The word “addiction” brings to mind vices easily spotted through whiskey-scented breath, suspiciously barren wallets or nicotine-stained fingers. But there’s another temptation that is rapidly gaining popularity– it’s easily accessed, has a multitude of uses, and it can be seen in use in nearly every building at Central Oregon Community College: it is the Internet.
The lives of college students are heavily ingrained by the Internet; upon enrollment, COCC students are assigned e-mail addresses to be used for quick and efficient communicating with professors and enrollment staff, many professors at COCC depend on Blackboard.com to keep students informed about their grades, and some even require students to turn in assignments through e-mail rather than in person– because of this, the Internet already plays a large part in the average COCC student’s life, even without its recreational uses. Every student out of 10 that were randomly asked on campus said that they spent at least three to four hours a day on the Internet for recreational use– this excluded any time they used the Internet for school or working purposes. The activities they took part in included posting on message boards, playing online video games, watching videos and spending time on social networks like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
Recreational use of the Internet is not reserved for after homework is done; many students try to do both at the same time. Carly Fitzgerald, who has worked in the Barber library computer lab for two years, said that students often browse Facebook while doing their homework.
“Probably they’ll start there and work their way towards homework,” said Fitzgerald. She estimated that at any time, about two out of five of the students using the computer lab are “just playing around,” not doing homework.
“Facebook can be very distracting… I’ll come and try to do homework,but get very distracted… I’ll try to do my homework, but get on Facebook and then four hours goes by,” said Fitzgerald, and then added that it would be nice if there was a computer lab on campus that did not have Internet access, so students wouldn’t be distracted.
Multi-player role playing games such as World of Warcraft are also a big draw, having a fan base–according to World of Warcraft’s website, it has over one million players. World of Warcraft is known for being addictive, and there is even an online support system called wowdetox.com where players trying to quit can share their own stories and get inspiration from others. Kyler Miller, a COCC student who is working towards his associates degree in Business Management, estimated that he plays the game 12 to 14 hours a week, but said that it does not get in the way of work or social activities. Jeff, a former player of the game who chose not to share his last name, had a different experience.
“I basically stopped playing because it controlled my life. I spent way too much time on it,” said Jeff. Though the game can be addictive, Jeff said that the central problem was probably not the game itself, but the hardships that people are going through in their real lives. “The main thing is, it distracts you from other things. That’s what’s good about it and what’s bad about it.”
While the networking and gaming opportunities provided by the Internet can be alluring to some, another issue about the Internet is that it feeds into other addictions. The Internet opens the door to world of online gambling. Many gambling websites allow users to enter their credit card numbers so that they can win– and pay– real money. According to gamblingcity.net, Family First Aid conducted a research study that showed the use of gambling sites by high school and college-aged people increased sevenfold between the years 2001 and 2005.
According to Kenny Wolford, a licensed counselor in Bend Oregon who has spent five years in private practice and who often deals with Internet addiction in his patients, one of the biggest harms of Internet addiction is that it draws people away from their families and loved ones.
“I see a lot of it interrupting relationships,” said Wolford. Individuals who dedicate too much time to the Internet can make their significant others feel unimportant and frustrated with the relationship. But like many things, the Internet isn’t bad when used in moderation.
“The Internet is such a useful tool, but there needs to be a balance,” said Wolford, who went on too advise that parents set up strong boundaries for their children and for themselves when it comes to Internet use. He also advised that, as the holidays approach, to ignore the temptation that is often there to use the Internet to avoid visiting family members, but instead make a New Years resolution to step away from the cyber world and spend more time with loved ones.
Five Signs That You May Be Addicted To The Internet
- Consistently spending long hours online— While it’s probably not necessary to diagnose yourself with an addiction if you occasionally spend the day browsing web comics on a rainy day, regularly spending five or more hour logged onto the web is an indicator of possible addiction. If you find that three hours have gone by, when you only intended to be on for three minutes, you may have an Internet addiction.
- Experiencing anxiousness or irritability when away from the Internet— Just like with any addiction, people with an addiction to the Internet may experience irritability or even feelings of anxiousness when denied their vice of choice. If you find yourself feeling angered and inconvenienced by anything that draws you away from the net, it could be the result of an addiction.
- Spending increasing amount of time away from family and friends— Have you ever been struck with a realization that you no longer spend as much time with the people in your life as you used to? Maybe you don’t go out to lunch with mom anymore on Sundays, or the weekly nights out with your significant other have become more of a monthly event? Try remembering what has been occupying your time in the place of those activities– if you find that it’s the Internet, that is a sign that it has been interfering with your life and has become an addition
- Trying to cut back on Internet use, but failing— How many times have you tried to cut back on Internet use? How many times have you succeeded? If the answer to the first question is a higher number than the answer to the second, it’s probably a sign that you have some sort of Internet addiction.
- Using Internet as an escape— After a hard day of classes and work, do you find yourself turning to the Internet as way to escape reality and relax? Such behavior can lead to developing a dependency on whatever form of escape is used to relieve stress– in other words, an addiction can be developed. If you consistently use the Internet as an escape from reality, you may have an Internet addiction.
You may contact Cedar Goslin at email@example.com