Internet Addiction

["The thief of my free will," pronounced the slave Epictitus, "does not exist." The emperor Marcus Aurelius quoted him appovingly. He may have been a bit overwhelmed by the dictum but he never tried to evade its truth.]

BOSTON (AP) - Almost 6 percent of Internet users suffer [The psychological definition of suffering includes pleasure.] from some form of addiction to it, according to the largest study of Web surfers ever conducted. Marriages are being disrupted, kids are getting into trouble, people are committing illegal acts, people are spending too much money. [We are encouraged to believe that these poor victims would otherwise be model citizens.] "As someone who treats patients, I see it," said David Greenfield, the therapist and researcher who did the study.

The findings, which were released yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, [this organization recently published an article encouraging its members to treat the sexual abuse of children as an alternate life style: intergenerational love.] appear likely to bolster the expanding acceptance of compulsive Internet use as a real psychological disorder.

Kimberly Young, a pioneer in the new field of research, [this man probably daydreams of history books hailing him as "the father of Internet addiction treatment."] said the latest study is so broad that it "adds a layer of legitimacy [No one ever needed a "layer of legitamcy" to declare influenza a disease.] to the concern that Internet addiction is real." [What makes a psychological disorder "real" is the "patient's" helplessness to change what he does. In other words, a psychological disorder is "the thief of my free will."]

However, the 6 percent figure is lower than some estimates of 10 percent or more stemming largely from research on college students.[But what's a 70% difference between friends?]

Greenfield, who is a psychologist in West Hartford, Conn., carried out the study jointly with ABC News. [Could one of the failing, discredited network news outlets have any motives to discredit the competing Internet?] He collected 17,251 responses to an tnternet use questionnaire distributed and returned through the Web site

He adapted his questions from a widely used set of criteria for gambling addiction. For example, the questionnaires asked if participants had used the Internet to escape from their problems, [Half of what I do is aimed at escaping my problems.] tried unsuccessfully to cut back, or found themselves preoccupied with the Internet when they were no longer at the computer. [I'm not an Internet addict myself; but I am often preoccupied with pleasurable activities. Do psychologists define preoccupation with unpleasant, distasteful activities as good mental health?]

If participants answered "yes" to at least five of 10 such criteria, they are viewed as addicted. A total of 990 participants, or 5.7 percent, did answer "yes" to five or more questions. With an estimated 200 million Internet users worldwide, that would mean that 11.4 million are addicts. [Obviously, someone needs a federal grant to study this problem.]

The question about using the Internet as an escape yielded more "yes" answers than any other: 30 percent.

Greenfield's analysis of the data suggests that Internet users' feelings of intimacy, timelessness and lack of inhibition all contribute to the addictive force of the Internet.

[Could man be drunk forever on liquor, love, or fights,

Lief would I rise in the morning and lief lie down at nights.

But man at whiles is sober and thinks by fits and starts

And when he thinks, he fastens up his hands unto his heart.

--A. E. Houseman]

"There's a power here that's different than anything we've dealt with before," said Greenfield. [It seems very similar to the power of the reading and we know that reading has been prohibited or circumscribed by virtually all governements. Every power that is not under the control of the state is dangerous.]

Researchers did caution that, while one of the best estimates yet, the 6 percent figure is based on a group of people who use only one Web site, however broadly aimed. The questionnaire also followed ABC news coverage on Internet addiction, so relatively more compulsive users might been drawn to the survey.

Researchers said Internet addiction will ultimately be broken down into several categories, perhaps revolving around sex and relations, consumerism, gambling, stock trading, and obsessive Internet surfing for its own sake. [They believe that once you name something, you begin to control it; if you can break it down into categories, you are its master.]

Therapists at the psychology meeting said they have successfully treated some Internet addicts, often with a mix of talking sessions and programs aimed more narrowly at reducing a sharply defined set of behaviors.

[Suppose that I am a heroin user and that I would become physically sick if I stopped using it. I am in an unpleasant situation. Still, the thief of my free will does not exist. The original medical use of the word addict applied to such a person; but since then, the definition has been expanded to change our view of human nature. We are invited to picture ourselves as helpless leaves tossed about in whirlwinds of obsessions and addictions. If I wanted a person to have a happy life, I would teach him the opposite. You control one thing absolutely: your will. Neither the emperor nor his legions can take it away from you.]