that is compelling not because it's dangerous but because it's so damned interesting.

You can purchase this book at FatBrain.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Virtual Addiction

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't agree. You can very well be addicted to news reading online and be a codependent non technical user, especially if you are not a "geek", without being the least addicted to any of the above mentioned compulsive usage of porn, IRC, MUDs, gameing, shopping, trading or what have you. Matter of factly I am consider myself "right now" addicted to reading /., k5,,, salon, wired, the standard, the register, NYT, LAT, WP, and a bunch of other journals, newspapers and online sites worldwide,as well as a couple of email lists. I have never and refuse to use any IRC, any online shopping, never traded and refuse to trade online, never auctioned something off, and run away from porn. I have time and waste it happily doing nothing but unorganized reading online. That I consider addiction.

    But if there is anything I want to know, I look for it with google. And I find things and then they lead me to other things I want to know and verify. THAT is what makes me DEPENDENT on the internet. Constant news checking and reading online and offline on TV, radio and wire services (had to do this professionally for seven years) is a sure way of getting addicted, distracted and in the end unable to focus and do serious original research, as long as you can afford it and have enough time and money to support such a lifestyle.

    I am taking VERY drastic measures against it, but as I see it, you can't even decide these days anymore to NOT use the internet, to NOT have email and to NOT have TV.

    I have no CNN, just public TV connections, I refuse having a mobile phone, I stuggle eternal fights with myself to get rid of my voice mail box. I struggle further to get rid of my 24h/7d SDSL line, which I got just to learn how to run my own homegrown lan and servers. I decided after a long struggle to NOT get into the IT field and to NOT learn programming for professional purposes, because I don't like to be a slave of the machine and the web for professional reasons. I don't like to be harrassed by political blah blah of the "geek community". I do not like and do not believe in online communication or communities, I consider them as dangerous to your mental health.

    I do like to study another field though and as it is, you can't even go to school anymore without using the internet.

    I am asking you, am I addicted or am I caught ? To tell you the truth, I hate the web, it's technology which makes people dependent in a way I never imagined would be possible. I can't wait til I am capable of leaving it behind.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm getting past my /. addiction a step at a time. Usually, I view /. on my 21" monitor. I'll start my program by only viewing it on my old 15". I'll then move to my 3" Palm PDA and finally my 1" Linux/IBM watch. After all that, I can get rid of /. forever!

    Of course, I could try going cold turkey by forcing myself to read every Jon Katz story in a single night.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You were 20 years old for 4 years???

    All you Time Machine are belong to us !!!

  • Just because I make my living from the net, run nameservers from home and make my wife work at a colocenter [] just so I have bandwidth doesn't mean I'm a "nethead" [].


    Joe Hamelin

  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviors are fairly well understood, although for some treatment is nothing more than saying "whoa, this is getting out of hand" and bringing the behaviour under control, while for others truly successful treatment seems nearly impossible.

    There's no such thing as "obsessive and compulsive behaviors." There are obsessive thoughts which lead to compulsive behaviors. I'm speaking really cognitively here, but OCD is an anxiety disorder. The subject feels anxious about something which leads to obsessive thoughts. The compulsive behaviors follow as a means to pacify the subject's obsessive thoughts. Threatment is carried out by treating the subject's anxiety, which leads to the cessation of the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

    I know this because I've suffered from and been treated for OCD. The hardest part was indentifying what I had, because I didn't express the "classic" symptoms of OCD (checking door locks, washing hands, etc.)

    OCD is not the same thing as addiction. Addictions are not always caused by anxiety and treatment for addictions is different.

    slow down or stop. If you can't stop, seek counselling. The end.

    This is the common attitude of people who don't suffer from emotional disorders toward those who do: "Snap out of it you moron! It really is that easy!" Your words do not help. People have been saying similiar words for decades, if not centuries. Only recently (late 20th century) has psychotherapy become advanced enough to really start helping people with emotional disorders. It is modern therapy which helps, not your simplistic and condescending attitude.
  • Interesting comment... I do think it's possible to be addicted but just because you talk to people online a lot, is that really any less real than inviting people to your house all the time?
  • that I seem to be suffering from an acute case of holo-addiction. But I think I've got things out of control. I have been going through a 12-step program offered by the EMH.

    Hey, wait a second!
  • i honestly use up my 900 minutes a month, and i don't feel like i use it at all, it is only 30 minutes of talking a day.
  • JonKatz says:
    He cops to being a bit addicted himself.

    I know slashdot is known for its trendsetting use of the English language, but adding new meanings for existing words en passant is not something Mr. Katz's literary reputation gives him license to do.

    Away, hanger-on! And by the way, Timothy, stop putting "Oh My" in your story titles. It's such a feeble way to spruce up a story.
  • If it was, then I might get a chance to read it :)
  • ah good call...

    I forget that because I have a cron script running an update for me every day.
  • Exactly. I'm ashamed I clicked on the link to this story. :-)

    "Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat, I touch..." - Comus, John Milton
  • When Jon Katz is famed for wittering on at great length about almost any subject, why is this review so short as to be worthless ?

    We can work out what the book is about from its title. We all know plenty of people (sic) who manifest each and every form of net.addiction. So is the damn book any good ? What's in it ? Is it a study of addicted spods, or is it a self-help guide to curing them ? Does it think virtual addictions are great, and just recommend the lowest bandwidth charges to finance them ?

  • In analyzing the phenomenon of someone sticking to their screen 20 hours out of 24 you've got to look at the convenience aspect because computerland is nothing if not convenient. Satisfaction is always just a click away. Maybe it is just pixels blinking on the screen but it's JUST A CLICK AWAY. That counts for a lot. A little satisfaction gained easily is often more readily pursued than a greater satisfaction gained with difficulty. I myself have this scene that goes on: I'm coding. Coding coding coding. I want a break fram my coding so I read my email. Feel like doing something else so I play a videogame or check out Slashdot or just surf. But wait, my options consist of a hell of alot more that just computer stuff. I could go for a walk or visit a friend or a million other things, but I choose the computer option over and over. It's like my perspective is being narrowed by my focus on the computer. Do I forget the world when I'm on the computer alot? What's going on here? It's like it's easier to flow my attention in convenient directions. Like I'm turning into a blob of cosmic laziness.
  • Maybe it's like using methadone to ween you off heroin?

    ICQ 77863057
  • "even moderating"

    You can't possibly expect people to not get addicted to moderating now that it's gone haywire and no one seems interested in fixing it... Moderate away, whee! And everyone moderating means less people contributing, even better...

    ICQ 77863057
  • I really was an addict a few years ago. Spent my time at work online, and then went home to be connected all night. It got old after a while, though and I went back to having a life and not being online nearly as much.

    So why is it that losing DSL at home (thank you oh so much, Northpoint) was so traumatic? I got used to being able to look for things online, rather than elsewhere. If I needed to know the address of the audio/video store that can fix my DVD player, I automatically went online and then to mapquest when I wanted to know where it was. But suddenly all that was gone, and it's a huge adjustment. It's tough not to be able to check email 6 times during the evening, and read 16 different reviews of whatever movie I'm considering going to see. And how can I check out the latest pictures of my nieces without a web browser? When you have a constant connection, these things just become normal ways of doing things. It's part of your life, and becomes transparent. Rather than addiction, at least in my case, the ease of use has made accessing information (and all of the other activities I do online) ubiquitous.

  • > Greenfield wrote this book (out in paperback for $12 bucks) because he found his own time

    "for $12 bucks" is actually "for twelve dollars bucks". People always make this mistake. Yes, it does seem wrong to use numerals in this respect, as with "for 12 bucks"--just as wrong as "for $12" seems--but it is correct. Or, I should say, MORE correct. One should nearly always represent digits in full-text form when writing this way. This is eminently readable, and not nearly so confusing for the author.
  • Man, this takes me back to 1993, when I was in my final year of university, and logged into this [] nearly every waking hour. Of course, my grades were nuked.

    Gee, I'm glad I got offa that! Eventually. OK, three years later. Kinda. Mostly.

    Funny that the author wouldn't mention obsessive offline geeky activities as well. While I was supposed to be in classes in university, there was a period of about three weeks in which I did nothing but sit in my room and code my ass off. I wrote two VGA games in this time and learned more about practical application programming than at any other point previous to that. It was the prime joie du hack and everything else paled into insignificance, including eating. Now I just have smaller hackfests. Eating is good for you.

    Not to mention others who mess around with ham radios. They're kind of got their own network, I suppose you could consider them online, and I bet people have been getting addicted to that for decades!


  • Huh? "Cop a plea" is already firmly entrenched in the English language, "cop to X" is just a slightly elided version of that. Hardly "trendsetting".

    Don't you agree that

    He cops a plea to being a bit addicated himself
    is a little too awkward to deal with, even for JonKatz?

  • Sounds like an interesting read actually. But I just finished writing a book, and it did NOT decrease the amount of time I spent online!

    "Argh! How am I going to fit (topic) in... Bah!"
    ::alt-f2 xchat enter::

    No, I'm not addicted! Noooo! Hey, give my back my xchat!

  • I think every one goes though this kind of thing I helped me get a good job so I dont see it as all that bad
  • So you've got a life? Could you tell me two things:
    • What the heck do you do here then? ;-)
    • Where can your order that "life" thing online? I heard it's great to have one....I really have to try one!
  • All of this is so old. It is amusing to see a new book or two every year. I created a notesfile called "platoanon" in 1976 on the University of Illinois PLATO system; yes, it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, but there were quite a few people who dropped out or went on probation due to gaming, talking, and otherwise communicating through the system.

  • aw yeah...

    i was able to quit irc, all forms of online chatting for a couple years. but i could never shake the MUD [http]. not only can you chat on gossip channels like irc, but youre killing things. there's never a dull moment.

    altho, i can only get into the text based MUDs, i tried UO for a while and that whole graphical click and drag thing turned me off.

  • Well I invented the internet. Yeah, I was trying to decrypt my PG&E bill at the time. Yeah, that's the ticket!


  • man I hope you're right... I've SERIOUSLY geeked out for the past year, and been seriously involved since '97(although looking back at '94, I can see I was in trouble from the start). The improved BS meter could be one unintended benefit.
  • Checked alt.nerd.obsessive today? =)

    "Need know star RM Pic"
  • I started my website as a simple business proposition and was being paid a hefty sum for it but now even though the money offer is no longer lucrative and only the front page being updated, I am addicted to it and even though I could simply make it a weekly update I am stuck to updating it everyday.
  • The days of fidonet, uunet, BBSs, 1200 bps telenet (not telnet) dialups (AKA Sprintnet), scanning the NUAs on telenet, trading codez/cc's, blue boxes...

    It is hilarious when someone refers to the good ole days of the net as gopher/usenet/mudding/IRC... that came way after the good ole days. It was good when you could dial into sprintnet for free, get free cBIX accounts/or compuserve accounts....

  • I'm perhaps not your average slashdotter, being female, 16 and running doze (no... don't go, please read my post...!). But I'm the same as anyone else who is *addicted* to the internet. It takes over my studies, I miss it desperately when I'm not on a computer at school etc etc- all the classic symptoms. But I'm not going to bore you with that. I've just a few thoughts on the matter which I thought were worth sharing:

    The internet and my computer, for me at least, is like a parallel life. This and *reality* don't always mix too well, but on the whole they're kept pretty separate. So I'm wondering why one life should be seen as an addiction, whilst the other one is just normal?

    For normal people, it seems perfectly obvious to them that I'm a geek, I'm different and I live a different life to them- I'm known in my village as "dotcom", the girl who nobody has ever seen. But why should my second life be seen as an addiction? It's no more an addiction than a real life- people in the *real* world need to go out, go shopping, etc etc, and people don't view this behavious as addictive. What I offer as an idea is that the net should be seen as parallel to reality, and not something one becomes addicted to. One simply has two existences. One isn't an addiction- it's every bit as real as the normal life.

    When I creep down at 3 in the morning because I can't sleep and need to see who's online, I shouldn't be made to feel that this need is any more addictive than normal people's need to find out the local gossip about Mr Brown up the road who has....etc etc.

    Whilst I realise that perhaps the two worlds don't coincide terribly well, I don't think my internet life should be seen as an addiction whilst my real life is normal.

  • Announcer: This is your brain (shows picture of egg)

    Announcer: This is your brain on the internet(cracks egg; opens into frying pan)

    Announcer: Any questions?

    Ewige Blumenkraft!
  • Ironic how this book about addiction is reviewed on a site with a bunch of geeks who freely admit their addictiveness. I think the 'slashdot effect', 'first post trolls', and your post all prove my point: Geeks don't want to get a life. Geeks are the techaholics of our culture.
  • "Need know star RM Pic"

    I bet most people missed that Simpson's reference.... that's funny as hell. Very clever.

  • And, just like television, the 'net's "stimulating and creative content" becomes less so as each day passes, and each marketer tries to take advantage in some explosion of the popularity of any of the ideas that have so far proven to be a waste of time.
  • maybe a small shock through the keyboard everytime i reload slashdot or check my mail (for the second time in a minute)...
  • yeah, you really must be addicted if you manged to get a monk to level 60. heh heh
  • just what exactly is a "book"...sounds really weird feel free to gimme a lesson on iRC...look for Herl or HerlZzZz if i'm sleeping (thats my totally controled period of offline matters ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    . . . like a book I could use. Is there an online version?


  • Broadband access at our house has been excellent - we'll be watching a movie or reading a book or a newspaper article, and be able to pull up additional information. This would often spawn off conversations...

    Same here. We also use it to pull up things like episode summaries and translation guides for various undubbed/unsubbed anime - which is REALLY helpful.

  • Americans spend something on the order of 5 hours per day watching TV, and I don't see anyone writing hand-wringing books about that. Maybe people become "Net addicted" because they're looking for some interactivity and control, rather than sitting there sucking up whatever pap the idiot box is throwing in their faces.

  • Yada Yada heard it all before - you still need to come back for /more/ therapy to get at zee voot of your problems; that'll be $120. This has come up every recession since the uP was invented and probably bevore.
  • So what exactly is the use or point of a book addressing these copiously documented and discussed topics in the particular context of the internet?

    To feed the obsession of people who compulsively read books on pop psychology, natch.

  • I think that I have it but I can't be sure. I wanted to do more research on it, but I can't find a good website for it. 8^)

  • In order to graduate from college
    in 1996, with a B.A. in Psych (yeah, I'm really using it) I had to finish a senior thesis.
    Mine was, An Exploratory Study of Internet Addiction.

    I'm sure it anyone's interested, they could request it from the Purchase College, SUNY library.

    It's interesting to note, that at that point, this idea wasn't taken very seriously, so prior research was quite a pain. I had to tie in other types of addiction.
  • I'm gonna start an AA support group I think -- Auctions Anonymous. Much like the QVC and HSN support groups of yester-year, we'll cater to people that have squandered their hard earned HaX0r Bucks® on unneeded items on eBay and Yahoo! that were "really good deals." How many extra hubs, cases, 256k 30-pin SIMMS, and 250MB hard drives does one person need after all?

    I personally spent so much on misc networking equipment (fancy hubs, switches, routers, etc..) from last year that I managed to deduct all of it as business expenses and get my profit from all my spare time contracts down to $31 profit. :-)


  • John, not only 'brainy' people get addicted to things online. I've met hundreds of people that are addicted to instant messaging and don't have a clue as to what they're really doing. Heck, my freaking grandmother is addicted to the internet. It's quite sad. The assertion that The Net is a magnet for brainy, even addictive obsessives, an outlet for their curiousity and creativity that is often much more appealing than home, school or work is just wrong. Most people don't use the 'net for any creative persuits. In all seriousness, what creative persuits are available for most people? The only ones I can think of are online publishing and web design. Very small percentages do these things.

    The whole 'brainy' assumption is ass full of crap as it gets. If you're going to write a book review, review the book, not try and sell it to the croud. You're reviewing this book, Jon, like you were paid to. Never mind that the book is targetted at the mass of society in general, you wanted to portray it as if it were for the techie elite.


  • That wasn't my arguement. My arguement was that the Bastard Katz continually caters to the 'elite high school geniuses' that are so apparently prevelant on slashdot (especially with the whole fp, hot grits, nat portman, goat sex, etc etc items). Since day one, with a possible exception to his Hellmouth items, he has simply written to let people hear what they want to.


  • Sorry, I neglected to mention my years of BBSing through middle/high school. Playing the doors, finding the places who supported z-modem so you didn't have to start that 1 meg download _all_over_ again when your modem crapped out.

    The day I got my 2400 baud modem (with error correction AND compression), so I could download in 1/4 the time...of course only on the one board that had a 9600 baud modem on it.

    Hell, at that point, I didn't even know how far fidonet was even connected. I didn't care anything about the internet. It was mostly a bunch of us local folks, and could care less about the people in the next state or the next country.

    Then I got to college, and found mudding. Unfortunately, for most people to get a good connection to the internet (ie, telnet), you had to get a connection through a university, which normally meant attending, and you had to carefully balance mudding with grades, because if you got kicked out, you couldn't mud.

  • While the word "addiction" has completely valid clinical meaning, it is frequently appropriated to dismiss/disparage/condemn people who are to enthusiastic about something, and not cynical and disengaged and aloof -- not *cool* -- enough.

    It serves among adults the sampe purpose as the term "geek" does in the school yard. Too interested in playing in the school band? "Band geek." Too interested in talking to playing MUDs? "Addicted to the internet."

    There's a whopping cult of cynicism in the US. Being enthusiastic, excited, earnest, interested transgresses against this cult. Being "cool" means being cynical, aloof, disinterested, etc. If you don't conform to this cult of cynicism, refuse to behave "cool", the name-calling starts.

    Disagree? Well, why is it in these diatribes (however gently put) as to how addictive the Internet is, people seem to feel free to invoke "balance" --

    Many people do have trouble from time to time balancing e-mail, IM, gaming, coding, IRC-chatting, arguing, shopping, trading, even moderating, with the demands and balance of real life.
    -- but it only applies to to people who use the net "too much". If these pundits really cared about balance where are the gently put expressions of "concern" about people who don't get enough internet? About people who are "phobic" and avoid the net? Why aren't there comments of concern about such people's psychological well being?

    Instead, someone who avoids the net is indulged as a reasonable person who perhaps is a touch eccentric, or more likely seen as being more pure and aloof from a crass modern lifestyle.

    No, "balance" is not the issue.

    This still just boils down to grown-up name-calling.

    You know what? Life can really stink in the US. Living in a culture in which you are never supposed to really be emotionally invested in anything except work and family is really soul-sucking. It should come as no surprize that if someone finds something the slightest bit fun, something that is interesting and engaging, something that lets them feel the slightest sense of success or getting something accomplished -- on-line or off! --it will really hit home. On-line, there's no one calling you a geek, or giving you dirty looks, for not being "cool enough", so, duh, of course people turn to the net to vent their enthusiasm.

  • > not only 'brainy' people get addicted to things online. I've met hundreds of people that are addicted to instant messaging and don't have a clue as to what they're really doing.

    I think what it comes down to is that we're talking about addictive behavior, and that's part and parcel of the web.

    If casinos are legal in your area, go to one. Watch the slot machine players.

    1) Insert coin
    2) Pull handle
    3) Wait a few seonds while the wheels spin
    4) Get results - either a reward or punishment stimulus.
    5) Repeat.

    Observe the glassy stare as the wheels spin. If you're feeling sociable, ask them what they "feel" as they watch the wheels spin. Or try it yourself for a few bucks.

    If you don't get off on slots, try a few hands of meatspace (i.e. non-video) blackjack - the procedure's the same, only that there's a little more interaction between you (player) and the machine (dealer), and you have to make a decision at every turn (whether to hit/stand) before you get the stimulus (new card, which either improves your position or "busts" you out of the game), and then the added stimulus of the dealer playing his hand.

    Now compare it to:

    a) Instant messaging - type something, click on it to send it, wait a while, and get the stimulus of your friend saying "kewl" or "sux0rz!"
    b) Cybersex - same as above, but with sex.
    c) Web-pr0n - click on the URL, wait for the web browser to grab and render the HTML, then watch the IMG space fill up with pr0n, some of which is appealing to you (Natalie!) or not (g0atz!). Click on the next URL for the next page of pr0n pics.
    d) Web-trading - click "Reload", wait a few minutes to get new prices (a stimulus of green or red numbers), and make a decision whether to buy, sell, or hold. Then click "Reload" for another hit.
    e) Slashdot. How many times have you reloaded to see if there were new stories or if your comments got up-moderated today? Again - "do something simple", "wait, not knowing the outcome", "get feedback in form of pleasure or pain", "repeat".

    This isn't to say that all IM users, pr0n-downloaders, daytraders and Slashdotters are addicts, anymore to say that everyone in a casino is a problem gambler.

    But the parallels are disturbing, and people need to be aware of them -- remember that the slot machine (unlike your browser) was designed to reinforce this behavior, and it's terribly effective at what it does.

    The fact that your web browser works the same way, even if by virtue of a technological accident (the delay is inherent in the protocol, after all!), means that nobody should be surprised when web browsers cause some users to behave in ways similar to problem gamblers.

    I'd rather be addicted to /. than the slots. I even get a chance to learn things. It might even be good to be addicted to it. But it doesn't change the likelihood that it's a form of addiction.

  • Anyone who gets off the net for long enough to read the book likely doesn't have the problems the book seeks to address. Make it an online book, on the other hand, and you'd be doing the world some real good!
  • I've already quit it six or seven times already.


  • i've had cable for almost two years, and it's been my experience that it actually decreases my time spent on the web, especially time per incident.

    as opposed to dialup, i no longer feel like i need to visit every page i possibly can right then -- i can be in the middle of reading, chatting, submitting a form, whatever... and stop to go rotate laundry loads or pop bread in the toaster and then just come back whenver i'm done.

    and since each page is loading faster, i spend less time sitting there doing little ghost-circles with the mouse, waiting for it to load. meaning, i get in, scan the page i want, follow a few links, scan them, and after 15-20 minutes i've caught up. then, if none of the new items really caught my eye, i go read a book or play with the dogs or whatever.

    while i depend upon the web for more information -- movie times, directions, etc. -- there are more individual incidences like i may be working through an emulated game and pause it to go check something on, and then go right back to the game, but overall broadband has made spend LESS time online than I did with dialup.
    of course, individual results may vary.

  • Broadband access at our house has been excellent - we'll be watching a movie or reading a book or a newspaper article, and be able to pull up additional information. This would often spawn off conversations...

    Net addicted? Nope - info addicted. Never before has such a per-capita number of people had access to knowledge. Right now, my biggest use of the net is: news/info/radio - secondly: would be keeping in contact with family members - thirdly: pulling new kernel builds down.

    Before broadband and the net, I was TV/radio/book/newspaper locked - starved for information and more information.

    But yes, it's there, I use it.

  • I swear some people are addicted to using their cell phones. Those 300 minutes a month are a challenge, and they have to see how much they can top it by. I've been behind drivers who probably spend more time talking to their spouses on the phone than they do communicating at home. ("What's come between you two isn't static, it's that RL isn't virtual enough." "He's right!")

    Some poor chump was at the cell phone store trying to figure out how to get his phone activated again, while he owed $800 for the month. He looked like that was about all he made a month, too.


  • Arcade Games (All your repetitive stress injury are belong to us!)

    Empire® (actually had severe stress playing this game)

    eBay Auctions (an impressive collection of asian coins)

    Cycling ("Yeah?!? Well check out this scar, you don't see that everyday!)

    Sure addictions come in all forms, but you have to be someone (like me) who is suseptible to them. Now nobody offer me an old arcade machine of Mousetrap. I'm serious. I really mean it! (how much you want for it, btw?)


  • Multi User Dungeons are the only true addiction.

    I have a level 60 monk on Everquest []

    And a 90 rogue in Nexus:tk\ []

    But I'm not addicted.

    I can quit whenever I want. Alhough I don't try. because I don't want to.

  • Sorry, that title just popped into my head... :)

    Anyway, if you actively seeking out info or entertainment, is this any different from watching TV? If all you are doing is mindlessly jumping from site to site, then you probably have a problem. In that case, moderation is key.

    For myself, I spend many, many hours on the 'Net, but a lot of that time is related to work, and most of the rest of the time is for info (sport scores, news, movie reviews, etc.). Am I addicted if I spend x amount of hours on the 'Net collecting this info I want, as oppossed to 2x hours collecting it from newspapers, TV news, magazines and the like? Nah.

    If you are having second thoughts about the time you spend typing on /., get up and give the wife a kiss, pet the dog, and play catch with the kids for a while- trust me, you'll feel better!
  • Unless you also want to count driving, eating, sleeping, and looking for sex as addictions.

    So I'm online 100+ hours a week. I work at a computer, and I have a computer in front of me in the livingroom at home.

    Is it obsessive? or just integrated into my life?

    F'rinstance, I can discuss a baseball game on the TV with eighteen other people, real-time, who are genuinely interested in it, not just stuck in some stanky bar somewhere wondering what they're gonna do with their lives if they ever kick their addictions.

    I do know what obsessive-compulsive behavior feels like. I lost sleep three nights in a row once trying to remember something that had slipped my mind on a distraction, and then trying to ignore that I was trying to remember it, and then trying to forget that I was trying to ignore it. (The solution was to re-associate the obsession so that if I felt myself falling into it I would insert the pleasurable train of thought; since it was powerful enough to distract me from the obsession and wasn't obsessional itself, it stopped the cycle; Hyapatia Lee saved my life).

    And the first six weeks I had my Palm V, I played Go about 40 times a day.

    I won't talk about the months and months of Minesweeper. I never got hooked on Tetris, though.

    But, seriously, I do know the difference. And what I do on the computer and on the net are not manifestations of the small obsessive-compulsive anteroom of my personality.

    Online there are millions of things to do. If I do several of them, and then go get a beer from the fridge, does that add the beer and the fridge to the obsessive pattern? No.

    It's rash to lump the entire computing and internet paradigm together. Rash enough to form the basis for a faulty deduction such as the one made by this book.

    "Tomorrow: Patterns of Denial"
  • This is the same kind of addiction book that comes in the downfall of every major fad. It seems clear to me that this is a book about real-time communications, about 2 years after RT communications was no longer the poster-child of the net. Remember the multiplicity of books regarding "hoarding warez" around 2 years after the death of large phone-dialup warez BBS's? I imagine we will get a tome of "hoarding music" in about two years (post napster.) Psychologists seem to have a compuslive need to define new problems when old problems (compulsive behavior) latch on to new things.

    Perhaps the hype over this is only just the standard people with a pre-disposition to become obsessed finding a target of their obsession that is just becoming well-known in the technological backwaters of publishing (not researching) psycology? I imagine that anyone who gets addicted to IM would just as well get addicted to gambling, drugs, phone chat lines and what not if that was the oppourtunity that readily presented itself. Perhaps another book on addictive personalities is in ordeR?
  • The addiction these days isn't even just sitting at a desk at home/work anymore. With the advent of wireless technology, modems on Palm devices, and even cell phones are becoming windows into cyberland. It's becoming more and more an accepted part of our culture to be hooked up; I think you'll see the addiction reaching more and more people as access devices get cheaper and cheaper.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:01AM (#251133)
    People don't get "addicted" to being online, they find they have nothing else to do. Most internet "addicts" have no real friends, suffer from image and self-confidence problems (which if they ever left the house, they might be able to do something about!) and are general afraid of what's outside their front door. That's not addiction, that's just sad.

    I don't think it is as simple as this. In my case, I'm a 21 year old college student. I've been to the bars, the frat parties, etc. I continue to these events on occasion to humor friends, or to remind myself there ARE other things. However, I just don't find my "real friends" as interesting as the linux kernel, or the sorts of bizarre reading material that you can find on the internet. The internet enables people to delve deeper into what it is that makes them happy, or allows them to escape the not-so-interesting details of the real world.

    I work 40 hours a week, during which I develop hardware + software. At the end of the day, I still haven't had enough. I go home, after work, and I write *more* kernel patches and try to design more hardware. This practice involves using the net some more, and IM'ing or talking to fellow technical nerds on the net. When I go out into "the real world", conversation and interaction seems dull in comparison to the exchange of dialogue with kernel hackers on the other side of the world. The article mentions things being "so damned interesting" -- that's the focus of the article and the book. I don't think it's so much about people with problems -- it's more about the net being "that thing" that enables people to more effectively directly attack their source of boredom. I don't think it's fair to say ALL of the people have self-image or confidence problems and somehow imply have have defficiencies in their ability to interact with others. It might be more appropriate to say that what we have here (the net) is an extremely effective tool for targetting all sorts of voids in day-to-day reality in all different types of people, and that, in the future, it is going to get better at targetting those voids.

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:24AM (#251134)
    Wow, this came awfully close to being a real book review. Katz's normal approach is to briefly describe one of the book's major themes and use it as a springboard for a rant about corporate America. (Not that I always disagree with him, but a book review ought not to be an editorial.) Aside from the occasional spurt of Usenet abuse, I've never been inclined to spend most of my time online. I find it detracts from my real obsession, which is software development. I love coding more than any other computer-related activity. And I think that coding for eight to ten hours a day at work, followed by another six to eight hours at home, punctuated by fitful sleep, helps me keep my balance and prevents needless web-surfing. :)

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:58AM (#251135)
    First, I'm glad to see books like this. The internet is changing things for people. I have and do know people that overuse it. In fact, at times, I have myself.

    However, though I've seen net addiction, the author (and others) seem to be missing part of the point. People can get addicted to anything - so what people "losing life" to the net is really about is the impact of technology. The net is no more unique than television, sex, sports, drugs, religion, or anything else people can become obsesed with.

    What should be studied and discussed is why people get addicted, how to identify and help addicts, and how to avoid witch-hunts againt innocent people who get improperly labeled. Though the book sounds interesting and helpful, it still sounds like it's got a bit of the "the addictive agent has some magic influence" mentality.

    As a programmer and web developer whose friends are usually geeks too, the internet is so much part of my life that its easy to loose perspective. Sometimes I did. However, I found once I treated it as a tool, perspective came back. Thus I use it to meet people, make friends, arrange meetings, publish my column and my serial novel, and learn. But it's a tool.
  • by joq ( 63625 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:51AM (#251136) Homepage Journal

    Most of the users on the net become addicted especially in the younger age brackets. Its fun, informative, and a place to intermingle when you normally wouldn't on a social level for whatever reasons, shyness, no time, etc.

    Working in an Internet related company however takes a higher toll for those who are online most of the time as we'd normally be exposed to more than we'd like to be sometimes. Generally though I feel people learn more online than they do in schools at times.

    Where else could you get such a broad look at the cultures from abroad, the struggles others go through, whereas you would normally never hear about them through local media.

    Recently however I was joking around with some friends who attent law school, and I stated jokingly about pleading out in a case by reason of 'e-sanity` which makes some sense if you think about it. Out here in New York City, I'm not exposed to hardcore racism which I find on my travails throughout the net. So its extremely easy for someone of low intellect (anything lower than me is fine) to misconstrue something and go bonkers in society.

    Personally I'd rather stay addicted to technology that be hooked on drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.

    blackbox themes []

  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:07AM (#251137)
    Online gaming is stimulation not simulation. Remember the early days of muds. Outside of Muds, where could you have found 30 or so fantasy gamers role playing in an interactive mythos at 2AM in the morning? Then take something like UnReal or Quake. Where outside of the navy seals are you going to find stimulation like that?
  • by ruin ( 141833 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:07AM (#251138) Homepage
    Personally I'd rather stay addicted to technology that be hooked on drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc

    You're using "addicted" here to mean "very interested in," which is an overly broad definition. A better definition might be "continued or increased use in the face of negative consequences."

    When would you say that someone is addicted to alcohol? If they drink it regularly? If they binge-drink? If they have a history of alcoholism in their family?

    A person is addicted to alcohol if their drinking impacts their life in increasingly negative ways, and they continue to use the drug, perhaps even in greater amount or frequency.

    So I guess my point is, it seems incorrect to say "I'd rather be addicted to computer use than gambling." Both imply compulsive behavior and increasing harm; the relative qualities of the two are of lesser importance.


  • by -=OmegaMan=- ( 151970 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:09AM (#251139), a website that helps you beat your internet addiction.

    Coming soon from OmegaMan Industries, LLC, is Booze-B-Gon, the corn liquor that helps you battle alcoholism!

  • by Jon Erikson ( 198204 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:51AM (#251140)

    Oh come on Jon, pull the other one. Virtual addiction indeed. You're trying to make it sound like some kind of genuine psychological problem when it's nothing more than a complete lack of any kind of social contact or anything else to do.

    People don't get "addicted" to being online, they find they have nothing else to do. Most internet "addicts" have no real friends, suffer from image and self-confidence problems (which if they ever left the house, they might be able to do something about!) and are general afraid of what's outside their front door. That's not addiction, that's just sad.

    There are too many people out there today willing to put a label on any kind of behaviour and label it an addiction, a disorder or a syndrome. In 99% of these cases, it's nothing more than a load of crap designed to inflate therapist's bills, who then proceed to talk it up, turning nothing into a real issue.

    When are we just going to realise that the only way to do anything is to take responsibility for our own actions and future? By putting labels on things, you make it easier to avoid and easier to blame external causes, rather than dealing with your own problems.

  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @09:01AM (#251141) Journal
    You're all addicted, but you just don't know it.

    And Keanu is coming to save you.

  • by ChuckDivine ( 221595 ) <> on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:26AM (#251142) Homepage

    Addiction is a word bandied about very much today. Various kinds of addictions are cited as causes of social problems. We blame drug addicts for crime, net addicts for business failures, sex addicts for social problems such as the high divorce rate and other kinds of addicts for problems too numerous to mention in a brief post.

    Yes, some people can become addicted to X -- whatever X is these days. But we should ask why do people become addicted to X? Is the addiction the true cause of the problem cited? Does citing addiction as the cause of the problem benefit in some way the person or persons making the charge?

    An older kind of addiction -- that to drugs -- has been around long enough to provide some data to consider these questions. Drug addiction is higher in the United States than in other developed Western democracies. This is in spite of an extreme war on drugs. People who cite drug addiction as a cause of U.S. problems typically blame the drug addicts for their own behavior. Protests that drug addicts have been driven to their dysfunctional behavior are dismissed out of hand. Yet available evidence suggests that people turn to drugs not out of any moral failing on their part but out of a despair caused by events in their lives that are out of their control. For interesting looks at the drug culture, I recommend "Trainspotting" and "Traffic."

    Is drug addiction the underlying cause of the problems cited? Yes, drug addicts can screw up. So can supposedly healthy people. I like to remind people that it wasn't stoned hippies or drunken playboys who blew up Challenger. That particular disaster can be laid at the feet of "hard working professionals" who didn't think they could stand up to unreasonable demands by management.

    The example I've just cited shows that many problems faced by the United States are the result of dysfunctional bureaucracies that would rather blame somebody else -- anybody else -- for their failings rather than alter their own behavior. Similar things can be said about schools, corporations, government agencies, political movements and more.

    A healthy counterpoint to this behavior is that exhibited by the U.S. military between 1975 and 1990. The Vietnam war exposed a multitude of problems with the U.S. military. Rather than attacking critics or low level personnel, however, the U.S. military undertook many significant reforms. The consequence of this behavior was a military that won back considerable respect (even from many critics) and showed demonstrably better performance.

    Yes, we should all consider whether our behaviors are dysfunctional. A book like this can help many. But we should also consider the roots of these behaviors -- and not just reflexively blame the persons exhibiting them.

  • by Water Paradox ( 231902 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:50AM (#251143) Homepage
    I geeked out on the Internet when I was about 20 years old, from 1988 to about 1994. Right about when NCSA Mosaic came out, I got a real life. Now, I'm back after six years in the hole, and I find myself really benefitting from the period of geeking that I did.

    I certainly didn't get caught up in the dotcom explosion and collapse, BECAUSE I'd already seen such things come and go years before. Years ago, I could sift through a couple hundred e-mails every day, no problem. I developed a keen ability to prioritize degrees of BS, in fact. Now, I try to keep my e-mails down to less than five messages a day, because I've got a life. But that same keen ability to prioritize BS keeps me from getting excited by ANY degree of spam, which people around me fall for left and right.

    My point is that the long-term effects of geeking can be more beneficial than y'might think at the time. Back in the day, I was failing classes and annoying girlfriends left and right. Now... they pay me for it. Hmmm....

  • by Kragg ( 300602 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @08:10AM (#251144) Journal
    My point is that the long-term effects of geeking can be more beneficial than y'might think at the time. Back in the day, I was failing classes and annoying girlfriends left and right. Now... they pay me for it. Hmmm....

    You have girlfriends that pay you for annoying them? This internet thing is more useful than I thought...

    "God is dead." - Nietszche

  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:36AM (#251145) Homepage
    The days of gopher, IRC, usenet and mudding.

    Then came Netscape, with its 4 simultaneous connections, mucking up all of the networks, and suddenly, you'd be trying to kill 4 trolls, only to get a network lockup, and wait and pray for 10 min, and then see your death shouts.

    (bah...and I remember when people called me an adict for clocking 2hrs/day mudding)

    But we'll get revenge on them all, once people realize that WAP is just gopher all over again!
  • by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:36AM (#251146)
    Its not like I HAVE to run the latest bleeding edge, I just choose to. I can quit any time, I swear.
    apt-get dist-upgrade
    Honest. I am in complete control
    apt-get dist-upgrade
    I can quit any time I want, man, I just do it for fun. It's recreational, man!
    apt-get dist-upgrade

  • Having gotten online in around 1990 (Tymnet/Telenet) as a wannabe hacker at 15, I got into the net quite solidly once I had Internet access and discovered MUDs. For some reason I completely failed to see the appeal of email, most likely because the people I first started interacting with, I interacted with in a more realtime environment. I remember, sometime in '95 te literally undergoing total net withdrawl during a visit to my mother's house. Ashamedly, I think I have to admit I was quiet irritable and bitchy the entire time, NEEDING to get online and see my friends, write something, talk to someone (Well, type) and demonstrate just how little life I had.

    Nowadays, I can go without full access to the net pretty easily for a week or two at a time, longer if I'm visiting one of the good friends I've met there. In fact, I vastly prefer being offline and doing something, to being in front of a keyboard. The only problem really comes in that my entire life has been lived in a virtual manner. My friendships, my relationships, I can't think of more than a half dozen in a decade that weren't first met on the Internet. It's become so much a habit, that even though it isn't an addiction anymore, I find it difficult to socialize in reality.

    Maybe I need to get a copy of this book. Sigh.

  • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:25AM (#251148) Homepage Journal
    The book really looks interesting and I'd love to read it, but I just can't bring myself to go to the bookstore. I mean, what if an e-mail comes in when I'm not there? Suppose that the new version of FreeBSD comes out and I'm at the bookstore? I'm still sick at my stomach because I missed getting first post on this story.

    Now if I could read it online in a window...

  • by myschae ( 317401 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:01AM (#251149)
    ..when you interrupt your surfing to check yourself for warning signs.

    Modearation is for Monks!- R. Heinlein.
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:41AM (#251150) Homepage
    Thing is, some people today have "broadband" access at home (I do), and the most compelling feature isn't the speed, it's the fact that you are _always_ online. There is zero resistance to checking something out on the web (if nothing else, just to reload /. to see if any new items have popped up), mail is received at all times, and friends are just one ICQ window away.

    Add to that that I work a lot on the machine, and that the most comfortable chair in my apartement is by the desk, and one interpretation could be that I'm using the net 18 hours a day, every day.

    So how much _am_ I using the net? Do I count only when I do a volitional act to access the net (like using a browser to check a wab page), whenever my computer accesses the web (autochecking for mail), or whenever I'm sitting at my desk? Am I using the net if I'm composing a mail on the hotmail site, but not when writing the same letter in gvim (even if I intend to send the finished text as mail)?

    Deciding when you are using something too much is kind of hard when it quits being a separate activity and blends seamlessly into everyday life.


  • by jidar ( 83795 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:22AM (#251151)
    Why should addictions interfere with your life? What if your "addiction" -is- your life? If my addiction is my life, then how can it be interfering with my life? What do you mean by life?

    If I'm not on the fast track to getting rich and have a wife, kids, dog, suburban, boat and ranch home does that mean I don't have a life? If I choose to spend my time coding instead of persuing those things then is my "coding addiction" interfering with my life? If I'm already married and I choose to start spending all of my time on IRC instead of with my wife, did I make a lifestyle change or did I let an addiction "ruin my life"?

    Who is to say what is normal?

    Is anyones life not good enough?
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:18AM (#251152)
    Greenfield believes that multimedia stimulation, ease of access, twenty-four-hour availability, lack of boundaries, loss of time, disinhibition, stimulating and creative content are all factors that can contribute to compulsive, even addictive Net use.

    Sounds a lot like the problems people have had for years with cable television--the exception being that I can't watch TV at work and pretend to be productive.

  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:19AM (#251153) Homepage
    The problem isn't that the Net is dangerous, just that's it's so damned interesting compared to work or school.

    I don't know if interesting is the key. I mean, right now I have work to do and instead I'm reading Jon Katz, waiting for a LinuxToday article to load so I can read idiots' responses to Dennis Powell flamebait and waiting for SpamCop to let me click. Is any of that really more interesting than work?

    To the degree that Net activity is interesting, it's not such a wake. What galls me is when I realize I've just blown 2 hours clicking through a flamewar on list, updating KDE from CVS or talking on IRC with teenagers. Is that really more interesting or fun than if I had read a book, gone for a run or watched SportCenter?

    I think what makes the Net "addictive" is the easy and quick feedback you get. It's just too easy to do one more little thing.

    ...our dirty little secret is that this is a compulsive culture.

    As a rule, statements like this have an effect on me opposite than what was intended. It suggests to me that the speaker has little or no familiarity with other cultures and imagines the flaws of members of his own culture to be unique rather than universal. American liberals have a particular fondness for such formulations -- it's a (far more common) variation on the stereotypical jingoistic, parochial American.

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by Hairy_Potter ( 219096 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:31AM (#251154) Homepage
    I can quit /. for good anytime.

    I've already quit it six or seven times already.
  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:50AM (#251155) Homepage Journal
    Obsessive and compulsive behaviors are fairly well understood, although for some treatment is nothing more than saying "whoa, this is getting out of hand" and bringing the behaviour under control, while for others truly successful treatment seems nearly impossible.

    The brief litany the reviewer provides of what's available on the web - sex, gambling, shopping - reveals no new arenas of obsessive/compulsive behavior. Of course, for people with problems in these arenas, the internet holds compelling benefits - most notably instant access, the perception of privacy/anonymity. There is nothing more unique about the internet, as regards these behaviors, than that.

    So what exactly is the use or point of a book addressing these copiously documented and discussed topics in the particular context of the internet? None, as far as I can tell, except providing some shrink with a vehicle to cash in on his own lack of self-control and a newsy pop-culture topic. Here: read my book on obsessive internet behavior and save yourself 12 bucks: If your gaming/gambling/porno-pandering/chatting/ and/or shopping is interfering with your life and relationships, slow down or stop. If you can't stop, seek counselling. The end.

A commune is where people join together to share their lack of wealth. -- R. Stallman