A great little read about the battle within the field over the validity of such issues as “internet addiction”. Even better, the voice of the opposition is none other than Vaughn Bell, who runs a fabulous site (Mind Hacks) that I often get stuff from for this site! He certainly sounds like the voice of reason here…
Vaughan Bell, a visiting research fellow with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London in the United Kingdom, has argued that the internet is not an activity, and therefore internet addiction is a flawed idea (J Ment Health 2007;16:445-57).
“Fundamentally, the internet is a medium of communication,” says Bell, who claims that one can no more be addicted to the internet than to radio waves. “The concept itself doesn’t make sense.”
Bell acknowledges that some people use the internet and other technologies to excess, but believes they do so to avoid dealing with underlying problems, such as depression or social anxiety disorder, which have well-established treatments. Mental health problems often result in obsessions, which could range from watching too many hockey games to reading too much science fiction. In Japan, for instance, many youth are obsessed with comic books, though this is framed as a social withdrawal problem, not a comic book addiction.
Creating new “addictions” is misleading and confusing, says Bell, and will only prevent people from getting the help they need, while undermining their self-efficacy.
“The overmedicalization of life’s problems is damaging,” he adds. “Your actual difficulty may be that you are in a bad relationship or you are depressed, not addicted to the internet. It’s a neat placebo explanation that doesn’t fully address the complexity of people’s problems.”