- Internet & the Web
What makes the Internet Addictive for users?
Internet addiction is compared to pathological gambling which a disorder is pertaining to impulse control. A number of internet users have gone on to develop a psychological attachment to internet gadgets including smart phones, computers, Ipads, tablets and so on alongside online friends and activities which they create on these gadgets. The internet has brought with it aspects that allow users to make friends, socialize, meet and exchange ideas or information through social networking sites, chat rooms or virtual communities. However, it is common to see some internet users spending endless hours on their Smart Phones, laptops, and desktops while chatting with their online friends, blogging or doing research on topics of interest. In a number of occasions, this habit has landed such users into trouble with for instance their spouses, family members, workmates, supervisors and their managers. This essay analyzes the factors making the internet to be addictive for users.
According to studies, 10% of internet users are addicted (Meerkerket al). However, until today, researchers are yet to explain about what internet addiction disorder is. Additionally, the topic of internet addiction has not received much attention from researchers the same way as other mental ailments. This implies that the exact number of people who are affected by the condition is yet to be identified. Furthermore, not many researchers have developed an interest or studies in this case pertaining to what make individuals become internet addicted while others do not find themselves in similar situations. According to the new version of the Statistical and Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), internet addiction is a disorder to require further research. A study conducted by Zboralski et al indicated that internet addiction had become widespread, particularly among the younger populace. Specifically, the study established that for every four children exposed to the internet, one of them is internet addicted. This statistics is quite alarming and certainly requires further and urgent analysis. It is because of this knowledge that the author of this research was triggered to initiate a study establishing the factors behind internet addiction so as to provide a green light for possible intervention.
According to a study conducted by the Iowa University, internet addicts utilize the internet as a place of escape, or solace whenever they feel depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or lonely. The study went on to establish that internet addiction was more prevalent among the male populace between the ages of 20 to 30 and who were suffering from depression and emotional related issues. The study further noted that certain individuals especially those with emotional problems may resort to using the internet to solve such issues. However, there are still those who have a historical background for other types of addiction including gambling, sex, alcohol, and or drugs (Parsons). Furthermore, being unhappy and stressed has also been found to contribute significantly towards the development of the internet addiction. Others who are also at risk of internet addiction are those who are socially dysfunctional, that is those who find it hard to relate with their peers, those who are overly shy and those with communication issues.
What this study implies is that depression, stress or other mental and emotional problems plays a key role in influencing one into using the internet for a long time. Since most individuals with emotional and psychological issues could be socially disengaged, they will then pre-occupy themselves with the internet as a way of passing time, seeking solace from online friends, seeking advice or information on how to deal with their problems or simply because they have become used to checking messages, chatting with existing and new friends or doing research as a form of engagement.
A study done by the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that internet addiction constitutes three different subcategories. These subcategories include text messaging or emailing, gaming and sex preoccupations. Common components in these subcategories include tolerance, excessive use, negative implications and withdrawal (Pearson).
Nonetheless, it ought to be considered that the experience of each person in how or when to use the internet differs. While there are those who rely on it exclusively for jobs, there are those who use it for social purposes including connection with family and friends. Ultimately, use of the internet becomes a problem when the user begins to neglect other important aspects of life such as physical relationship with family, school or work activities because of the internet.
Another study by Cash et al noted that the internet has a rewarding nature for its users, and that it is this rewarding nature that is responsible for internet addiction. According to this study, addictions are accountable for activating different brain areas which are connected to pleasure. These sites are collectively identified as pleasure pathway. Whenever there is activation of these sites, the production of dopamine, as well as other types of neuorchemicals by the brain is increased. As time goes by, the brain’s reward center develops a need for increased stimulation so as to produce similar feelings. Consequently, a person may require engaging in higher amount of specific behavior pattern as a way of evading withdrawal symptoms.
Indeed, this finding is backed by various other psychological studies which establish that the internet harbors similar effects just like those of gambling, and substance abuse. For instance, a journal by Current Psychiatry Reviews also observed that internet addiction affects individuals normal cognitive functioning by causing psychological disturbances, neurological complication and social problems (Cash et al).
The social connections which people make while on online can as well contribute to their internet addition. While some internet activities can be beneficial such as when seeking important information or advice, chatting for relaxation of finding lost friends and relatives, some activities may cause psychological and even physical problems on the user. Furthermore, these online friends may be influential either positively or negatively according to the kind of communication they engage in, thus causing emotional attachment between and among friends. Moreover, this addiction may make one fail to recognize the importance or even have time to have physical connections to friends and relatives.
This study by Cash et al ideally presents a scientific explanation on why internet addiction occurs among users. From this study, I can deduce that a consistent use of certain behavior, which in this case is engagement in the internet, causes activation of certain parts of the brain. In simple explanations, when an individual for instance, occasionally involves himself/herself in internet related activities including chatting on social media, research, or gaming, there are specific parts of the brain identified as pleasure paths which gets activated. Within time, a person will need to engage himself/herself in similar behavior so as to achieve the same pleasurable or satisfactory feelings. Therefore, in short, an individual becomes addicted in internet because of regular and consistent involvement.
This analysis has unearthed a number of factors behind internet addiction for most people. Among these factors as identified by the research include emotional problems such as anxiety, stress, depression and other mental disorders, history of addiction in other aspects including alcohol, gambling, drug use or poor personality leading to poor or inability to interact with peers. It would therefore, be important if the stakeholders including the government and its associated agencies design means of identifying risk factors and vulnerabilities that can pre-dispose individuals into internet addiction.
However, a more scientific explanation on the causes of internet addiction may be derived from a study by (Cash et al). As per this study, it is the consistent use of certain behavior, which in this case is engagement in the internet that causes activation of certain parts of the brain noted as (pleasure paths). In simple explanations, when an individual for instance, occasionally involves himself/herself in internet related activities including chatting on social media, research, or gaming, there are specific parts of the brain identified as pleasure paths which gets activated. Within time, a person will need to engage himself/herself in similar behavior so as to achieve the same pleasurable or satisfactory feelings. The validity of these findings are backed by various other psychological and social studies. For example, the Current Psychiatry Reviews also observed that internet addiction affects individual’s normal cognitive functioning and processes by causing psychological disturbances, neurological complication and social problems. Therefore, in short, an individual becomes addicted in internet use and related activities because of regular and consistent involvement.