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Internet: The New Drug of Choice

Internet! The New Drug of Choice It is difficult in these modern times to find anyone who doesn’t use the Internet. I am not speaking of North Americans (but mainly N. Americans), but the rest of the world is quickly catching up.

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China already has more users than Canada and the US put together. According to Internet World Stats (2012), China has 538 million online frequenters and 82. 5% of the Korean population use the Internet. Korea’s penetration rate is third with England leading the way at 84% and Germany at 83%.

Canada doesn’t have a big enough population to make a dent in the number of people using the Internet, but 81% of Canadians do use it, which was a higher penetration percentage than the US at 78. 3%. Currently only 41% of China is using the Internet, once their economy improves and more people get connected, China is likely to take over the Internet. North Americans might need to start learning Chinese to get their daily news. With so many people online I started to wonder; is it safe for us to be using the Internet?

Before I delve deeper I wanted to point out that because I am also a frequent Internet user, this question also pertains to me, so I decided that it only made sense to write this report in the first person. When I decided to start researching about if the Internet is safe for us, it seemed to me that the best place to research about the Internet would be online. I typed in web browser “Is the Internet bad for us? ” and “Does the Internet make us crazy? ” I was shocked at the number of results that popped up. It took some sifting through to find what I needed. It seems that the biggest concern about the Internet is “online addiction”.

Some people might think it is the pornography or some of the other content or even the technology itself, but these only factor into the big picture of addiction. After a little research I realized that my true question wasn’t “is the Internet bad for us”, but the real questions are “why is Internet addiction bad? ” The Internet is not bad, it has some many advantages over other media and it so very useful in our lives. The Internet and video games help increase choice reaction time, spatial skills, scientific problem solving skills, multitasking abilities and intelligence (Greenfield, Brannon, and Lohr, 1996).

The elderly use the Internet to keep their brains stimulated by using it to gain information and keep in contact with family. Actually everyone is doing that, not just the elderly. The Internet is like drinking wine, if not in moderation, it can be harmful for us, but in moderation the Internet can produce a wonderful experience. However, also like wine or any alcohol, the Internet can become an addiction. In fact addiction has become so bad that in China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea (Cafferty, 2012) treatment centers have been established to help people with online addiction.

Near may home in the city of Nagoya, the Futoko Shien Center received 327 individual requests for consultation for online game addiction from the beginning of this year. (Doi, 2012) That is only in one city in one country. China seems to be one of the worst places I have found in my research. It has become so bad that boot camps have developed to help young help rid their problem. Wired. com featured a story in 2010 about a boot camp in China, “The Qihang camp promised to cure children of so-called Internet addiction, an ailment that has grown into one of China’s most feared public health hazards. (Stewart, 2010) And according to Scientific American online, “as much as 14 percent of urban youth there—some 24 million kids—fit the bill as Internet addicts, according to the China Youth Internet Association. ” (Mosher, 2011) I myself have noticed that I am slowly using the Internet more since I bought a smartphone last year. I would say I am an addict and I definitely don’t want to counseling, but I am starting to worry. So why do some people think the Internet addiction is a bad thing if it stimulates the brain and creates intelligence and multitasking abilities, Dr.

Grohol director on the Mental Health Net, makes a good point “I don’t see how they can see the Internet as a disorder, but not look at a bookworm who reads 10 hours a day and not say he’s a book addict. ” (Brown, 1997) The criticism the Internet receives in not a new phenomenon, Psychologists have been studying the effects of the Internet for almost 20 years. And in the last 20 years Internet use has sky rocketed, meaning effects and studies have increased as well. Psychiatrist Kimberly Young of Saint Bonaventure University in New York State, even designed a self- assessment test in 1998 because of Internet addiction concerns.

Numerous studies have linked excessive online use to depression, poor school performance, increased irritability and more impulsiveness to go online. ” (Mosher, 2011) One problem is that people are losing sleep because they get lost in the Internet for hours upon hours and turn into zombies as they deprive their brains and bodies of fuel and rest. Recently in the Japanese newspaper, The Daily Yomiuri a report about online addiction stated “A 19-year-old vocational school student recalled how one morning, he woke up at 6 a. . on a sofa, still clutching his mobile phone. “Damn it! I was probably asleep for two hours,” he said. Then he leaped up from the sofa and began fiddling with the phone again. Sometimes he was so preoccupied with the games that he forgot to sleep, he said. ” (Doi, 2012) One such documented case in Taiwan, a boy ended up in the Asylum after his iPhone usage reached 24 hours a day. (Dokoupil, 2012) At first I thought that that must be a rare case. But more and more cases like this are being uncovered all over the world.

Just recently in American news Jason Russell became famous twice; the first time was for his amazing documentary he aired on YouTube called “Kony 2012” which was one of the most viral movies to hit the web “clocking more than 70 million views in less than a week. ” (Dokoupil, 2012) He then became famous again after having a nervous breakdown and marching through the streets naked and talking to himself rampantly. Before putting the document online Jason was not an excessive user of the Internet, but after his video went viral, he couldn’t get enough of his new found addiction.

In the first four days after his successful video premiere he only slept 2 hours, which is a probable cause to his breakdown. I personally have never stayed up that long, but I do feel quite bizarre after being online for 10 hours. I have been warned since I was a child that lack of sleep will deter my performance at school, work and even sports. But of course most of humans don’t spend days at a time online without sleeping. Most normal humans have jobs, although many of our jobs involve the Internet these days, and still manage our daily lives of chores and eating and sleeping.

But I wasn’t surprised to find out that most people including myself, I think especially those with smartphones, check their email and social sites more often than we realize. Dr. Larry Rosen, professor and past Chair of Psychology at California State University, surveyed 750 people, a spread of teens and adults and detailed their tech habits, their feelings about those habits, and “their scores on a series of standard tests of psychiatric disorders. He found that most respondents, with the exception of those over the age of 50, check text messages, email or their social network “all the time” or “every 15 minutes. More worryingly, he also found that those who spent more time online had more “compulsive personality traits. ” (Dokoupil, 2012) Without being aware of it, we above the “digital divide” are becoming compulsive, needy little onliners. People constantly feel the need to check their Internet for updates on our social sites, email, tweeters and blogs. I myself don’t blog or tweet, which I can say cuts some of my time on the net down to a little more of a sane time. It is amazing how quickly my friends reply to any and all emails and social site updates.

It is almost as if the message jumped out of their phone and into their eye while they were driving to work. People have become so connected that the Internet has become a distraction and to some, the most important thing in their lives. The author of “Is the Internet driving us mad? ” in Newsweek magazine claims that regardless of age, most people send or receive about 400 texts a month. The average teenager processes about 3700 texts a month. Also many of these same people, two thirds, sense their phone vibrating in their pockets when in fact it is not.

Researchers call it “phantom-vibration syndrome. ” It is evident that we have become dependent on the Internet that we drool in anticipation waiting for a message or call or any kind of update to fulfill our hourly or for some minutely dose of feeling wanted and or accepted. I myself have felt the “phantom-vibration” a few times, but I don’t think enough to warrant it as a syndrome. I have been witnessing the dependency for the Internet on an everyday basis as everyone around me; mostly younger people seem to always have a reason to have their smartphone out.

At school, older kids are sending messages to each during class time and even when sitting together on their free time. It seems that the Internet provides better conversation than their friends sitting across from them. I cannot say that I am not innocent from this same intervention and have been known to hope online at while waiting for friends to buy their ice cream or something of that nature. We are so dependent on the Internet, not only individually, but also a group. Hurricane Sandy, a terrifying hurricane, hit New York causing more than 150 fatalities.

In the November 3rd issue of Newsweek’s online magazine released a feature about the Heroes of the Hurricane. One of the reports was of the “Heroes” who guarded and protected an Internet hub, considered to be very important to the world, because it is “one of the fastest connections between world financial centers; it maintains Internet connectivity for en­tire regions of the country. ” (Keller, 2012) I remember about years ago reading reports that the Internet caused depression and loneliness. I think that depression can be triggered by so many things, especially in those who more prone to depressive feelings.

As for the loneliness factor, I always believed that the Internet was addictive because it replaced feelings of loneliness because people are more connected to more people. It is true that it reduces face-to-face interaction, but it increases interaction with people. Researchers have found that “internet use was associated with increased well-being and social involvement. ” (Kraut, 2002) Because of the Internet I socialize more with people who are not within close distance which makes me feel happier that I can keep in touch with them. I probably have a better relationship with my mother than I did when I lived at home and before smartphones.

During the Tohoku earthquakes and Fukushima crisis in 2011 the internet help people all over Japan talk to each other and others from abroad; the whole country might have felt lonely or separated from the rest of the world if it weren’t for the Internet. So what cause these emotional and mental changes in people who absorb themselves with the Internet too much. Besides Internet is just like reading books, watching television and listening to the radio in one package. In recent reports, it has been revealed that “brain scans hint excessive time online is tied to stark physical changes in the brain” (Mosher, 2011).

These physical changes caused by the over stimulation of the parts of the brain that deal with attention, multitasking, spatial awareness etc. are extracting from the parts of other parts of the brain. Dave Mosher describes the latest findings in his online report with Scientific America’s online magazine. One set of images focused on gray matter at the brain’s wrinkled surface, or cortex, where processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory and other information occurs. The researchers discovered several small regions in online addicts’ brains shrunk, in some cases as much as a 10 to 20 percent.

The affected regions included the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and parts of the cerebellum. What’s more, the longer the addiction’s duration, the more pronounced the tissue reduction. The study’s authors suggest this shrinkage could lead to negative effects, such as reduced inhibition of inappropriate behavior and diminished goal orientation. But imaging neuroscientist Karl Friston of University College London, who helped pioneer the VBM technique, says gray matter shrinkage is not necessarily a bad thing. The effect is quite extreme, but it’s not surprising when you think of the brain as a muscle,” says Friston, who was not involved in the study. “Our brains grow wildly until our early teens, then we start pruning and toning areas to work more efficiently. So these areas may just be relevant to being a good online gamer, and were optimized for that. ” Although we can alter our brains through practice like the rest of our body, we still need to have the will power to make these changes. Maybe for many online addicts, the morphing of their intelligence to certain cortex might be rewarding for them.

But it is evident that for many of us who need to work and have face-to-face conversations and have proper behaviour, need to reduce our Internet time. I personally want to keep the “grey matter” of my brain from shrinking because it is accountable for dealing with speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. (Dokoupil, 2012) We know that exercise is good for our bodies’; it has been pounded into us since we were little children. Eat healthy food, exercise 3 times a week, stay away from sugars etc. , has been taught to us by media, teachers and parents.

Now we need to exercise our brains as well. The Internet is one form of exercising certain parts, but we need to exercise all parts of our body. Think about how ridiculous someone would look if they only spent their time pumping iron to make their only their shoulders really big and barely did any movement to strengthen their legs. That person would look like a balloon with the string tied to the bottom being their legs. Not only would that person look silly, but probably would fall over when then tried to walk. That is similar with what is slowly happening to our brains with the more time we spend on the Internet.

Internet addiction is causing too much exercise on only one part of our brain and not enough on the other. With more and more reports stressing the problems of Internet addiction, depression, compulsive behaviour, sleep deprivation and lack of memory; it is difficult to ignore the issue. Obviously scorning the Internet is not the solution, since it isn’t the Internet’s fault; it is the lack of control that we humans possess to control our desire for social acceptance, informational and visual stimuli, and the speed of which we can retrieve these desires.

I am sure if the Internet was as slow as it was in 1995, this topic would be moot. But now the evidence is clear and people need help, just like there is help for alcoholics and drugoholics. All users of the Internet, there are few that aren’t users; need to use the Internet sparingly or at least with some control. Limit the amount of time spent on the Internet, especially consistent hours, the brain needs a rest. To help the grey matter in our brains it is important to involve ourselves in face-to-face conversation for speech. Exercise is also important as it always has to maintain motor control.

Memory is one of the most important issues dealing with grey matter; playing trivia games or not being dependant on the auto phonebook in our phone is a great way to improve memory. Once I am finished this report will go outside and try to not use the Internet for at least the weekend, not even on my smartphone. Internet addiction is a serious issue that hopefully in the future psychologists and the public will get a better at dealing with. References Bercovici. J. , (July 10. 2012) We’re All Internet Addicts, And We’re All Screwed, Says Newsweek. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved November 10, 2012 from website: http://www. orbes. com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/07/10/were-all-internet-addicts-and-were-all-screwed-says-newsweek/ Brown, J. (1997). BS detector: “Internet addiction” meme gets media high. Communications Study 421: Being Online. Gackenbach, J. (Phd. ). Athabasca University, 2006 (pp. 101). Carlson, B. , (June 5, 2010). Nicholas Carr on the ‘Superficial’ Webby Mind. The Atlantic. Retrieved November 10, 2012 from website: http://www. theatlantic. com/entertainment/archive/2010/06/nicholas-carr-on-the-superficial-webby-mind/57610/ Cohill, A. , (December 31, 2004). Is the Internet good or bad for us?

Design Nine. Retrieved November 10, 2012 from website: http://www. designnine. com/news/content/internet-good-or-bad-us Doi, H. , (Oct. 17, 2012) Online gaming addictions growing more serious. Daily Yomuiri Online. Retrieved November 10, 2012 from website: http://www. yomiuri. co. jp/dy/national/T121016001977. htm Dokoupil, T. , (July 9, 2012). Is the Web Driving Us Mad? Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved November 10, 2012 from website: http://www. thedailybeast. com/newsweek/2012/07/08/is-the-internet-making-us-crazy-what-the-new-research-says. html Greenfield, P. , Brannon, C. and Lohr, D.