Don't despair, you Internet addicts

ON BLOGS

help is available

July 02, 2006|By TROY MCCULLOUGH | TROY MCCULLOUGH,SUN COLUMNIST

Admit it: You have a problem.

You are one of millions of Americans suffering from Internet addiction disorder - IAD for short - and it's most certainly tearing your life apart.

Yes, I know, it is tough to hear, but consider this your long-overdue intervention. The signs, as described by the American Psychiatric Association, are clear.

Think about your "need for markedly increased amounts of time on [the] Internet to achieve satisfaction." Consider the withdrawal symptoms you have when not online, including "obsessive thinking about what is happening on the Internet" and "fantasies or dreams about the Internet." And the "voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers." We call that last one the "cyber shakes," and no, that's not funny. Your laughter is just a symptom of your denial.

Yours is a sad, sad case.

If you took the time to read instead of constantly updating your MySpace account, you'd know that Internet addiction disorder was identified in the late '90s (back in the dial-up days, when you had to be truly hard-core to be addicted to such things).

The most recent scholarly entry making the rounds comes from Diane Wieland, a professor of nursing at LaSalle University.

"Extrapolating from prevalence rates of other addictions, five to ten percent of [Internet] users will most likely experience IAD," Wieland says.

With millions online daily, that makes for a lot of Web zombies.

Admit it. You are one of those.

Still in denial? Maybe you should take one of the many Internet addiction quizzes to rate your problem yourself. Try this one: counsellingresource.com/quizzes/internet-addiction/index.html. Look at question No. 10: How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the Internet? Always? I thought so.

But what I want you to know is that despite the scope of your problem, there is hope for you.

Bloggers Anonymous wants to help (darmano.typepad.com/bloggers_anonymous). You do have a blog, don't you? What else have you been doing with all those hours you spend online?

Consider this therapy through anonymous confession. The site is "a place where you can share your blog-related stories. We all have them. Like the time you told your significant other that you didn't feel like going out because in reality you wanted to 'supe up' your Technorati ranking. Or that time you got up in the middle of the night for a `glass of water' when in reality it was to check on the blog.

Don't worry, we won't judge you."

It's pathetic, I know, but these are your people. So listen, share and learn. Help is a mere 12 steps (mouse clicks?) away.

Yes, I'm aware of the irony. Sending you to a blog is akin to sending an alcoholic to a liquor store.

But maybe we should face facts: The Internet is becoming intertwined in our lives in ways we could hardly imagine just a few years ago. It's becoming harder and harder to know where it ends and the "real world" begins. And you have to wonder if such distinctions even matter anymore.

This addiction is complex.

Admit it: Your cure won't come easily.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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