Internet = The New Drug
I remember when my parents installed first wireless Internet router in the living room. It was 2001 in California, and people were still using LAN cables. Back then, wireless was rare. Now, it is difficult to find a house without a wireless router in this century. Wireless is now available in most coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and even in outdoor public places (in Asia). Since high speed Internet kicked in in year 2000, we started to spend more time in front of our computers than physically seeing and interacting with people. With increasing number of hours on Internet, people are starting to develop more serious personal problems.
With development of Internet, social media business started to grow rapidly; however, social media started to cause emotional distress and problems among people, especially among teenagers. According to a survey done by CASA Columbia, the survey indicates how teens who use social media are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Huffington Post suggests, “ Those that interact via social media on a daily basis are five times likelier to use tobacco, three times likelier to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana.” (Huffington Post) One most popular social media that targets this issue is Facebook. Everytime when you change your DP (display picture), you are waiting to get the “Likes”. These “Likes” can be more addicting than you may think. Research “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,” states how “Likes” stimulates nucleus accumbens, which is responsible for sex, money, and social acceptance. So basically, it’s a drug, and a lot of people are hooked on it.
Why do people use drugs? They want more dopamine. This is one of the examples that would contribute to Internet addiction. But how does this exactly change people’s behavior? Stanford University found that social media has “re-routed our ability to multitask.” Opening different social media tabs on your computer has weakened our prefrontal cortex, due to the constant compulsive urge to check their social media page. Their attention spans get weak, and therefore get easily distracted by external stimuli, resulting in poor productivity level.
Now, social media would count as a gateway drug if we are comparing it to Internet pornography, which would be equivalent to heroin. Many teens who snoop around in Internet have viewed at least once, and a lot of them are addicted to it. I call this a dangerous drug because one can go through a lot during the use and after quitting.
In most cases, use of pornography starts by curiosity, just like drug, but it gets gradually worse. According to ABC News, psychotherapist who specializes in treating such addiction states that, “A lot of times the pornography becomes a coping style.” He furthers on, “It becomes a way that they deal with negative emotions in their life, pornography provides euphoria. It provides a high or sorts.” (ABC News) As high speed Internet kicked in, it gave easier access to teens, resulting in more frequent viewing.
What are the sides effect of this drug? Here’s is an interview from ABC News that illustrates a general idea of what struggle a porn user goes through. Haug reports that he watched porn since he was 12 or 13 and he once he reached high school. “I felt like every day I was just incomplete, like there was just a whole chunk of me missing, like a hole in my gut.” He continues, “It just represented the part — the things I was going to do and wanted to do that, because of my addiction, I wasn’t able to.” This is very common symptom of Internet pornography addiction. The users often experience social anxiety and depression due to their habit; however, there is more to that. As users continue their habit, their brains start to become desensitized, craving for more explicit materials. Often these users have higher risk to encounter teenage pregnancies, and STDs as they are not aware and cannot recognize between pornography, and reality.
Internet pornography affects the brain the same way as social media does; giving excessive dopamine. Here is a dangerous part. Users have no limit in viewing porn. Therefore, as users use it more frequently, their brain looses power to resist, meaning they are more vulnerable to seek it out. This process is called sensitization.
Smartphones and apps:
As our technology gets more developed, we have more access to the Internet. With smartphones, people have Internet in their hands and pockets, giving easy access to the cyberworld. How are they count as drugs? Well, people cannot seem to stop checking their phones, especially at night. At night, our brain starts to produce natural melatonin; however, when we check our phones, the light from the screen inhibits our brain by producing toxic neural cells. These toxins prevent us from falling asleep. For example, if you are trying to go to bed at around 11:00 P.M, your phone will likely to keep you awake until 1:00 A.M. This is caused as your glial cells, which are responsible for cleaning up the toxins, take longer time to get your brain into the “default state” for sleep.
Just like many drugs, with excessive use, smarphones can cause mental problem or disorder. As smartphones start to dominate the cellphone industry, app businesses start to grow. Apps start to give more excuse for people to check their phones as Facebook, Twitter, and simple text messages notifying the user with captivating sensation: vibration. Every notification received, the phone vibrates, asking for its attention. There is a known syndrome that is induced from cell phone use, called “Phantom Vibration Syndrome.” This is a mental disorder, which excessive cellphone use can cause one to think that his/her phone is vibrating when it is not. For example, now Facebook app started to give the vibration notification when someone’s birthday comes up. It encourages you to tap Facebook and post a line to timeline. This is not bad; however, does this mean those with more than 300 friends will get more than 300 notifications on their phones? Such notifications encourage people to get more attached to their smartphones.
What are the remedies?
Now, it is almost impossible to tell people to stop using their smartphones and computers all together. But I believe people can take certain actions that would reduce the risk getting into a form Internet addiction.
- Prioritize your sleep: If you are tired, go to bed. There is no need to snoop around in front of your computer or smartphone, reducing the hours of sleep.
2. Leave the phone in your bags: Putting your phone in your pocket will give you easier access to reach your phone than having it in your bag.
3. Give yourself a break: Internet addiction is when you stay online for long period of time without a break. When you catch yourself staying hours on your computer, go outside and take a walk.
Internet is a world, cyberworld. Just like how Earth has the goods and evils, same concept applies to Internet as well. As our technology advances further, it is our job to manage to stay in reality, living life, rather than living in an artificially fabricated piece.