Perceptions of addiction are changing across the world, particularly as they relate to internet addiction. Everyday, more and more people are beginning to realize that addiction is a lot of things, but less and less often, it is coming to be seen as anything but a moral sickness.
However, the line is becoming increasingly gray. Today, China (of all places) became the first country in the world to officially recognize internet addiction as a legitimate problem.
So we should give kudos to the Chinese, right?
Perhaps we should; perhaps we shouldn’t. While it is promising that a country like China recognizes that internet addiction is a problem and is not merely confined to drug addiction and alcoholism, the motives for this are unclear.
For instance, China is known to be extremely corrupt and prone to favoring certain party members. This recognition of internet addiction as a legitimate issue of concern—almost without question—is politically motivated on some level. Further, there were also announcements that, rather than aiming to give people treatment for their addictions, “boot camps” are being set up to combat the issue.
“Boot camp,” obviously, can mean a lot of things. In this case, the Chinese version of the internet addiction boot camp resembles that of a prison, complete with barbed-wire fences and cells. “Treatment” generally lasts for three-to-four months.
Of course, there are similar programs here in the States who treat substance abuse and addiction in the same manner.
Let’s look at one anecdote. A young man has been up for three days, using constantly. He cannot bring himself to get up to go to the bathroom. Instead, he wears a diaper. “It feels good,” he says. It is an escape from reality. He rarely eats, and when he does, the food has little—if any—nutritional value.
Now, what was the young man’s drug of choice?
He never says specifically. All we know is that his addiction was not to substances—it was to online gaming.
It might sound absurd, but the motivation that leads to addiction is separation from reality. It might be because of the physical sensation, it might be to fit in with peers, it might be to escape life’s circumstances, it might be to cope with life…in the end, it always returns to wanting to alter the reality of life on some basic level.
What makes internet addiction different? For one, there has yet to be any recorded physical craving. However, the severity of the physical craving is often a relative one. Obviously, a heroin addict is going to have a far different physical craving than the pothead.
What about the withdrawals? Again, mentally and physically, this can span a very wide range.
What about financial ruin or hurting loved ones? With subscription fees, negligence of financial responsibilities, and resentment within a family, all these things apply to the internet addict.
If we want the world to recognize addiction for the disease it is, we cannot pick and choose what counts as “real addiction.”
Is internet addiction real? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments!