Is the Web Driving Us Mad?
July 11, 2012 11:27 PM   Subscribe

Is the Web Driving Us Mad? (Newsweek, cover) Evidence wise, the verdict isn't looking good. The proof is starting to pile up.
The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet - portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive - may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.
One idea is that
online life is akin to life in the biggest city, stitched and sutured together by cables and modems, but no less mentally real - and taxing - than New York or Hong Kong. "The data clearly support the view that someone who lives in a big city is at higher risk of psychosis than someone in a small town," Ian Gold writes via email. "If the Internet is a kind of imaginary city," he continues. "It might have some of the same psychological impact."
Carnegie Mellon findings
showing that the more a person hangs out in the global village, the worse they are likely to feel. Web use often displaces sleep, exercise, and face-to-face exchanges, all of which can upset even the chirpiest soul. But the digital impact may last not only for a day or a week, but for years down the line. A recent American study based on data from adolescent Web use in the 1990s found a connection between time online and mood disorders in young adulthood. Chinese researchers have similarly found .a direct effect. between heavy Net use and the development of full-blown depression, while scholars at Case Western Reserve University correlated heavy texting and social-media use with stress, depression, and suicidal thinking.
And impacts on kids
People tell her that their phones and laptops are the "place for hope" in their lives, the "place where sweetness comes from." Children describe mothers and fathers unavailable in profound ways, present and yet not there at all. "Mothers are now breastfeeding and bottle-feeding their babies as they text," she told the American Psychological Association last summer. "A mother made tense by text messages is going to be experienced as tense by the child. And that child is vulnerable to interpreting that tension as coming from within the relationship with the mother. This is something that needs to be watched very closely." She added, "Technology can make us forget important things we know about life."
More in the article.
posted by stbalbach (112 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'M NOT OBSESSING!!!!!
posted by msalt at 11:34 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to make sure I understand, an article in a news magazine, whose purpose for the past 11 years at least has been fluff or "be afraid" is telling me that it's actually the web that's making me crazy. OMG!!!! I'm logging off right now!!!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:37 PM on July 11, 2012 [23 favorites]


Yeah but on the other hand I didn't know where the proper jack points on my car were a week ago and I've since fixed a transmission problem in my back yard because the internet is like that "Can you fly a helicopter?"/"Now I can." scene from the Matrix, so TOTALLY WORTH IT.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:41 PM on July 11, 2012 [43 favorites]


“This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,” ...

No. It's not. Not even close.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:41 PM on July 11, 2012 [87 favorites]


TL;DR
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:44 PM on July 11, 2012 [17 favorites]


I suspect the parts of the web that might drive us mad the most are the ones run by the same kind of media outfits that newsweek comes from.. checkmate, MSM.
posted by 3mendo at 11:46 PM on July 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Lucky for newsweek that they stumbled upon this research, I hear their business model has been losing out a bit to this interwebs thing.
(that said, the city analogy got me thinking. But plenty of people live in cities without going psychotic)
posted by memebake at 11:47 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feelin' fine.
posted by DyRE at 11:52 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This resonates for me. I actually decided to stop reading it so I can go to bed and get some sleep instead of sitting in front of the computer.

Good night.
posted by latkes at 11:53 PM on July 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


This article doesn't show up correctly in IE or Chrome or Firefox, and not on Windows, iOwhatever, or whatever nix I'm using. Or on my PSP. Or my smartphone. Or my dumbphone. Or my iPhone. Or my iPad. Or my PC. I even looked into the future with my Google Glass and it doesn't work right there, either, though I did get a message from future me that said a fix was coming. He knew because a future version of future me told future him/me. So I tried to go all lo-tech, bought a paper version of the article, and the staples fell out and also I got a paper cut which hurts like hell.

AND YOU ASK WHY I AM NUCKING FUTS? FUCK YOU NEWSTIMEMSNBCWEEKFOXFUCKFIRESHIT!
posted by PapaLobo at 11:54 PM on July 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Next up, TV is bad for you.

Whatever, it's an old and hoary tale. We're all bored of it.
posted by effugas at 11:56 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Snark and hyperbolic, pop-science reporting aside, I think it is the case that the real science in this article begs a question that is part and parcel of all technological shifts:

They are not perfect. They will change who we are. We will lose some things.

So, is it worth it and, if so, how can we utilize this new aspect of our lives in a way that does the least damage.
posted by sendai sleep master at 11:57 PM on July 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Waitaminute... I thought Newsweek was now the fully-pwned subsidiary of web-entity The Daily Beast. Now whose hand are they biting here?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:01 AM on July 12, 2012


delicious, delicious sleep displacement...
posted by kaibutsu at 12:10 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was much crazier before the internet.
posted by philip-random at 12:14 AM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, is it worth it and, if so, how can we utilize this new aspect of our lives in a way that does the least damage.

I appreciate and even share your sentiment, but when was the last time, outside of small intentional communities, the adoption of a new technology was decided by consensus or even by a vote?

Nobody is directly forced to adopt and use a new technology that hits the market, but we are often forced to see it, hear about it, and then adapt to its adoption one way or another.

We are, interestingly, sometimes expected to use an old technology, which was once a new and totally optional technology. I'm thinking about cars, for example, in parts of the United States without other infrastructure.

There is an element of involuntariness to that, gradual though it may be. Just because a bunch of people freely bought it and use it all the time doesn't mean it's good for us.
posted by edguardo at 12:14 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I should clarify: we vote for and against technology in the U.S. and other countries "with our wallets", but that's not enough to keep it out of our lives if we want that.

What we don't get a say in is whether it is developed, advertised, or (usually) available for sale.

OK, fire away.
posted by edguardo at 12:17 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too much social media and constant web access make Homer something something...
posted by Chekhovian at 12:35 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd read the article but I am too busy tweeting it and facebooking it to give a fuck.
posted by greenhornet at 12:36 AM on July 12, 2012


If the web has made us into the type of people who create comments threads like this one, I think that's a fairly damning indictment on its own.

/drafts letter to LRB.
posted by fightorflight at 12:46 AM on July 12, 2012


Things the Internet is bad for:
Brain health
Music
the Environment
Democracy
Revolutions
Pets
Advertising
Science
Sperm

Things the Internet is good for:
Lists
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:48 AM on July 12, 2012 [42 favorites]


Truly, this is an ancient and honorable complaint.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:50 AM on July 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


I've apparently now spent over 20 years on the Internets. Hmmmm...

Yes, I believe that I have been driven mad. It may have been the BBSes that are responsible, however. I think Trade Wars 2002 was the real culprit, though. The bulletin boards and FIDOnet were only slightly disturbing.
posted by wierdo at 1:01 AM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was crazy way before the web.
posted by telstar at 1:02 AM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Things the Internet is bad for:

I'm not very sure about this list - of the things you mention, some have been produced in copious amounts thanks to the internet.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:10 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every time someone posts about global warming denial, creationism, or people who refuse to vaccinate their children, there is (rightfully I think) a stream of people commenting about those who refuse to accept research because it conflicts with their worldview or what it is convenient for them to believe. Certainly these findings are not of the magnitude of evidence for global warming and this could be bad reporting, but responding to it with comments about how dumb old media is and how the Internet hasn't made you crazy isn't really much of a response.

I love the things the Internet has brought. I love being able to connect with so any different people. At the same time I am capable of thinking that pointing that it may have some serious long term downsides is a reasonable argument to make if you've got research and evidence on it. Just like I love flying to different countries but am able to think that my flying has serious dwnsides for the environment.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:17 AM on July 12, 2012 [33 favorites]


I read it. Right to the end. Right to the part where it says:

"Like The Daily Beast on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates all day long."
posted by sarastro at 1:24 AM on July 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


Very interesting, the reflexive defensiveness and refusal (inability?) to engage with either the data or the argument. Why, I wonder? Fear of what it may mean for us? Identification with the internet, not as a mere thing, but an actual facet of our total selves and thus a fear of rejection? Anxiety at society's judgment and our inability to measure up, or anger at the hypocrisy of an argument like this published - and hashed out - on the internet itself?

For what it's worth, I think humanity has a tendency to save the looking until long after airborne, and the argument and data doesn't surprise me one bit. There is nuance to these questions, and many complexities in trying to answer them, but - to address one poster above - tv, after all, is bad for you (or at least strongly associated with badness especially the more you take).

I love the internet, as most here do, I''m sure. I love it. It is a huge part of who I am and how I function. I cannot really imagine my life without all the things the internet as bought me, and feel I would be immeasurably poorer for it; less knowledge, less thinking, less compassion also and less understanding. But. These are good questions, it's worth asking them, and worth discussing them seriously. People thought cigarettes were healthy once, too, and you could buy bottles of heroin basically straight over the counter. It's worth talking about these things, and the notion that they are not an intrinsic and whole good is not preposterous.
posted by smoke at 1:32 AM on July 12, 2012 [25 favorites]


Damn lesbiassparrow, that is some real telepathy shit going on right there, I paraphrased you almost exactly!
posted by smoke at 1:33 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The data clearly support the view that someone who lives in a big city is at higher risk of psychosis than someone in a small town - Ian Gold

Having lived for decades in both cities and small towns, I don't think think anyone has any data clearly showing any such thing. Small-town isolation can breed some most peculiar inbred resonances. One bad apple in a pickle jar is more dangerous to the other apples than one bad apple in a silo. Don't think small towns can have as much stress? Think harder.

RISK OF PSYCHOSIS??? From reading and typing?? Puh-lease. I see plenty of the internet every day. Outside of "social", I very rarely see any incipient madness...au contraire, I see lots of intelligent people trying to make something new or better, or solve some problem. What parts of the web does Mr. Gold hang out in, hmmm?

Even giving him that point, the implied analogy between living in a big city and how any individual may or may not experience the internet is faulty, faulty, faulty. Ants are not aardvarks.

Did 50 years of network TV broadcasting (people sitting passively 2 or 3 or 7 hours a day passively reacting to sophisticated TV programming and advertising) change us? Sure. And lots of people worried about that. Now we have so much more to worry about. Hmmm. Maybe its not the much more that's the problem, but the worrying!

After all of that mass media onslaught, gazillions of experts trying to suggest this and program that ... as soon as we got a chance to trade passive immersion for active immersion? canned TV and music and newspapers and magazines and bookstores took a big hit.

Lots of us like having an active part in the world - a connection, a voice - and like entertaining one another - instead of paying THOSE guys to entertain us while we vegetate. Others of us are feeding, in a structured way, on a diet of information we were denied in the past. Confirming what we suspected all along ... they've always been just as lost as we are. Only they were getting paid for it!
posted by Twang at 1:42 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having lived for decades in both cities and small towns, I don't think think anyone has any data clearly showing any such thing.

The former is not a qualification really to opine on the latter - whether the latter is correct or not.
posted by smoke at 1:50 AM on July 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Heavy metal and horror videos must be breathing a sigh of relief.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:58 AM on July 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


I agree smoke and lesbiassparrow. The internet is not "bad" but we need to be little more critical of our own experience. Specifically, we need to come to terms with the fact that all this new tech is radically changing the phenomenology of our everyday lives especially social life.

I remember once hearing someone describing Friedrich Kittler's theory of a "Media without People" and he explained that, as humans, we don't create the media so much as we are subjects of the media. That's farther than I would go but still a valid point.

Sitting home alone in a bathrobe hunched over a laptop looking at photos of "the best party eva" has almost nothing to do with being physically present at said party (which was fun but honestly was not the best ever). We need to get past naive notions of progress and techno-libertarian utopianism and actually consider the quotidian reality.
posted by mr.ersatz at 2:01 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


The internet enables the brain to expand in all sorts of directions and ways. I suppose for some people a few of them are bound to involve some dangers.

(Also true of books, btw. Probably nothing has driven as many people nuts as the Bible.)
posted by Segundus at 2:12 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


:/
posted by victory_laser at 2:42 AM on July 12, 2012


The article had plenty of interesting things to say about the changes in brain structure of heavy users, but what I didn't see was any evidence for consideration of the chain of causality. For example, the proportion of people with mental health issues who smoke and/or drink to excess is higher then the population in general. But that says nothing about whether smoking and drinking causes mental health issues, or whether mentally unwell people are likely to smoke and drink as self-medication for the stress and pain of their mental illnesses. Maybe the article is right in suggesting that people who use the internet are more likely to be depressed, but that doesn't mean that the internet is causing their depression. I think it as likely, if not more likely, that depressed and anxious people are likely than the general population to turn to the internet as a means of finding social connection within a lower-risk environment than face-to-face, hence the internet would be more akin to self-medication than as root cause.
posted by talitha_kumi at 2:43 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Shorter, saner: Confessions of an Internet Addict (The Atlantic, 11 July).
posted by Stan Carey at 2:46 AM on July 12, 2012


Things the Internet is good for:
Lists


Also: cat pictures, cat videos, lists of cat videos, and FPPs on lists of the best lists of cat videos.

It's also pretty good for videos of babies and kids doing' cute stuff
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:47 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


And on further consideration, is it possible that the internet serves mainly as a magnifier to eccentricity? Perhaps the number of mentally unwell people is the same as it has ever been, but the internet makes us more visible. Those who would have spent their lives unnoticed and unacknowledged by society in general are given a voice and a presence on the internet that enables them to male connections with one another, and become a more visible presence that forces people to take notice. And in addition, there is also the opportunity for those whose connection to reality is more tenuous than most have a platform to broadcast their psychosis and paranoia to a wide audience, instead of hiding in dark corners scribbling in a notebook, or even standing on street corners shouting at traffic. How many millions of people know about the timecube guy? Even if you gave him a megaphone or even a radio show of his own, he could never reach such a huge audience as the internet affords him.
posted by talitha_kumi at 2:50 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


tv, after all, is bad for you (or at least strongly associated with badness especially the more you take).

I said the same thing about wheat flour for years and years and no one would listen to me. But then there were scientific studies showing that if you drop ten-pound sacks of flour on lab rats, they die! And I had the last laugh. I bet the same thing happens with televisions.
posted by XMLicious at 3:09 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The human brain is wired to focus specifically on changing features in the immediate environment.

Ancient man, sitting in a bush, evolved to quickly discriminate between a tree (not moving) and a lion (moving). Those humans that had better feature detection were more successful.

It's a biological function really, feature-detection responds to the new... according to the brain, new information is always exciting. Hence the little dopamine hits that come from web surfing... and make it quite addictive apparently.

Now, put a constant stream of new information into someone's hand. Feign surprise when they become addicted to it.
posted by nickrussell at 3:20 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I luvs me some internets, but I have to admit: when I recently lost my connection for a week, it was kind of nice. I found that the quality of my attention was different during leisure time; I didn't - couldn't - chase after new stimulus the instant I got bored. It made me realize that, to some degree, the sheer volume of choice and the urge to keep checking for updates on things is a source of anxiety. I needed to put in a bit more effort to find something to do, even if that was only digging through the DVDs and watching a film. After a day or two I really didn't mind. Mostly it was inconvenient, because I could not work at home. I was really glad to get the connection back, of course.

I'm probably less gung-ho on tech gadgets than many people, though. I don't really like screwing around on a phone all the time. I remember when I got an iPhone, I looked at it and thought, this is supposed to make me happy. It was kind of depressing there for a minute.

Remember about 12 years ago when magazines like this started banging the drum for the new disease of Internet Addiction? Some people are online for HOURS - they need help! That looks pretty silly now, but maybe there is something to it.
posted by thelonius at 3:21 AM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


"We had a global media network in the 80s and early 90s too, but it was broadcast only. When people can talk back to us to call us on our crap, it drives us crazy."
posted by DU at 3:57 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If they had bothered to argue a bit on the Internet, someone would have told them correlation is not causation.

There may be something to this, but I don't see how they can point fingers in a time when so many things changed so much.

The web was for a long time the only place where I could find people with my interests, and also where I could find people very different from me but interesting enough that I could learn from them. That sure helped with a certain loneliness I carried since before I had access to the Internet.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:11 AM on July 12, 2012


I luvs me some internets, but I have to admit: when I recently lost my connection for a week, it was kind of nice.

I enjoy this, too. When I travel internationally, when I go to a conference, or even when I take a quick trip to visit friends, I find myself pretty much off-line for at least a couple of days. There is something rather refreshing about it. I knew a guy, years ago, who liked to drink a lot. About once a year, he would take a month off -- no intoxicants of any sort. He did this as a kind of behavior check, knowing that, if he couldn't do a month or that month really messed him up, he had to think seriously about his behavior.

I remember when I got an iPhone, I looked at it and thought, this is supposed to make me happy. It was kind of depressing there for a minute.

It is in the nature of iPhones to be unsatisfactory. We expect gadgets, jobs, relationships, money, pets, and so on to cure our ills, which, of course, they can't -- they are just gadgets, jobs, relationships, money, pets, and so on. That disappointment grows in the gap between our unrealistic imagination of what those things should be and what they really are.

I think this applies to the internet as well. It's a great communication medium, but that is all it is. And we have a tendency to think that this thing can fill up a much larger space than it can, because that is what we do to ourselves. Most people keep this to a reasonable level, but, for the afflicted -- the depressed, the obsessive, the lonely, etc -- it can be a trap or a tool to avoid getting help, perspective, or something more useful.

Basically, if the internet is a poison, it's because anything in life can be a poison; it's the nature of life to be unsatisfactory.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:27 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Mothers are now breastfeeding and bottle-feeding their babies as they text,"

This is antifeminist idiocy. Breastfeeding is demanding enough without requiring mothers to forgo adult stimulation. There is no evidence for the Kleinian hypothesis that disturbances in breast-feeding doom a child to detachment and loneliness.

Frankly, the whole article is concern trolling and bad science reporting, but this particular line is completely evidence-free fear-mongering.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:31 AM on July 12, 2012 [21 favorites]


The internet is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful medium I've ever known in my life.
posted by Kinbote at 4:46 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kleinian hypothesis

Wow, I had never heard of that. I'd suppose that, as long as the tap is flowing, the baby is pretty much living the dream, even if Mom is watching Ice Road Truckers or texting. It reminds me of the noxious "refrigerator Mom" theory of autism that they used to have.
posted by thelonius at 4:52 AM on July 12, 2012


As I learned right here on the blue, if a question is posed in a headline, the answer is always "No."
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:54 AM on July 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


The internet is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful medium I've ever known in my life.

I can't disagree, but have you met some of the users?
posted by Wolof at 4:55 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a sad, stressed-out world of people coated in Dorito dust and locked in a dystopian relationship with their machines
posted by slogger at 5:16 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Really surprised this wasn't an Atlantic article.
posted by Fizz at 5:16 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


mAd ThEy CaLlEd Me MaD fOr GoUgInG oUt My EyEs So I cOuLd PuT tHe CaBlEs In BuT i AsK yOu WhO iS lAuGhInG nOw WhO iS lAuGhInG nO sErIoUsLy WhO iS iT tHaT kEePs LaUgHiNg AnD lAuGhInG aNd LaUgHiNg StOp It StOp It StOp It YoU wIlL sEe YoU wIlL aLl SeE aNd ThEn YoU wIlL pAy YoU wIlL pAy AnD pAy AnD pAy FoR tHaT bLoG pOsT yOu MaDe ThAt OnE tImE dO nOt TrY tO tElL mE yOu Do NoT rEmEmBeR
posted by kyrademon at 5:16 AM on July 12, 2012


The Big Crime Drop of the last 20 years may be partially related to the fact that most of us now spend a lot more time immersed in a virtual environment where we can't hurt each other. A lonely, brain shrinking, "Dorito dusted" (?), depression-amplifying virtual world where we can't hurt each other.

I can't unilaterally agree that that's a bad trade-off.
posted by dgaicun at 5:17 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about online health resources, support groups, friendships, democratizing effects?

I wrote a much longer version of this, but I owe the following things to being online:
-- a substitute social life when I honestly would not have had one post-college
-- my career
-- the best friends I had in the previous decade (real in-person friends who I moved in with)
-- my religion
-- having met awesome people from Finland, South Africa, Germany, Korea, Scotland, the Canary Islands
-- facing and treating diabetes instead of ignoring it for the past 13 years
-- meeting and falling in love with my wife of 8 years
-- the encouragement and ability to self-release 9 albums of electronic music
-- getting dragged to a Japanese festival, falling in love with taiko drumming and playing that semi-professionally for over a year
-- finding out I am not alone and not "broken" in my personal gender issues, and having a group of people I can talk to about them

Without the internet I might be alive today, but I seriously doubt I'd be a healthier or saner person.
posted by Foosnark at 5:29 AM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


I suppose I should add "moving out of effing Florida" as something that was good for my sanity.
posted by Foosnark at 5:31 AM on July 12, 2012


I am sure the phenomenon has merit to degree, but as mentioned upthread, a piece coming from a newsmag with a penchant for sensationalism does not make me too worried about the validity of the topic.

Sure, it is probably bad do all those texts as mentioned in the article and to be part of all those groups of addicted types the article talks about. But what struck me about the article is that it seemed to go out of its way to make a list of all groups that it could find and present findings in such a way that spelled gloom and doom.

So yeah, while I am sure there is merit to the issue, at the same time I am sure these same warnings (with adjustments for the specifics), were hashed out about TV, radio, serialized novels, automobiles and just about any new tech or entertainment device, meme and trend in the last couple of centuries. Time will give us the solutions for dealing with these new toys and soon enough, it will melt into a normal state. In the meantime, I am sure there are plenty of hack mags, unscrupulous tech providers, pharma companies and Geraldo Rivera just ready and waiting to tell me exactly how I am going to die tomorrow and it will only cost $5.95 plus S&H to find out exactly how.

Text me when the infomercial is over.
posted by lampshade at 5:31 AM on July 12, 2012


look otherwise I'd be inflicting all of THIS on people in person and nobody wants that.
posted by The Whelk at 5:38 AM on July 12, 2012



This reminded me of a story my Mom told about my Great Grandma that happened when a phone first came into their house. It was a party line in a rural area. My GG, wrote the towns social (gossip) column. This new phone thing was amazing, you could talk, talk, talk without leaving the house. She was on it for hours and when she wasn't talking to someone she would evesdrop on other conversations. She would jump every time the phone rang. It got to the point where neighbors would just automatically says "Mary, now this is private get off the phone please." lol

Related to this I recall reading about the effects of the phone on how people socialized. It changed how much people interacted as people could call instead of walking down the road to see people etc etc.

I have no doubt that the digital world has brought about changes. Technology can do this. I find the subject quite fascinating, especially about how things we interact effect our brains biologically. I know it effects me. I've done the hours and hours of gaming thing and when I stop and go outside to do my daily chores it takes a few minutes to adjust to the different reality. At times 'outside' has felt quite surreal. It's like switching worlds from inside my head to outside my head. I've had the same experience after hours of reading a good book though.

While I do think that it is important to recognize that this digital age has and will affect people in a myriad of ways both positive and negative it's also just as important to recognize that 'changes brought by technology' is a pattern that has existed since we picked up the first sharp rock and cut some meat off a dead animal. I'm sure the brain of someone living 500 years ago would be 'wired' quite differently then mine.

Point being. Things will change. People will change. We will adjust.
posted by Jalliah at 5:40 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


FIRE NOT BAD! FIRE FRIEND!

(Seriously, I refer to this type of journalism as Fire Good (or) Fire Bad.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:14 AM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


If anyone wants to skip the handwringing, the anecdotes of smartphone users bemoaning their compulsion, and the putdowns of "puckish" web boosters, start at the second to last paragraph of page three, right under the link to another Beast article called "Octomom: I'm not a creep!"
We may appear to be choosing to use this technology, but in fact we are being dragged to it by the potential of short-term rewards. Every ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt of dopamine, for answering the bell. “These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the table,” MIT media scholar Judith Donath recently told Scientific American.
There's a little bit more analysis after that, mostly describing how people use the internet - times per day, duration, etc - but not what they're using it for. And it's peppered with lines like the "Dorito dystopia" one, for which I wonder if we should blame the author or the editor.

I would love to hear more about what these sad people are using the internet for. I'm already pretty convinced that there are good ways and very bad ways to use the internet. Tutorials? Boards for common interests? Family emails? Probably good ways. Boards for common hates? Social media (which, for some reason, only seems to count as such when it has your real name and info and you "share" in pre-determined ways)? Constant connectivity? Maybe not so good ways. And that's definitely worth talking about.

In a minor way, this article is probably part of the problem. It's so front-loaded with anecdotes and stats at which we're supposed to cluck our tongues or get defensive that I'm sure it's intended to incite chatter rather than discussion (although reading discussions of this type of article is a pleasure). They've spun interesting research into a noisy rattle to compete for attention against the rest of the web that also encourages that tab-swtiching, "omg no one has an attention span any more," share on facebook thing. Real life competes for our attention in the same ways, and that's bad for us too, but my oh my does the internet dial that cacophony up to eleven.

The ending continues like that and is kind of insulting to boot:
Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.
People were on the internet and shaping it long before this article was posted. Some people even did a pretty bang up job with their own little corners, and those corners are worth spending time in.

oh god I'm late for work
posted by postcommunism at 6:16 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like the data here is pretty bad, but this does resonate with a certain percentage of how I use the internet. It seems like I spend a huge part of my day half glancing at items that hold my interest for about a second and aren't even particularly interesting for that second. It forces me to divide my attention so many times that it actually gives me a headache, makes me less productive, and less happy, but I can't really stop. Every few weeks I vow that I'm not going to do this at work, but it never holds up. It does feel like an addiction and it's not good for me, even if it's not likely to make me psychotic.

Having re-read this, I'm pretty sure it's not the internet that's making me this way, it's pretty much just Reddit. On the other hand, puppies.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:17 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only thing about the Internet that makes me nuts is all the people typing in l33tspeak.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 AM on July 12, 2012


"Web use often displaces sleep, exercise, and face-to-face exchanges, all of which can upset even the chirpiest soul."

This is web /abuse/, not web /use/. Of course doing something so that you get less sleep, exercise or human contact leads to problems, including things like honest-to-god depression. There are thousands of hours of studies that indicate that already. It isn't what you would call "news."

This is the problem with any study that wants to hook up specific, though varied, human activity and concrete results.

I mean, there are studies that show intelligent people (however that is measured) are likely to be more depressed and anxious.

Well, no fucking surprises there. The more you know, and the more you grok how fucked the world is, the more it's going to be hard to be "chirpy" innit?
posted by clvrmnky at 6:19 AM on July 12, 2012


*makes steadfast resolution, logs out*
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:27 AM on July 12, 2012


*logs back in*
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:27 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


...you can log out?
posted by The Whelk at 6:39 AM on July 12, 2012


I tried to log out once. When I moved off campus in undergrad I didn't buy internet. I meant to read for my thesis like a hermit. As it turned out, if I positioned everything just right I could latch on to a weak trickle of someone's unsecured wireless. Cue nights of waiting slowly for pages to load and careful consideration of which tab to f5 and when.

By the second semester I gave up, bought internet, and just spent more time in the library.
posted by postcommunism at 6:52 AM on July 12, 2012


you can log out any time you want but you can never leave.
posted by The Whelk at 6:58 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The horseless carriage is making people insane. Look at them. Thick gloves, goggles, leather coat and hat jammed on tight. Covered in road dust and soot. What sane human allows their person to become so filthy? They could ride in a carriage like clean civilized people. Yet they choose to behave as barbarians. Sheer lunacy. Our society is doomed!
posted by Splunge at 7:12 AM on July 12, 2012


Actually we are still dealing with many of the problems that arose as a result of mass car ownership! Maybe the world would be a better place if we had seriously considered them instead of mocking them when they were first brought up.
posted by cdward at 7:16 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I can't open the full article here at work, but...

Did this article or these studies account for the possibility that, perhaps, people with anxiety/depression/psychoses are more likely to use electronic media in every element of their personal lives because it gives them more control, whereas people without these disorders may not feel uncomfortable with the lack of control that comes with face-to-face interaction?

I find it hard to believe that the internet is causing psychotic disorders - though the idea of people being addicted to electronic media makes perfect sense (the now-outdated Crackberry, anyone?).

As a final note: There are more people with mental disorders in cities for two main reasons (and a host of lesser reasons): The population in cities is much denser, and the availability and proximity of care makes it easier for these disorders to be diagnosed. There is little to no evidence that being in a city causes mental disorders of any kind.
posted by Urban Winter at 7:29 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh, I hate fearmongering, especially when it relates to mental health. "...even outright psychotic!" is a bull-baiting red flag. Thanks for perpetuating stereotypes and vague allusions to SCARY CRAZY PEOPLE, Newsweek. /grar
posted by catlet at 7:30 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be honest, I've been super busy in real life and have had to pretty much give up on social media—and I feel a lot better. But I'm just one man with a computing engine. Also, that's not to say that I don't use the internet - it just taught me how to fix my Wii!

Anyway, I think there are a lot of people taking it too far - I see couples walking down the street texting other people instead of talking to each other. I see young people constantly obsessing about their social media status instead of being present in the moment. That's the biggest harm that I've seen -- some people are just not present, because they prioritize the pull of social media over the value of real live interaction. That's not psychotic, it's just rude.
posted by Mister_A at 7:37 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the article itself is horrible pop science trash, but the concept resonated with me.

It was 1998. I was socially awkward, self-conscious about my appearance, and hearing-impaired (still am the latter). In-person group activities were painful for me. When I discovered Internet chatrooms, it was an epiphany. It didn't matter what I looked like, that I couldn't hear them, that my speech was hard to understand. I'd always been a better writer than speaker anyway.

I spent the majority of my non-class, non-sleeping hours online for four years. Not all, but enough that I was ashamed. I don't believe it caused my depression; it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario but I was depressed long before I discovered the Internet. Rather, it enabled it. (I also started drinking due to the shame.)

I could not quit - I got rid of the computer in my dorm room, but then I spent long hours at the library. I convinced myself it was too difficult to write papers there, so I got another PC for my room. And the downward slide began again. A friend told me that if I wasn't careful, my only friend would be Windows 98. That comment stung like you wouldn't believe. But it became true. People stopped inviting me to things because they knew I'd demur in favor of that glowing screen.

I graduated and moved back to my home city, I still had the computer for months but I resisted getting Internet service and I rarely used anyone else's. I read so many books, went on so many bike rides, took so many pictures in that time. (I still didn't have many friends, but whatever.) I called it taking refuge in the tangible, a nod to my spirituality.

But then I talked myself into getting cable internet. It was already installed! I was making good money! I was missing out by not being online! I wasted another year of my life. I think what saved me was meeting my husband (online, natch). I stopped needing to be validated by those faceless people in chatrooms. I had things to do and places to go.

I'm still online a lot, as you can see on mefi and Twitter. Maybe too much. Maybe I still have a tiny need to be validated by you all. I'm still struggling for balance a little, but I'm nowhere near where I was and I no longer have that crushing sense of shame.

A lot of you are being snarky and dismissive about this article, and it does have many flaws, but there are absolutely people for whom it rings true. People who are reading this right now. I encourage you not to add to their sense of shame by telling them they can just log off and walk away - you wouldn't say that to a drug addict who needed rehab. It is that easy, but it's also really, really hard. I've had to face a lot of inner demons to make my peace with this glowing rectangle. I hope some of you can do the same.
posted by desjardins at 7:39 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Like another poster, I especially loved the mom-shaming. Oh NO, a mother got TENSE while BREASTFEEDING. Now her CHILD will SUFFER! It's like we're back in the days when seeing something traumatic while pregnant was supposed to be the reason for deformities.

What if the mom were reading an article about a tragedy in Newsweek instead? She'd get tense! Clearly, breastfeeding women should never, ever read Newsweek.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe too much. Maybe I still have a tiny need to be validated by you all.

I snark because I can totally relate & I make fun of my own minor internet addiction. Favorites & re-tweets are like crack pellets. Walking away makes me cranky and lonely sometimes, even though my IRL life is full of goodness. I can see that the glowing rectangle does something to my dopamine centers too, or at least it feels that way.

All that's balanced out though, by the actual good things the internet brings, like the actual awesome people from far away I'd never know otherwise & art & knowledge & general hilarity.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2012


It's like we're back in the days when seeing something traumatic while pregnant was supposed to be the reason for deformities.

Or Dianetics, where the reason everyone is crazy except Scientologists who have given over their money and minds to Hubbard is because they overheard people saying ugly things while they were in utero. And of course, clams.
posted by Foosnark at 7:58 AM on July 12, 2012


Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
posted by Melismata at 7:59 AM on July 12, 2012


The internet's like a lot of things; it's great as long as you don't overdo it. The problem is that like, say, slot machines, it's increasingly set up to ensure that a lot of people can't *not* overdo it. I don't own a smartphone for this reason; it's nice to not even have the option to go online when I'm not at home or at work.

My main problem with the Internet these days is the seeming loss of in-the-moment connection it seems to propagate. The other day my girlfriend and I were out at a restaurant and seated next to us were a college age couple on a date. Maybe it was just a lousy date, but they both spent most of the hour constantly checking their phones and texting instead of, you know, talking to each other. I see the same sort of thing with groups of kids out at bars, and it makes me kind of sad.
posted by DJ 3000 at 8:03 AM on July 12, 2012


they both spent most of the hour constantly checking their phones and texting instead of, you know, talking to each other.

Maybe they were texting each other! (I have actually done this, in loud bars, or where I was seated some distance from a friend.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:16 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to say, sometimes I'm online and I do get this gross, slimy feeling and then I realize I've inadvertently clicked on a link to the Daily Beast (More from The Beast: Octomom: I'm not a Creep!)
posted by nanojath at 8:35 AM on July 12, 2012


Has anyone written about this in a non-dismissive, non-hysterical fashion? It seems to me that there is room to explore the notion that many people do develop obsessive habits centered on the internet, without declaring it the end of the world (obviously on balance the internet *is* a good thing) or simply waving it off (obviously many people report relief and relaxation at being away from the internet, like me).
posted by louie at 8:41 AM on July 12, 2012


If anyone wants to skip the handwringing, the anecdotes of smartphone users bemoaning their compulsion, and the putdowns of "puckish" web boosters, start at the second to last paragraph of page three, right under the link to another Beast article called "Octomom: I'm not a creep!"

I would like to nominate the above paragraph for some sort of "Most Cyberpunk Passage If It Had Been Written in 1992" award. It is thoroughly awesome.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:47 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


obviously on balance the internet *is* a good thing

This kind of pro-internet assumption is just as kneejerk as any anti-internet hysteria.
posted by cdward at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Also true of books, btw. Probably nothing has driven as many people nuts as the Bible.)

Nor offered so much salvation. Such is all media, best understood in terms of weather. That is, its myriad and complex impacts can be forecast but not predicted. Because it's essentially a chaotic system. Everything affects everything, and not necessarily for the worst.

I was much crazier before the internet.

That was me last night, on my way to bed. Offered as an easy laugh (for some anyway). Yet I stand by it. Because before the internet (for me, that would be up to the early 90s), the info-sphere was still chaotic, just like weather. Except then I had no meaningful play in it all. I just had to shut up, accept what was being vomited forth, maybe hide under the bed if it was too much. But even that didn't stop the grim headlines, the AWFUL music on ALL the radio stations, the AWFUL TV shows (and worse, the slime jammed between them -- the advertising).

Now at least, I can fire something of my own back (just fill in a text box, hit POST), and I can fine-tune my own particular mix of incoming NOISE (filter through a multitude of music-movie-everything-else options). And so on. I vastly prefer this magnitudes-bigger-yet-smaller world that the internet offers me to what preceded it. And so does my psyche.
posted by philip-random at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2012


Is the Web Driving Us Mad?

yes. bring back gopher.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2012


I admit that I only skimmed TFA because of my anti-Newsweek bias (former subscriber, tired of their OMG SCARED and JESUS! cover stories). Most of the stories look like things we've covered here with a big CHANGE IS BAD slapped on.

Yeah, many of us are addicted, and we're definitely offloading some tasks to external devices, and probably even changing the way our brain works, but the pejorative description ("driving crazy") is just dumb. We're in the middle of a technological revolution. DUH it changes the way we live and think, and has a downside. To quote an old phrase losing its meaning in the internet age, film at 11.
posted by immlass at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2012


Dropped in to make things worse by linking to a related and somewhat hilarious list on another addictive site. I feel awful for this, but maybe it will help us all realize how bad it has gotten.
posted by TreeRooster at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2012


That list in full:

“Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

“Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”

“Is Pinterest Making Us Blind?”

“Is the Kindle Making Us Illiterate?”

“Are Houses Making Us Homeless?”

“Is This Dress Making Us Look Fat?”

“Are Paperweights Making Our Papers Fly Away?”

“Is Mom Making Us Dinner Tonight?”

“Are Inner Tubes Making Us Sink?”

“Is Artisanal Coffee Making Us Douchebags?”


Definite yes to the last one.
posted by philip-random at 10:19 AM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Look, this article seems pretty legit.

I mean, it took years of therapy to finally recover from being Blinded by SCIENCE, so hey, there might be something to this, except for one thing: no catchy name, or acronym.

How about:

HTTP - Human/Technology Telepresence Psychosis?

TCPIP - Technology Cyber Psychosis / Internet Psychosis?

IPDOTCOM - Internet Psychosis Disorder Or Multiple Community Otherness Malignment

If you're going to write a 'oooooh, scary thing's gonna getcha' article' you gotta give it a catchy name.
posted by chambers at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2012


Had a recent bout of no-internet for a month a couple of months ago, communication snafu with the local internet company. I mean, sure, I missed the instant gratification of the slew of art posts I followed on tumblr and such, but mostly it was just bloody inconvenient.

I don't have a smartphone. Neither does DH.

DH: Wanna order pizza?
Me: From where?
DH: Did they deliver a phone book?
Me: Nope.

DH has always made fun of my ghost in the shell augmented reality way of living, where everything is online. The phone is Voip, the bills are electronic, and if I want something from the store I check to see if they actually have what I want first. Though I won't be surprised if the internet is addictive - anything can be addictive. Books, anime, tv shows, video games, jogging - some have better side effects than others.

As for "big city has higher incidence of psychosis" really? I just moved away from a small town - how about higher incidence of violent crime, domestic abuse, and substance abuse? Having lived in a city all my life, moving to a prairie small town was an eye-opener.

The part of the internet that they insist is additive is a very narrow portion, namely the follow / add / like / kudos culture that is social networking, and how it can exacerbate or CREATE social anxiety disorder where there was none. Considering that ppl with SAD are more likely to find themselves home alone making friends in a virtual community, this article doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know.

Anyway, article: too many anecdotes and isolated incidents mention in passing. Not enough peer-reviewed papers to go with it.
posted by Sallysings at 10:54 AM on July 12, 2012


A lot of you are being snarky and dismissive about this article, and it does have many flaws, but there are absolutely people for whom it rings true.

I have to agree with this statement. The people who have benefited from the Internet are countering with anecdotal evidence or just defensively dismissing any claim that the Internet may not be entirely good. This kind of reaction is also seen when there's an article about China's economy is posted (not surprisingly, the Newsweek article about the Web does feature China as a leader in using harsh methods in curing Web addiction) and the knee-jerk reaction is to provide anecdotal evidence that China is bad or just to start wanting tariffs or environmental regulations, while ignoring that there's a country of more than a billion that has raised more than 300 million people from poverty to middle class. For most of those people, China's rise has been good, and they would no doubt react pretty snarky and dismissive if they read an article poo-pooing China's growth.
posted by FJT at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


looking at photos of "the best party eva" has almost nothing to do with being physically present at said party (which was fun but honestly was not the best ever).

And that party was not what it would have been if someone hadn’t been filming the "best party eva" show.
posted by bongo_x at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2012


The people who have benefited from the Internet are countering with anecdotal evidence or just defensively dismissing any claim that the Internet may not be entirely good

I am large, I contain multitudes. I picked the "kill the internet" ending in the original Deus Ex.
posted by postcommunism at 11:40 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just realized that for the last week I have not has more than 10 minutes a day of face to face conversations, have not done my laundry, fell behind on my job, have ridden more buses than bikes. All so that I can compulsively be reading media and Reddit and science blogs and stupid videos.

I have has delivery pizza in from of the computer for dinner and breakfast almost every day.

Maybe it is only me, but the web makes it very easy to not make an effort ans become isolated and sad.

Deleting my accounts right now.

So long and thanks for all the bits.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 11:47 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


But in fact these users don’t exactly want to be so connected. It’s not quite free choice that drives most young corporate employees (45 and under) to keep their BlackBerrys in the bedroom within arms’ reach, per a 2011 study;

As an ever-growing number of people get rid of land lines, it could be, perhaps, that they keep the phone on the bedside table to be able to make or receive a phone call, just as they did in the "before-times", when most people had a phone in the bedroom.

or free choice, per another 2011 study, that makes 80 percent of vacationers bring along laptops or smartphones so they can check in with work while away;

In the "before-times", we had things like answering services (abused by Tony Roberts in Woody Allen's “Play it again Sam”), voicemail, pagers, whatever. This is really not that different.

or free choice that leads smartphone users to check their phones before bed, in the middle of the night, if they stir, and within minutes of waking up.
Many people like to read before going to bed, why not read a book or surf the web with your phone?

Yes, there can be addiction to the internet and connectivity, and our brains are being rewired. This is not that scary. We're adapting, that's what humans do. If there were studies done at the beginning of agriculture, I'm sure the hunter-gatherers would see the first farmers as insane people obsessed with seeds, rainfall, star positions, and creating tiny rivers for no reason other than to get their precious seeds wet.

Obviously, those first farmers were suffering from a disorder.

What if we lose all the technology somehow? Humans do what they always do, adapt or die. Fortunately, our brains are decently good at this.

Really, this fear/concern mongering angle is ridiculous. Research it , study it , of course, but this kind of reporting (albeit this one is better than most conern-mongering articles) should really be discouraged.
posted by chambers at 12:04 PM on July 12, 2012


I used to be crazy, but I'm not like that anymore.

No.

I am better now.

Yes.
posted by mule98J at 12:21 PM on July 12, 2012


Has anyone written about this in a non-dismissive, non-hysterical fashion?

I suspect that if one decided to look at the research the article is based on, it might be less hysterically worded. In any case, article interested me enough that I will try and run down the original studies. *insert grumble about why science reporting is often so very bad*

Yes, there can be addiction to the internet and connectivity, and our brains are being rewired. This is not that scary. We're adapting, that's what humans do. If there were studies done at the beginning of agriculture, I'm sure the hunter-gatherers would see the first farmers as insane people obsessed with seeds, rainfall, star positions, and creating tiny rivers for no reason other than to get their precious seeds wet.

Wouldn't the danger be that the development of agriculture took a long time and thus those changes could be better absorbed than now, when the pace of change has sped up vastly, making it harder for social structures to absorb the change or adapt? The analogy with the rise of the car as a main source of transport in some places, given above, might be a better one. Yes, the car brought a lot of good things, but we're now dealing with some unforeseen consequences of embracing it as an unqualified good and allowing it to guide how we planned cities and communities. It would be nice if sometimes we learned from our mistakes and did not allow the lure of the new to overwhelm all other considerations. Or even stop us from being occasionally critical. And I say this as someone who sleeps with her ipad beside her bed and who uses it to read the newspapers before I get out of bed.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2012


Does activity X tend to trigger a release of dopamine? If so, some people are probably addicted to activity X.

I'm not saying this to dismiss or shame people fall into that category with regard to the internet. It's just that this article and countless others like it about other subjects all pretty much boil down to this simple point, and I wish journalists writing about addictive behaviors would tone down the hysterical moralizing hyperbole.

I suppose what's potentially interesting about subjects like these is why certain kinds of people and/or cultures might get addicted to one type of dopamine reward behavior as opposed to others, but then I suspect reading hysterically moralizing and over-generalized articles and headlines (either to be frightened by them or to get angry at them) can also trigger a release a dopamine, so there you go.
posted by treepour at 12:35 PM on July 12, 2012


Has anyone written about this in a non-dismissive, non-hysterical fashion?

The books cited in the article may be somewhat less histrionic than the article. I actually want to follow up and read at least one of the books.

There's a better article lurking in here somewhere amidst all the OMGZ!!!!! and SHIT THE TUBES IS KILLING US ALL MAN!!!!! To me, it's not hard to see that people are inordinately attached to all their little gizmos, myself included. When I'm on the bus and look out the window and watch people walking along the sidewalk not paying attention to anything around them, their heads buried in their smartphones, or when I look up and see four out of five people on the bus caressing their devices like lovers, it does make me wonder. That quote from someone in the article who said that he felt like the real world was basically just another open browser window, and "usually not the best one," really struck me, not because there's anything intrinsic to the internet that has made me feel disconnected from the real world, but because there have been times when I've (consciously) permitted the internet to exacerbate my own personal (pre-existing) tendency to absent myself from the present and the here-and-now.

I don't know if being of the age to remember a time when the internetz hadn't attained critical mass is an advantage, but it does remind me of both the awful and the good aspects of an more-than-occasional return to the non-connected, non-networked life, even controlling for the whole nostalgic fallacy aspect.

I know that the internet has changed my life in many ways for the better, but I also know, more and more, that's there's truth to the notion that de-coupling myself from it on a regular basis may probably result in a net improvement in my health, or at least increase the hours of sleep I get, or at least get me to read more of those goddamn books that keep piling up on my nightstand and on my hard drive.
posted by blucevalo at 12:54 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two things have resulted from being connected to the web:

My daily book quota has dropped.

My huge 5" thick Webster's Dictionary has been removed from my desk and now sits gathering dust on the shelf.

Curse you, intarwebs!

FIRE NOT BAD! FIRE FRIEND!

Well, considering that the discovery of fire could be eventually linked to the discovery of nuclear energy, who knows where this whole online thingie will end. It's like a hydrogen bomb for my mind.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:59 PM on July 12, 2012


Things the Internet is bad for:

Pets


This is certainly true. My cat was stuck in that scanner for days before he chewed his leg off, and the bonsai kitten didn't work out so well, either.

Then there's that whole AskMe cat thing...
posted by BlueHorse at 1:03 PM on July 12, 2012


I don't know if my 35 yr old mother of two daughter spends her work day texting but she spends every moment I'm around her texting.

I haven't said anything. I may not.
posted by wrapper at 1:14 PM on July 12, 2012


"It sounds hyperbolic, it sounds morbid, it sounds dramatic, but in choosing the internet I am choosing not to be a certain sort of alive. Days seem over before they even begin, and I have nothing to show for myself other than the anxious feeling that I now know just enough to engage in conversations I don’t care about."
-from Sad as Hell by Alice Gregory
posted by perhapses at 2:39 PM on July 12, 2012


Does activity X tend to trigger a release of dopamine? If so, some people are probably addicted to activity X.

This is absolutely true and the mechanism of addiction is pretty much the same whether the drug of choice is actually a drug or a behavior. I have gotten a lot of benefit out of reading AA materials even though I'm not an alcoholic. The trouble starts when it becomes escapism instead of just entertainment and pleasure.

Ayn Rand & God, I wish you the best and I'm glad you've realized what you needed to do. If you ever want to talk, add "mme" to the front of my username and I'm on gmail.
posted by desjardins at 3:05 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Ayn Rand & God, I wish you the best and I'm glad you've realized what you needed to do. If you ever want to talk, add "mme" to the front of my username and I'm on gmail.

And so shines a good deed in a naughty world (to borrow from Shakespeare). Like all things, the Internet is both good and evil... I'd like to think Metafilter tends to serve as one of its ballasts, especially for those smart enough to seek it out.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:29 PM on July 12, 2012


Actually... I have seen babies, even small, week old babies, looking upset, and trying to attract their mothers attention while they are feeding, while their mothers are ignoring them in favour of the phone/etc.

Eye contact with a baby, demonstrates to the baby that an adult is paying attention to it, and it'll probably make it to adulthood. In a completely unsubstantiated personal observation, it's right up there behind skin contact - and uh, you know that babies die if they don't get skin contact, right? Mortality rates go right up. They can be warm, fed, clean, and they'll still die.
Because millions of years of evolution are giving them all the cues that this probably isn't worth surviving, as you don't have an adult, and therefore you're just a drain on your genetic parents who might have more resources next time round - and survival of the fittest is a misnomer, it's not survival of the individual, it's survival of the genes. If you carry a gene that makes it more likely you'll have more surviving siblings, even if it is personally detrimental, that'll still spread.


Back to eyecontact:
When I'm holding babies myself, or around friends with babies, I generally stare at the baby while talking to the other adults (and vice versa - whoever is holding the baby, does the eye contact while carrying on the conversation/meaningless babble as far as the baby is concerned). Chills them right out.

The factor here, is it is the mother apparently ignoring the baby that is the problem.
However, the medium is a problem too. Mediums that make it far easier to ignore your baby, are obviouslygoing to make this more of a problem. It's much harder to hold a book or magazine than to stare at a phone or a tv.

But, is this the cause of the issue? No, I think the fact that mothers are bored witless enough that they crave the phone, tv, etc, is entirely reasonable, and a byproduct of the modern scenario of single or dual parents (if you're lucky - and I'm talking about actual parental care, not economic support) trying to look after infants by themselves, rather than in larger groups of parents/mothers/aunty figures common to most pre-industrial cultures, where they can talk, work with, and rotate care of the baby around.

It's a knotted string problem - multiple problems/knots combining.
posted by Elysum at 4:36 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


arguments about this article's tone aside the internet, especially as it has become in the past few years, is probably not an unalloyed good and I am not actually talking about the 'crazy people'/weirdos/whatever, who are the least of our problems if problems at all

@postcommunism
Boards for common hates?

hey, CommonHates "dot com" is a... we're a... we've chan- I-
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:09 PM on July 12, 2012


Well, the fact that enough people become defensive over a trivial article does tend to lend at least a bit of credence to their argument.

There are few things that are wholly good or wholly bad. Or, wholly beneficial or wholly harmful, if you will. The internet is definitely one HUGE grey area. If one is old enough to have lived in a time before the internet and cellphones (and other modern technologies), before being inexorably ensnared in the internet, I think it's easier to see a disconnection between the eras before and after the internet being a daily necessity. Perhaps (?) those are the people who would have the greatest insight on the pros and cons of our society which is, I completely believe, less connected as we have become more 'connected.' In other words, while Newsweek and other mainstream media will use their scaremongering tactics to make us obsess over whether we're sick or whether we're normal, I think there is justifiable basis to this article. I've certainly been internet addicted, and, I can say that generally I feel worse for wear being online after all these years. And I see these so-called symptoms in other people I interact with online and our society, in general.. so, yeah, I wouldn't poo-poo this article totally. Really.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:34 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic.

I've got the makings of a good Bingo card here. I suffer from depression and ADHD, and I have Tourette's (which is considered part of the O/C spectrum). No anxiety or psychosis, though, unless you count some early horrible side-effects of the drugs for what I do have.

There's little doubt in my mind that the internet can exacerbate some of these things, and mitigate some of them as well. However, I'm extremely skeptical that we can establish causal relationships between a bunch of disorders we've barely begun to understand within the last 25 years, and a completely unprecedented form of human communication that's only been popular for 15.

I'd be a juicy statistic for these studies, no doubt. Of course, they wouldn't explain how my dad ended up with OCD and Tourette's as well, but fortunately they don't have to worry about that datum confounding their conclusions. You see, he was never formally diagnosed, because mental illness was something people Didn't Have in our family. I was, because I was lucky enough to have access to a broad network of people and information to help me put names to the things I was going through.

In case the above is too subtle: I probably would've had these disorders anyway. The internet helped me get diagnosed. To a lot of these studies, though, my experience would be indistinguishable from "The internet caused my Tourette's and ADHD and depression."
posted by my name is irl at 8:54 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


U mad bro?
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on July 14, 2012


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