It has been estimated that the average Internet user spends about three and a half hours online each day. Five to ten percent of online users are said to be addicted to the Internet. So what is Internet addiction? Internet addiction has been described as an impulse-control disorder that is similar in nature to gambling addiction. Internet addiction includes gaming, pornography, shopping, chatting, and so on.
Although many question whether Internet addiction is a true addiction or simply problematic behavior, for some users it can meet certain addiction criteria: needing more and more to maintain satisfaction, and experiencing irritability and discomfort when stopped.
There can definitely be an obsessive and compulsive use of the Internet. As with other addictions, excessive Internet use can stimulate the release of dopamine and the pleasure derived from that encourages further use.
Single people and young adults are cited as most likely to be using the Internet. Social networking, dating using websites, updating personal web pages, e-mailing, and instant messaging, among other things, are common activities. While this sounds harmless enough, it translates into consistently and significantly less time spent with family and friends, lost time studying for school, and lost time on the job.
The following signs suggest that an Internet user may be in danger of becoming addicted:
She becomes preoccupied with and obsessed about using the Internet.
She experiences feelings of restlessness, moodiness, anxiety, depression, or irritability when she attempts to cut down on Internet use or is questioned about her use by others.
Internet use is putting her job or schoolwork in jeopardy.
She becomes increasingly isolated from real-life relationships.
Physical symptoms from excessive Internet use appear, such as sleep disorders, eating disorders, headaches, backaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and eye disorders.
She lies about her Internet use, which creates problems with family members and friends.
She uses the Internet to escape uncomfortable emotions or problems.
She has attempted multiple times to cut down usage without success.
She experiences feelings of guilt related to her excessive Internet use.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality can best be described as an illusion of the real world simulated or created by a computer system. This can occur in one's imagination, or special gear can be used to heighten the experience. Special glasses and headphones create a greater sensation of sight and sound. Gloves with electronic sensors can also be used to touch or move virtual objects.
A person at risk for Internet addiction is one who may have problems developing satisfying relationships with others. She may feel insecure or inadequate to handle life in the real world. The Internet can offer a virtual or make-believe community in which an addict can deny and repress her real-life problems.
Illusions can be very powerful, especially when mixed with use that may be legitimate. The Internet is a requirement for many facets of work and life in our current age. For an addict, however, required Internet use blends into an uncontrollable and unmanageable life problem.