Computers

There is no doubt that the technological advances made by man in the 20th Century equalled all the advances made in all of the previous centuries put together. There is little doubt that the invention that has and will continue to have the greatest impact on all of our lives is the computer. When the computer was developed towards the end of the 20th Century it was believed that it would reduce all of our working weeks and give us more time for leisure and being with friends and family. No one really imagined that the computer could become an addiction in itself.

Does this describe your situation:

Your child is falling behind with homework because of always being on the computer

The husband or wife have become a virtual recluse and spend all their time locked away in one room for hour after hour

The phone bill has almost doubled over night

You are spending longer and longer at the computer and don't realise where the time goes

Some of the signs of computer addiction will be very similar to other addictions:

Psychological Symptoms

Sense of well being while at the computer

Inability to stop using the computer

Making excuses just so that you can use the computer

Family and friends see you less and less and comment about your increasing use of the computer

Feeling lost or irritable when not at the computer

Lying to friends and family about the amount of time you spend at the computer

Problems occurring with school or job

Other signs are more specific to the computer however:

Physical Symptoms

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Dry eyes

Migraine headaches

Backaches

Eating irregularities - maybe skipping meals

Poor personal hygiene

Sleep problems

The Computer is such a versatile tool that it can host a range of addictions. The internet and the World Wide Web is the addiction for the 21st Century. With slogans such as 'if you are not part of the present you are part of the past' it is clear that the marketing is all about getting us to log-on or miss out. The internet was first created in 1968 by the US Government as a defence tool. In 1992 the world wide web was created and licensed. The world wide web has increased at a phenomenal rate.

Eight years ago in 1993 there were 130 websites; in 1996 around 100,000; in 1997 around 800,000; around 2,000,000 in 1998; around 4,000,000 in 1999; 13,000,000 in 2000 and around 29,000,000 in 2001. At the middle of 2001 there are around 4 billion web pages of information with around 1 million new pages added every day (pages as opposed to sites). At the beginning of 2001 there was 109,574,429 hosts. The millions of Websites today offer such a vast array of information, meeting peoples needs not just in the hunger for information but for shopping, meeting people, sexual fantasies, pornography and gambling to name a few.

The Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is one increasingly popular use for the internet. It is a way of communicating with people from around the world using the internet. It is a growing worldwide problem and is highly addictive especially for people who are lonely or bored. Once the person starts communicating they can feel they are missing out by not being on-line and this can be part of the addictive nature.

On-line trading is the latest modern method of gambling. This offers an immediate form of feedback. In the past most stock market trading was done through a personal broker or a brokerage firm. Today at the merest click the shares can be brought and sold; days or weeks have been reduced to seconds.*

For many people the computer is intended purely for pleasurable pursuits. Sadly addiction is still possible. The video game was the ultimate toy of the 1980's. From there highly advanced and technological games have been developed to be used on the computer. Some of these can be downloaded or accessed in a variety of ways. Ultimately the aim is to keep people on the machine as long as possible. This is exactly what happens for many people remaining on the computer from dawn till dusk or when they get in from school or work till the early hours of the next morning. What started out as a pleasurable pursuit has become an all-consuming addiction.

The roots of this addiction are very similar to the others; the needs are not being met in other areas. It may be because of boredom or loneliness. Unlike many of the other addictions the internet can actually lead you to the answer as you can meet people, shop, gamble on-line. In addition when you see something on the internet it is hard to believe that it does not really exist. However it can also accentuate your problem leave you feeling even more distant from human company apart from the problem especially during IRC of not really knowing who the people you are communicating with really are, i.e. are they really who they say they are?

* Report on online trading published in Addiction Today vol. 12 No.71 July/August 2001 by Dr J. Michael Faragher, Denver, USA

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