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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.
We routinely hear about all sorts of addictions relating to drugs, alcohol, food, and even sex. But what about internet addiction? Is it real, and is it a problem? The answer to both, unfortunately, is yes.
According to a study led by Michael Van Ameringen at the McMaster University in Canada, heavy internet use can exacerbate various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, especially among college-aged students. The results of the study recently were presented at the European College of Neuropharmacology conference in Vienna.
People who are deemed addicted to the internet were shown by the study to have more difficulty in managing ordinary daily activities at home, work, school, and in social contexts. These internet addicts experienced problems with planning and time management, and they exhibited impulsive behavior and ADHD.
According to Ameringen, when medically treating individuals with these mental health issues, it is important to ascertain their internet habits, as their internet behaviors may need to be modified as part of overall treatment.
An Internet Addiction Test (IAT) was created in 1998, and this is regarded as the one true test to measure over-dependence on the internet. Of course, the IAT was developed long before the ubiquitous use of internet-ready smart phones and the pervasive infiltration of the internet into practically all aspects of our lives. There may be a far greater internet addiction problem than envisioned by the IAT.
Frankly, it may not take an updated test or further studies to see the problem around us. We can see our "friends" constantly on Facebook with their smiling faces pretending to conquer the world in everything they do, leaving us to feel lesser in comparison.
We can text, tweet, and post to Instagram nonstop, ignoring the real world, nature, and true human connection and affection, to the detriment of our real inner self. Indeed, we now are so bombarded with electronic communications stimuli at all times, do we even have a spare moment to look inside and understand the essence of our real inner self?
As we advance technologically and we increase our abilities to communicate, we actually can become more lost and untethered.
It may make sense to provide guidance to people of all ages how not to get sucked into the internet addiction vortex. Rather than texting while driving, someone instead may take a walk among the trees without any internet access. More importantly, by moving away from our computers and devices appropriately, overall quality of life should improve.
Easier said than done, but a worthy goal.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.
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