Twenty-year-old Ms. Kim starts the day with her smartphone. When she opens her eyes after hearing her morning alarm, the first thing she does is open Instagram and check what photos people posted last night while pressing the “Like” button. She eats breakfast after completing her Instagram search. She goes on YouTube and watches entertainment shows, V-logs, and game broadcasts while eating breakfast. Whenever she has an appointment with her friends, she always uses a map on her smartphone to get to the place of appointment. She checks real time popular search terms on Naver, which is one of the biggest web portals, and reads some news waiting for the subway. When she gets on the subway, she is busy chatting with her friends through KakaoTalk. After arriving at the place, she goes to the cafe and orders delicious cake and coffee. When the food is served, all of her friends take pictures of the food and post them on Instagram. It is only after posting photos that they begin to eat. When she gets home, she gets ready to go to bed, and then tags her friends on interesting things on her Facebook page. Her day ends by checking her number of “Likes” on Instagram.
It is easy to find people who are looking at their smartphones all day, just like the story above. These people use smartphones to do various things such as browse the Internet, play games, conduct various searches, or shop. If we lose the Internet in our lives, we may experience great inconvenience. The Internet is essential to our lives. However, excessive use of the Internet has a negative impact. This leads to Internet addiction, the main topic of this feature.
What is internet addiction?
Internet addiction is a condition characterized by overuse of the Internet. It causes human problems in everyday life. It causes withdrawal, tolerance, and damage to daily life in a manner similar to drug addiction. Internet addiction is one of the adverse effects of the Internet that has emerged as the use of the Internet has grown rapidly. When you become addicted to the Internet, even if you feel the problem on your own, you are not in control of yourself as you were before.
However, simply spending lots of time on the Internet does not mean that you are addicted to it. Also, there are no set criteria to consider in terms of how much you use the Internet to prescribe whether you have Internet addiction. As mentioned above, the Internet is an indispensable part of our lives, and it is necessary to use it in many areas, such as when we work, when we do tasks, and when we attain knowledge. It is not Internet addiction just because someone shops or plays games online a lot, but it is Internet addiction if life is interrupted by these things. Not using the Internet creates feelings of nervousness, irritability, and anxiety, and this can interfere with daily life. There are cases where Internet addicts skip school to play games at a PC room, lie to their parents, break promises with friends, or become estranged from each other. Non-Internet addicts can spend a lot of time on their computers, but they can use it and stop whenever they want, without disrupting their daily lives. On the other hand, Internet addicts lose control of their Internet usage, and this has a negative impact on them.
So, are you merely a person who spends a lot of time on the Internet, or are you an addict? Here is a test to check whether or not you are addicted.
If you answered “yes” to more than six of the above, you should suspect yourself of Internet addiction.
How do we get addicted to the Internet?
There are various causes of Internet addiction, so it is difficult to clarify any causal relationship. There are two main types of causes of Internet addiction, which are personal and social causes.
First, with personal causes people become addicted to the Internet because of emotional problems. People who suffer from depression, alienation, stress, and anxiety due to human relationships or various personal problems want to get rid of these negative symptoms. One way to solve these problems is to use the Internet. People want to be comforted and escape from these negative emotions, and end up self-medicating through the Internet. This is a process similar to becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. This process of Internet addiction occurs a lot among teenagers, especially because the Internet is easy to access. In some cases, depression greatly decreases after allowing these teenagers to play outside instead of using their phones for two weeks. Resolving these negative emotions with activities other than using the Internet can alleviate Internet addiction.
Second, social causes can lead to Internet addiction. This is related to peer groups. If there are people who are addicted to the Internet around you, there is a higher chance that you will become addicted to the Internet as well. If you continue to see your friends overusing the Internet, you may feel that it is socially acceptable and not wrong. So, if your friends play games frequently at a PC room, you can play games with your friends all day long.
Social Media addiction can also come from social causes. Communication with others through Social Media gives people pleasure and a sense of escape from reality, which leads to “relationship addiction.” They post their photos to win recognition from others, and try to show off what they have. Positive feedback and “Likes” give them pleasure and make them change to meet the aesthetic standards recognized by society. This leads to Social Media addiction. Proper use of these platforms can relieve stress, but excessive use can have negative effects such as lack of sleep, loss of self-esteem, and depression. These complex causes can lead to Internet addiction.
Symptoms of Internet addiction
As mentioned above, Internet addiction can be caused by different reasons. Next, we will find out what symptoms you may have if you are addicted to the Internet. There are several symptoms of Internet addiction, such as the following.
For the first symptom of tolerance, Internet addicts, like other drug addicts, also develop tolerance over time. As a result, Internet users must feel higher stimulus over time in both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Eventually, as Internet addiction worsens, tolerance becomes stronger, resulting in a vicious circle by which Internet addiction becoming ever increasingly worse. The second symptom, withdrawal, makes people anxious when they cannot use the Internet. This leads to psychological problems like anxiety, depression and attention deficit disorder. Even if they do not use the Internet, thinking about the Internet makes them less effective in studying and working. In this case, if they can use the Internet again, the withdrawal symptoms will disappear, but this relief is only temporary. If they can not use it again, the symptoms will recur and affect their daily life. For the third symptom of social isolation, one of the advantages of the Internet, by which people can widen their human relationships, becomes a disadvantage. People try to broaden their relationships through the Internet, but if it goes too far, Internet addicts only place importance on online relationships and neglect real human relationships, so they become socially isolated. The Internet can ultimately be used to develop human relationships, but ironically the loss of human relationships has occurred instead, a phenomenon which American sociologist Robert E. Kraut calls the “Internet paradox.” Because of these symptoms, Internet addiction can have a significant impact on daily life. Also, if these symptoms worsen, they can lead to problems like psychological disorders, avoidance of interpersonal relationships and even crimes, which can in turn lead to even bigger problems.
Problems of Internet addiction
As explained above, there are observable symptoms to Internet addiction. If you ignore these symptoms, Internet addiction can lead to bigger problems. From now on, we will find out what problems can happen in real life if Internet addiction becomes more serious.
First, Internet addiction causes problems in human relationships. When it gets worse, Internet addiction can be linked to a variety of mental illnesses like social phobia. This makes people who are addicted to the Internet reluctant to meet other people and spend more time alone. Internet addiction not only reduces the time spent with other people in the real world, but also prevents them from making up their minds to meet other people. Eventually, people who suffer from this symptom become isolated from society due to their Internet addiction. Additionally, the vicious circle repeats because they spend more and more time alone on the Internet. Although human relationships can be expanded through online media such as apps and games, they are only thin relationships that are difficult to maintain without the Internet. Also, addicts may think online relationships are more important than real ones, so they lock themselves up indoors and neglect real human relationships. As a result, they remain in isolation.
Second, Internet addiction can cause problems at the workplace or in school life. According to a study by researchers at St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul, Internet addiction can cause a decline in intelligence. As a result, Internet addicts may suffer from poor performance at work or school. This means that Internet addiction makes users’ intelligence itself worse, so it is not just a lack of time spent on work and study by using the Internet. The researchers warn that it could be difficult to recover lost intelligence over time. In addition, Internet addiction causes problems not only in performance but also in the social world of the workplace and school. As mentioned above, Internet addiction has a negative impact on human relationships. This makes it difficult for Internet addicts to have good social relationships with their peers and friends.
In the end, they are unable to adjust to workplace and school life and are left out of society. Professor Lee Sang-kyu of Hallym University said, “the students who are addicted to the Internet appear mentally incomplete, and the chances of bullying or school violence in a year were relatively higher than those who are not.”
Third, Internet addiction causes problems in the home and family. If even one member of the family is addicted to the Internet, this can cause discords within the family and breakdowns in family communication. One family had a son who was seriously addicted to Internet gaming. The boy did nothing but go outside to play games, and had no interaction with his family. His mother tried to fix his problem, but she had no income. In the end, the mother delivered his meals to the game room out of worry that her son would starve, but he didn’t care about mother’s efforts. In another family, the parents were addicted to the Internet. In 2012, the police arrested a single mother who abandoned her baby in a plastic bag. The Internet addict bore her baby in a PC room toilet and played a game after throwing her baby away in a flower bed. These are extreme examples, but they show how Internet addiction can destroy the concepts of home and family.
Internet addiction causes other problems as well. About two years ago, due to the immense popularity of the mobile game Pokemon GO, many people walked the streets looking only at their smartphones and even drove to catch Pokemons. As a result various accidents occurred, including many traffic accidents. According to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, 145,632 traffic accidents that occurred across the U.S. at that time were related to Pokemon GO. It is also estimated that about 29,370 people were injured and 256 were killed while playing Pokemon GO in various accidents. In addition to traffic accidents, anger felt on the Internet can lead to crime in real life, even arson or murder. As an example, in 2014, a man in his fifties who was addicted to Internet games was arrested by the police because he tried to set fire to a game company when his access to the game was blocked. Additionally, a teenager addicted to online games killed a person. He was an online game addicted boy and was especially addicted to a game called Battlegrounds. In this game, he killed other players with weapons like guns to win the game. The police said that he committed the murder by confusing the game with reality. All of these stories illustrate how Internet addiction causes various problems in society.
One thing we cannot deny is that present-day society has given birth to a generation that is intoxicated with a very large dose of Internet addiction. As a result, it has posed problems not only in the personal arena, but in the social and the professional spheres as well. Moreover, the phenomenon of Internet addiction has successfully managed to be a nuisance in the health sector as well. What used to be time set aside for family has now been replaced by Social Media. What used to be time for students to study is now time to YouTube the hours away.
More than ever before, society is threatened by a loss of moral fiber due to the exposure that people, especially minors, have to pornography and other content that is not suitable for viewing on the Internet. Online crime has escalated, and scammers are usually people who have spent an enormous amount of time on the Internet learning the art of being con artists. Productivity in the workplace has become a social problem because Internet addiction has hindered progress.
All these problems created by Internet addiction have without a doubt caused an alarm in society, but very little effort seems to have been put into rectifying the problem. This is because the first step to solving the problem is recognizing that there is in fact a problem, yet because it has become so common for people to be glued to their smart phones, people do not actually realize that Internet addiction is an issue in need of rectification. The other reason is that there are no clear diagnostic criteria to be used when determining what is or is not addiction. This calls for a nationwide set of criteria to be created that would enable everyone to assess whether they are at risk of being an Internet addict.
If you have made a thorough and true assessment of yourself and realize that you may actually be addicted to the Internet, then do not despair, for there are several mechanisms in place to help you manage your addiction. The simplest one is drawing up a time-frame of how many hours you want to spend on the Internet in a day and then sticking to your goal. If you find this difficult, you may deliberately leave your phone at home and go to the library or take a walk when the urge becomes too strong. The second thing you can do is to seek professional help. You could talk to a counseling professional and get tips on how to break your addiction. Especially, the Internet Addiction Prevention Center (IAPC) will be helpful. IAPC is operated by the National Information Society Agency and promotes various policies and projects such as preventive education, home counseling visits, and campaigns to solve the problem of over-dependence on the Internet. The other thing you can do is find new hobbies that replace the time you spend on the Internet. Get involved in a sport. Get involved in a student club, or go hiking. Remember, as the old adage goes, “time wasted never returns!” So, use your time wisely and as an investment, since it is a valuable resource.
1. Visit Internet Addiction Prevention Center (IAPC) website(http://www.iapc.or.kr/eng/index.do)
2. There are three menus: Diagnosis, Counsel, and Prevention Discipline
- Diagnosis: visitors can check how serious his or her condition of smartphone addiction is. Inspection will be held on several criteria; ages and gender.
- Counsel: visitors can apply for online or face-to-face counseling related to Internet addiction. Do not hesitate to register this counseling.
- Prevention Discipline: IAPC provides several programs and information for preventing Internet addiction.