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How does the internet affect the way we mentally behave?

Updated on October 16, 2010

***This is just a SHORT delve into the area of internet use***

The internet can be seen as a step forward in the advancement of the human species. Various technologies are being used to make to workload of individuals in the workplace for example through instant video conferencing, etc. However, what happens when we, as a species, consume and harness this technology excessively?

Kim et al (2006), examining 1573 high-school students living in Japan, found that the levels of depression and suicide ideation were higher among the students who were deemed “internet-addicts”. This categorization was made using a self-report questionnaire called the Internet Adiction Scale. The results of the SRQ was correlated with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-Major Depression Disorder-Simple Questionnaire and the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire-Junior (Keane et al, 1996). Kim et al (2006), found that gender was no real factor, that internet addiction was just as likely to affect males as it is females, supporting a study by Sherman et al. (2000). However, Sherman et al (2000), suggests that males on average use the internet more, due to males individuals being more familiar with and attracted to the use of the internet.

Some researchers as early as the late 90’s knew that the internet could potentially lead individuals to addictive behaviour. For example, Kimberly (1998) indicated that some users were becoming addicted to the Internet in a similar way that individuals become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Often these addictions spiral resulting in academic, social, and occupational impairment. In a similar study, Brian and Peter (2005), found that Internet, due to the ease of access, has become a part of everyday life, resulting in a form of conditioning resulting in overuse. Results from this research shows that users can in fact become addicted to the internet. The problem, as Kimberly (1998) has stated, is when it begins to affect our personal lives.

According to an early study by Baume, Cantor and Rolfe (1997), the internet does not just provide the information on methods contributing to suicidal behaviour, instead, individuals on chat rooms may use tactics, such as peer pressure to arouse feelings to commit suicide. Individuals may then idolize those who have completed suicide, and facilitate suicide pacts. This particular study suggests that the internet itself is not the mode contributing to the act of suicide. Instead, it is other individuals on the internet trying to cause individuals to do themselves harm.

Having just accused the internet as being the facilitator of negative behaviours, it is important to note that it is also the antidote. Some web-based sites advise individuals where to turn to seek help and also provide information or links to sources of help (Prasad & Owens, 2001). These sites can also allow individuals to express themselves, share their distress and speak with others. However, according to Biddle, Brock, Brookes & Gunnell (2008), in rates of suicide among young (15-34 year old) men and women, the age groups who use the internet most regularly, have been declining since the mid-1990s, a time when use of the internet has expanded rapidly. This means that the internet may, in theory, be both the cause and solution to this issue.

References

Baume, P., Cantor, C.H., & Rolfe, A. (1997). Cybersuicide: the role of interactive suicide notes on the internet. Crisis, 18 (2):73-9.

Biddle, L., Brock, A., Brookes, S. & Gunnell, D. (2008). Suicides rates in young men in England and Wales in the 21st century: time trend study. BMJ, 336: 539-42.

Brian, D. & Wiemer-Hastings, P.(2005). Addiction to the Internet and Online Gaming CyberPsychology & Behavior. 8(2): 110-113.

Keane, E. M., Dick, R. W., Bechtold, D. W., & Manson, S. M. (1996). Predictive and concurrent validity of the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire among American Indian adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24, 735–747.

Kimberly, S. Y. (1998). Internet addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 1(3): 237-244.

Kyunghee K., et al. (2006). Internet addiction in Korean adolescents and its relation to depression and suicidal ideation: A questionnaire survey. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 43(2), 185-192

Prasad, V. & Owens, D. (2001). Using the internet as a source of self-help for people who self-harm. Psychiatric Bull, 25:222-5.

Sherman, R., End, C., Kraan, E., Cole, A., Campbell, J., Birchmeier, Z. & Klausner, J. (2000). The Internet Gender Gap Among College Students: Forgotten But Not Gone? Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 3(5), 885-894.

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