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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Are we addicted to the Internet?

Bill O'Reilly got me in trouble last Saturday with my wife and teenage son.  I worked Thursday night, and at 4:00 in the morning I was tired and bored, so I sought something to do.  The TV so happened to be on in the waiting room, and Bill O'Reilly so happened to be on.  I watched his opening presentation, his talking point of the day, whose topic so happened to be "Are you addicted to the Internet?"

A few days later my family was loading the car, preparing for our trip, when I observed my son was texting as he walked out of the house, and texting as he walked to the car, and texting right past his father without any acknowledgement of my existence, and into the car.  I said to him, mainly in jest, "Jordan, are you addicted to the Internet?"

He said, "Dad, I'm texting.  This is not the Internet.

In other words: his denial was immediate. My wife went on to defend him, and she tossed bombs at me like, "You spend all your time on the Internet writing and doing your fantasy baseball."

Obviously I realized I wasn't getting anywhere, so I stopped the discussion.  Still, the tension continued throughout the trip.  And, yes, my wife texted her friend in Seattle on the way, and she did this while driving. I said nothing.

For the record, texting is the Internet.  The method of using credit cards goes across the Internet.  Cell phones use the Internet.  It's all the Internet.  And I, as my wife noted, am just as guilty of being addicted to the Internet as my wife and son, which was the point I wanted to make.  We are all addicted.

According to Bill O'Reilly, if you spend more than 2 hours on the Internet (no matter how you are using it), then you are addicted to the Internet.  If you spend your time away from the Internet thinking about the Internet, then you are addicted.  If you deny that you spend too much time on the Internet, as my wife and son did on that vacation day, that too is a sign that you are probably addicted. Do you text while driving? Do you talk on the phone while driving? Do you text while eating? Do you text while eating with your family, or with other people? Do you text while there are other people in room? Do you talk to strangers on the net? Do you get angry when someone distracts your attention away from the Internet?

Bill cited some interesting studies:

  • 65% of all drivers in America 18-64 report talking on a cell while driving
  • 3300 people killed in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, 385 died while using cell phone in car
  • A study by the University of Michigan found that the more people use Facebook the worse they feel about themselves
  • 70% of sex addicts report as having a problem online
  • Oxford University found too much social media damages interpersonal relationship
I'm paraphrasing Bill here, although he basically said the following: 

"No question this machine is causing immense amount of damage over the world. Millions of kids simply want to play games on net.  They don't want to play sports or go outside; no activities that separate them from cyberspace.  Addiction rates are off the charts.  Implications are staggering, if an American person is not interested in the outside world, that person won't be able to make decisions for himself, and they become low information voters.  The main problem here is that the net allows people to create their own worlds, and can lose themselves in an array of distractions.  The don't learn coping skills, don't compete, and their national curiosity is stifling.  Millions of people are wasting time pursuing trivial things, and Talking Points believes the Internet is addictive as a narcotic." 

The subject has become the craze of the Internet, as you can see by this post, as one example. Although, unfortunately, this attention has not made it's way to the places where it should, such as schools, the media, etc.

My argument with O'Reilly is that he lives in a world where there is plenty of money, a cushy job, and less stress.  Most people, like you and me, need a fantasy world to escape to in order to cope with the normal stresses and anxieties in the world.  And, many of us use the Internet for work, which is a good think.  Still, even these thoughts aside, O'Reilly still has a good point.

My son took offense and got angry at what I said because he thought I was attacking him, which was not at all my intent: I wanted to start an interesting discussion.  So this experience, in the end, turned out to be yet another quintessential example of how too much Internet can cause strife in families.

I did not bring this subject up to anger my family, as I know that I'm just as guilty as anyone (the only difference is I'm aware of it, and try to limit my Internet time.  I try to get up early in the morning to do my work, so that when my kids are up I'm available to them.  Yet I do fail on occasion.

I have no problem with my kids using the Internet, because I know, as well as most intelligent adults, that the Internet is a great tool.  However, there is a time when it's time to disconnect from the Internet.  This will be a subject that should be discussed in greater detail in the future, among families, the media, schools, and at home.

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