This article, which ran last week Monday in the Boston Globe Offers 11 signs of Internet Addiction:
- Does browsing your favorite sites make you feel better?
- Are you spending more and more time on the Internet?
- Do you have less self control than you used to?
- Are you neglecting family and friends so you can get more time on the web?
- Do you zero in on the net and lose interest in other activities?
- Do you feel that you have to lie about how many times you've watched YouTube videos [or done any other internet activity]?
- Is the Internet interfering with your job and school responsibilities?
- Do you think about the Internet when you are not on it? Are you itching for a fix?
- Do you feel guilty or ashamed about the time you spend on the internet?
- Is there a change in your sleep patterns? Sleeping in or staying up late?
- Have you gone through a weight change, had backaches, headaches, or developed carpal tunnel?
According to the Seattle based ReSTART Center for Internet Addiction if you can say yes to 3 of the above, you have an Internet abuse problem. If you say yes to five or more you have a dangerous addiction.
Looking at the list I can say yes to about half of those questions. But here's the thing: substitute the phrase "watching movies" or "eating out at restaurants" or even "reading books" and I can say the same things apply. I would bet you a signed copy of a Neil Gaiman novel that no one is worried about my book habit, and yet I have been known to forego sleep, bring a book I can't put down to a family reunion, neglect reading that textbook for reading the latest poetry/sci-fi/mystery volume, and down a full bag of potato chips while curled up on the couch in a backache-inducing/eye-strain-headache-making reading marathon. And we won't even go into my $40 a month Borders/Amazon habit. I even [gasp] read while driving--okay, relax, it is audio books played on the car stereo. Sometimes I combine all these addictions: I read books and news (thank you Viigo!) and Twitter and Facebook on my Crackberry/Blackberry as well as on the computer.
So answer me this: am I a danger to myself or others due to my reading addiction? Do you think they should take away my library cards (yes, plural, I have seven!). Every teacher I know wants their students to read more. And I am no exception. If my students want to do their reading and writing on the internet, fine. At least they are reading something. As a teacher I feel it is my duty to encourage reading and writing wherever. Internet included.
I suppose if I stopped eating because I was on the internet reading or talking to people from all over the world I might need to be locked away from the computer for my own good. But honestly, how is so it bad to connect to people? My twittering and facebooking has put me more in touch with my far-flung family, brought me back into touch with friends old and new, and keeps me up with what is going on in the world. And, hello! NONE OF THAT IS BAD.
Am I addicted to the internet? Hell, yes. And proud of it. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I do not gamble, I do not do illegal drugs. There is a BIG difference between those harmful addictions and my intellectual and social and technological addictions.
So listen up: You can have my Blackberry or my mouse when you can pry it from my cold dead fingers. Enough said.