My name is Luanne and I’m a webaholic. Okay, now you say “Hi, Luanne” cause you should probably be in a meeting, too.
If you’re like me, you’d wear a cyber patch if there was one on the market. For instance, right now the old cat is howling cause she’s starving and craving her morning salmon, but I’m busy writing this blog so she’ll just have to wait.
While I’m not prone to immoderate gaming (why bother when you can amuse yourself with Craigslist ads), I do exhibit several of the symptoms experts identify as an increasing computer dependency.
When I return home from a long day, I rush to greet my best friend and check new messages, even before greeting my husband. “Hello, lover,” I say to P.C. “I’ve missed you sooo much.” One time, when my best friend got a nasty virus, I just about lost it, feeling completely detached from the outside world. I regarded the technician who repaired it as a superhero, as valuable as an organ transplant surgeon. I kept telling him he saved my life.
Also, because of my dependency, I have cast aside invaluable resources of the past, such as the dictionary, maps, paper invitations and thank-you notes, the Yellow Pages, city newspapers, daily calls to friends and photo labs. Enter Google, Mapquest, Adobe, Huffington Post, Facebook and Evite. Lazy, hurried people unite!
While there are scant Betty Ford-style clinics for people like me, it’s clear there’s a burgeoning need. In fact, Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, Ph.D. of Harvard University, says we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in society’s dependency on computers for information, fun and entertainment. Anyone who’s visited a computer cafe at night knows she’s right. Guests sit alone, sipping wine or coffee, substituting their notebooks for human dates.
Orzack (above) founded the Computer Addiction Service at Harvard’s McClean Hospital to treat what she calls Internet Addictive Disorder or Cyberaddiction, which she likens to pathological gambling or compulsive shopping. “Like those other addictions, it affects other people – family, friends, and co-workers,” she points out.
The trend, she says, affects all ages starting with computer games for kids (my girls, included) to chats for the vulnerable adult. The darn Mac or PC can even split up a family. She says compulsive use can be a major factor in divorce, especially when couples split because one of them finds someone else on the web. Colleges report excessive computer use is associated wtih academic drop-outs. That’s kind of a catch-22. Who can get through school now without one?
Orzack guesstimates between five and ten percent of Web surfers suffer from a Web dependency. Are you one of them? Don’t lol. Take a peak at some of the symptoms:
A sense of well being or euphoria while on the computer
Inability to stop the activity
Craving more and more computer time
Neglecting family and friends
Lying to employers and family about activities
Problems with school or job
Carpel tunnel syndrome
Failure to attend to personal hygiene
Orzack believes that like any addiction, this one can be best treated with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which provides coping skills to prevent a relapse. Sometimes medication is even necessary. I’m pretty sure that’s the case with my obsessive friend, Diane, who can spend 10 hours hunting down discounted Oilily clothes for her daughter on Ebay. Talk about a gaming problem.
Can Orzack treat addicts on-line? “I’m licensed in Massachusetts, not in cyberspace,” she says. Guess not, unless you live near Harvard.
Still, there are more treatment resources surfacing, such as Internet Addiction Help in Santa Barbara, and ICA Services (425-861-5504), a 12-step program for computer addiction based on the Alcoholics’ Anonymous approach to recovery.
For me, there’s a bit of irony to all of it. I rely on the computer to connect me to the outside world, yet it is adding to my isolation. I doubt that’s what Bill Gates and his ilk ever had in mind.
Image: Stefan Friedle