11 October 2010

A concept

It comes to light that they're now considering "internet addiction" as a bonafide condition now.

Naturally I have some opinions.

1) I probably would have it under the operating definition, given the necessity that people use it in relatively "unproductive" ways that do not enhance their life or well-being. I'm somewhat skeptical that my trolling for philosophical and political debates and information on obscure monetary policy readings is necessarily useless and unproductive, but it's far from clear to me how I might obviously translate everything I do of that sort online into an economic or personal benefit to me. Most people do not want to talk about negative interest rates on banking reserves as a means of stimulating economic growth through increasing incentives for lending, just as most people who think themselves versed in fiscal policy matters do not want to actually talk about what policies should be cut and culled from the federal budget, or most religious people engage in serious ethical debates, and so on. These are boring systematic topics without a catchy personal story problem in them for people to mull over and experience some emotional response to.

In my defence, I've always been interested in these things. Internet or no. I also don't seem to be completely boring in person in spite of this flaw, and I've tended toward ignoring the narcissism of social networks and can pretty easily put those away and down if I'm actually around the few people from those networks that I'd like to spend real world time with. This might be because I've avoided buying a smart phone, or it could just be that I still prefer actual human beings. Sometimes.

2) I think the main reason it would exist is that it allows relatively antisocial people a safe medium to interact within a far more dangerous addiction, namely, PEOPLE. People are way more addicting than any drug or habit. Anti-social people are very unlikely to want to risk much personal contact and exposure of self, probably aren't as skilled at reading body language or empathizing with others (I get to empathy through kind of a back door myself, body language I can handle), but they're pretty comfortable in neutral settings like the Internet, and that often lets the genie out of the bottle. So to speak.

3) Use of the internet as a medium for diverse investigation of various subjects is a lot easier than our previous models of distributing information and entertainment (books, newspapers, TV, etc), and it leads to a lot easier means of being exposed, sometimes involuntarily, to things you didn't want than someone who frequented a bookstore and selects what books they want or who selects a TV show and watches it, and so on. In effect, I think it's more like a second brain that you can tap into more than an addictive problem. The real question is whether or not that second brain created by the Internet is an additive or a subtraction problem for the end user, much as it is for any other social drug like alcohol as a social lubricant or marijuana for much the same premise, and so on. If people are hooked to the point of being unproductive citizens, maybe that's a problem. I'm not sure how or why to cure them of it so much as to give them something productive to do with the net instead of whatever it is they're doing that we think is wasting their lives away. But then... the same problem could be posed of video games and television and movies and other forms of media.
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