Lost Souls
June 26, 2008 2:24 AM   Subscribe

The relationship is with the computer. It becomes a significant other to them.

Maybe they didn't think that all the way through.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:37 AM on June 26, 2008

posted by davemee at 2:52 AM on June 26, 2008 [10 favorites]

The Swedish report is a bit misleading chuckdarwin. Here is the original report (in Swedish of course.)

The report indicates that of 1895 IT related calls from children, the breakdown was:

Relations with other children - 47%
Handling and Use of IT - 39%
Bullying, threats 15 %
Physical Health 12%
Sexual related 10%
Parent's IT use 5,5%
Other 6,5%
Related to violence 4,0%
Picutes and films 7,7%
Anonymity 8,4%
Security and protection 7,1%

Children's concern over parent's IT use seems to be pretty minor. They're way more worried about how to use the damn thing themselves.

That being said, my 2 year old often seems to ask me "pappa, tittar du på den blåa skärmen igen?" (Daddy, are you looking at the blue screen again?)

The major point of the report:

"Vuxna är idag väldigt sällsynta i barn och ungas vardag på nätet och när vuxna väl engagerar sig, skapar närvaron mest konflikter med de unga."

Adults are today very rarely seen in children's daily internet activities and when they well decide to get engaged, adults create mostly conflicts with their children.

There's the lesson for us adults.
posted by three blind mice at 2:53 AM on June 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

Thanks, three blind mice!
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:05 AM on June 26, 2008

Cheers chuckdarwin.

I'm wondering if Dr Jerald Block has actually every used a computer. He says of these "addicts" that their "reationship is with the computer." Yeah, right.

Here's a simple scientific test Dr Block: unplug the Ethernet cable and see how long your test subjects interact with "the computer."
posted by three blind mice at 3:13 AM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

sounds like another good reason not to have children.

*hugs den blåa skärmen*
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:17 AM on June 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

Daddy, are you looking at the blue screen again?

It was you all right!
I learned it from watching you!
posted by brevator at 3:33 AM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

I'm sure that if you unplugged WoW from the internet, internet addiction would shoot way way down.
posted by Vindaloo at 4:18 AM on June 26, 2008

Frankly, anyone can be worried about anybody's internet habits these days. Sometimes I have to be sure I am paying attention to catch family talking at me while I am reading internet articles or something attention hungry of that nature. I also end up on the flip side of that scenario every once in a while where I talk to someone who is on the compy and get nothing back until I somehow get their attention. Both scenarios may arouse a bit of crankiness of varying levels.

It is, in short, a scary reality that does need to change, rather quickly too (IMHO).
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:25 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think it's the Culture of Distraction, full stop. Everything in First World life is designed to distract us from reality.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:31 AM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

I wonder what the Internet addiction clinic gives you instead of methadone? Nintendo DS? Blackberry? Copy of Wankers' Weekly?
posted by Phanx at 4:48 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm sure that if you unplugged WoW from the internet, internet addiction would shoot way way down.

WoW is basically a giant slot machine. It's designed to do that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:10 AM on June 26, 2008

On the other hand, you don't look quite so weird as you used to drinking, staring into space and ignoring the people you love, so it does provide a bit of cover for a failed life. Thanks, Internet.
posted by Abiezer at 5:10 AM on June 26, 2008 [5 favorites]

pappa, tittar du på den blåa skärmen igen?

Another satisfied Windows user!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:27 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

In 1993 when I began recovering from alcoholism, the Internet, or more particularly the web, was just beginning to get rolling. It really seemed a suitable replacement for my addiction as it was able to keep me occupied for hours without end. The Internet helped save my life so to speak. I've even become used to the pernicious tick on the left side of my face, the way my foot taps the floor incessantly, the bloated bladder from never going to the bathroom, the voice inside my head screaming "must refresh MeFi", "must refresh MeFi" at all hours. Yes, the Internet has been a life saver for me.
posted by netbros at 5:27 AM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

Rather than having sex, or arguing with their wife or husband, or feeding their children, these adults are playing games..."

He would rather then argue with their spouse then play games?
posted by delmoi at 5:35 AM on June 26, 2008

on the compy

The "compy"? Is this a personal/family term, or a local usage? LANGUAGEHAT MUST KNOW!
posted by languagehat at 5:55 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

The earliest use of "compy" that I know of is Strongbad's formidable PC...surely someone can beat that.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:01 AM on June 26, 2008

Ummm.... So, I'm supposed to be all "ZOMG teh Internets is ruining society" because there's a tiny minority of twerps who ignore their families in favor of their internet buddies? I'm thinking no.

languagehat I've mostly heard "compy" from high school and younger kids, mostly female, mostly with the uber cute complex going for them. That and a few 1337 script kiddies. My data is from Amarillo TX and Pittsburgh PA.
posted by sotonohito at 6:03 AM on June 26, 2008

Begin the countdown to drugs aimed at treating internet addiction. Mark my words, they're coming.
posted by aramaic at 6:18 AM on June 26, 2008

Thanks, sotonohito. I'd never heard it before. I guess it was an inevitable shortening; I'll try to get used to it.
posted by languagehat at 6:21 AM on June 26, 2008

three blind mice: Here's a simple scientific test Dr Block: unplug the Ethernet cable and see how long your test subjects interact with "the computer."

It is common on the Internet that when we discuss some scientific study, some people will point out immediate obvious flaws that naturally the researchers thought of and accounted for.

This time, however, tbm's comment basically slays the dragon. You should get to walk to this "Dr." Block and remove his academic credentials.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 6:24 AM on June 26, 2008

Dont dismiss internet addiction. Its as real as anything. I had it and its terrible.

Wow addiction doubly so. I really feel sorry for kids with "cool parents" who spend their days and nights grinding up an elf. I guess thats slightly better than being in the casino all day.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:39 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's 'puter in my house, also a verb as in "You can watch Big Brother if you really want to: I'm going to go and pute".
posted by Phanx at 6:40 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

WoW is basically a giant slot machine. It's designed to do that.

I've never played slots. Do they make you want to slam your head against a concrete wall repeatedly at times?

WoW is totally addictive if you have friends that play or are really close with your guildies. It's even worse if you're one of those people that cannot say no to people. And lord help you if you're a tank, because no one is ever going to let you log off. Daily quests kind of compound the issue. You have to log on every day or you're effectively losing money.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know if WoW made me depressed or if it gave me purpose while I was depressed and unemployed. I started playing when I was horribly depressed with a full-blown case of PTSD. Also my now-fiance was going to school across the country and we could play together. After graduation I moved to a city where I knew practically no one so we could be together. I ran home from work to raid Molten Core (it was like a second job I didn't get paid for). A couple months later I got laid off from my job, but at least I was well-liked on the Internets!! (and I met with guildies offline a few times). I'd wake up at noon, play all day, raid a bit, go to bed, rinse, repeat. Our apartment was a mess. I eventually joined a guild I hated because I wanted to see new content and I ended up drinking every night because 90% of the people hated me ("you get raid invites because you're a girl!" "no, actually I get invites because I'm one of 3 tanks on this server"). I am actually so thin-skinned that I ended up crying about this a lot; I freak out when people don't like me.

I quit for a few months when we moved back home, but I found a job and could hold down a social life, so I started paying for my account again. I think the only reason I have a healthy relationship with the game now is because I work too damn much. Oh, and I'm not taking Effexor anymore, so sometimes I have the motivation to get off the couch.

I really hope if this does end up in the new DSM that therapists will work to have a legitimate understanding of the situation. I always told my doctor, "I think I spend too much of my day playing video games, but I don't really want to stop because I have nothing better to do with my time and it's the only good thing I have going for me right now" and he told me to find another hobby, as though knitting would satisfy me in the same way. I like knitting and all, but it never made me feel needed or well-liked.

It's actually too bad that I'm interested in going back to school for pharmacology, because it would be totally cool to be a therapist that deals with video game/internet addiction. Though I must admit, as much as I do vaguely understand the whole "crackberry" phenomenon (I work with a guy who pulled out his blackberry while he was out to dinner with his wife.. for his 20th anniversary), I don't see how it could be nearly as destructive as the other two subtypes. Maybe it's because I don't have one. Would someone care to shed some light?
posted by giraffe at 6:42 AM on June 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

The whole "crackberry" thing, at least for me, has been a combination of a desire to be connected with my peers as well as a sort of muted workaholism that leaves me responding to work related queries at times when I should be ignoring the heck out of them. Dealing with it is accomplished largely by setting boundaries for work that others may not cross, and being comfortable enough with one's own work and the results of it that those boundaries can exist without the need to appear to compensate by being always available.
posted by perianwyr at 6:56 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a simple scientific test Dr Block: unplug the Ethernet cable and see how long your test subjects interact with "the computer."

Oh, please, don't quibble about semantics, particularly with respect to an article written in a foreign language. People get hooked on "TV" all the time, no one says "unplug the cable and see how long your test subjects interact with "the TV"".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:59 AM on June 26, 2008

Metafilter: please don't quibble about semantics.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:23 AM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

This is bogus. Internet and tv "addicts" will still have a problem if they unplug. For the DSM to be useful and relevent, we need to identify causes rather than symptoms.
posted by ewkpates at 7:24 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Confession: I'm addicted to books. Family members sometimes have difficulty gaining my attention when I'm deeply absorbed. Occasionally I even sneak off to the spare room to indulge my filthy habit in solitude. Recently I've amped it up to socializing with other book addicts, closing ourselves off from the rest of the world every few weeks just to talk about our shameful books.

However, to be clear, it's really just the black bits on the pages I'm addicted to. I've tried those blank books they have, and they don't really do it for me. INK! I NEED THE INK!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:24 AM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

Here's a simple scientific test Dr Block: unplug the Ethernet cable and see how long your test subjects interact with "the computer."
posted by three blind mice at 6:13 AM on June 26

Technically speaking, you've correctly identified the problem, i.e. that the computer is enabling social interactions that some users are not otherwise able to have.

A habit or pastime rises to the level of a disorder when it interferes with your life or inhibits your growth. If someone is unable to form deep and lasting social attachments in the real world, but does so on the computer, the computer (the internet, whatever) will prevent them from ever overcoming whatever problem is inhibiting them in real life. This is the very definition of the problem.

Much like an alcoholic might think they are a social drinker because they only drink in bars or parties, you could test them by asking them if they'd go to a bar or a party that had no booze.

There is a lot of denial among "geeks" for whom the physical isolation but illusion of social connectedness offered by the internet/online games has made them feel empowered and/or socially capable when they otherwise were not. I will throw myself in with this group, as I recognize that I spent way too much time on the computer a few years ago when I should have been doing other things. I also recognize that I used to deny that I had this problem, when it was laughably obvious to everyone else. Since then, I've taken steps necessary to limit my reliance on the technology as a means for forging social connections and avoiding/escaping criticism.

But this denial is manifestly real and a very powerful and destructive thing. In many people, the denial has taken what was otherwise slow or delayed social development from the teen years and brought that development to a complete halt. These users who find themselves able to make connections online but not in real life should ask themselves what it is about real life that makes it difficult, and what it is about being online that makes it easy.

In addition, they need to recognize that spending hours on the computer is actually harmful to your real life. If there are real people in your life, like a spouse or kids, your time on the computer isn't being spent with them, and that amounts to denying someone else the time and attention they are entitled to.

I can't say whether "internet addiction" is a disorder on par with others in the DSM, but for many people it is a problem, and most of those people are still stuck in the denial phase.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:37 AM on June 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

I'd suggest you unplug the cable if you were trying to argue that the television (meaning the big box of electronics) was the draw, which is kinda how this guy is saying it. I've quit games before and what I miss is the people I was playing with. So, of course, cue the people who you've never actually met in person are somehow not as real as people who are in the same room as you. Uh, sure. So what else isn't real if you've never seen it yourself? How long have you had these feelings? Tell me about your mother....

The other phenomenon, which I'm running into more and more, is that of a parent and child who may be physically separated by work, college or a divorce, or may be in the same room, gaming together on a fairly regular basis. I suspect this will increase as the population of parents becomes one for whom computer games and such have been an always thing.

Finally, who do you think you're kidding Ewkpates! Just throw drugs at the problem. It's a lot less work than fixing things, and besides, more insurance companies will pay for drugs than therapy.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:38 AM on June 26, 2008

"The relationship is with the computer. It becomes a significant other to them."

This is why I make sure to divide my time between two or three machines daily. That way I don't get too emotionally attached to any one device. Though I may be running afoul some bigamy laws.
posted by quin at 7:42 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

There is no problem here. The trick, of course, is to have a large enough food trough for the children.
posted by eurasian at 7:52 AM on June 26, 2008

As far as WoW and slots go, I had an evil thought a year ago...

Slot machines don't, in fact, just take your money. They take it slowly, with spurts of small rewards that make it seem like you might come out ahead. The payout is designed to be around 95%. You lose a few rounds, then win a bit (not quite as much as you lost in the rounds you lost), etc. And, of course, there's always the potential for a big payoff.

The thing is that slot games are completely and utterly boring, push the button watch the symbols spin. No real interaction, but the prospect of a payoff keeps people playing the truly lousy game.

WoW has no payoff, but an interesting enough game mechanic that people play it for hours on end with no payoff.

Combine the two and watch civilization crumble. Make armor and equipment repair cost real money, make the payoff for killing critters be real money. Make the cost of *EVERYTHING* in the game real money. Need a healing potion? That's a buck. Kill a few rats, get a $.05, but the armor repair bill will be $.06... Of course, there's always the possibility you'll kill the rat that pays a few thousand, or few hundred thousand, dollars, just to keep people coming back.
posted by sotonohito at 8:04 AM on June 26, 2008

Naww, the trick here is to just not have children. Thankfully, playing WoW usually takes care of that.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:04 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Why can't parents just go back to drinking Ballantines and smoking DuMauriers? At least you could steal that stuff from them when they weren't looking.
posted by No Robots at 8:06 AM on June 26, 2008

I like knitting and all, but it never made me feel needed or well-liked.

I think the social reinforcement angle of all the internet stuff is really underrepresented in the treatment of these issues, the OMG puter addiction! angle being more headline friendly. I could say a lot more but this three year old won't stop griping for food.
posted by nanojath at 8:21 AM on June 26, 2008

compy is used in england and australia. they tend to shorten things and add a "y"

here's the earliest usage i found (1994)

Strongbad first got his "compy 386" in email 41
posted by bhnyc at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2008

The idea that an "internet addiction" disorder is the reason people ignore their children is idiotic. The fundamental problem is them being a bad parent. Calling bad parenting a video game disorder just makes no practical sense. Will they suddenly be a good parent if they stopped playing WoW? Of course not. It would be like saying someone who drinks too much has a tavern disorder, and that the solution would be to just not go to their favorite bar anymore.

I'm sure I would be a rather crappy parent. I'm selfish with my time, I'm anti-social, and I would much rather play video games than hang out at soccer practice. Unplugging the Internet isn't going to put the tiniest dent in those personality issues and make me a good parent.
posted by Ragma at 8:33 AM on June 26, 2008

I know a father with two teenage sons that plays WoW together and they seem like a healthy family to me. But um, this is only what I've picked up through guild chat and vent. The kids have extracurricular activities besides Warcraft and they're apparently decent students. All three of them are great players and they have a really good work ethic about raiding. It's really sweet, actually.

Now that I think about it, I probably would've turned out a lot better had my parents spent time playing games with me as a kid. Parents, learn to be good at video games and then play with your kids!

I have to disagree about WoW not having a legit payoff. Okay, there's no gold payoff. And Blizzard owns your character and everything in-game, so you really can't get anything tangible out of playing, but I would bet that people in like, Nihilum feel pretty good about themselves when they make a world-first kill. If only everyone could take a week's vacation from work to kill a new boss. If you rock at arena, you can get a super-flashy mount that people will covet and probably never have. It's all a psychological payoff.

Also, I would argue that the social aspect is a big payoff, especially if you're otherwise lacking on the social front. Being a good player who is well-liked is a big check in the positive column for me.

On preview, it's exactly what nanojath said.
posted by giraffe at 8:35 AM on June 26, 2008

I need to not reply while doing 20 other things. I apologize for my completely incoherent response.

In case anyone was worried, I have no children and have no plans to have children. And I don't like gambling.
posted by giraffe at 8:52 AM on June 26, 2008

I use the computer a lot, but then again it has a lot of uses. I use my laptop to talk to my friends back home, catch up on current events, watch TV and movies, play games, write, get music, and see what some of my favorite writers are doing/thinking about, among other things. I am a connected individual, and like the rapid flow of new content from the internet to me. But I don't let it keep me from talking to or hanging out with my friends. If anything, the internet only eases communication with people I already know, rather than causes me to avoid them. Even my mom will get on IM occasionally. I still read for pleasure, although perhaps not as prodigiously as I did earlier, but I think I can chalk that up to college as much as the internet. Maybe I am in denial of internet addiction, but I think it far more likely that I have accepted the internet's place in my life as a tool that facilitates the movement of information between me and the world, not as a replacement for non-electronic interaction. It's preaching to the choir when I say that it's obvious that such acceptance is not yet universal, and that, as ever, a lot of people are afraid of a new medium. I'm sure there will be unbalanced people who will go overboard in their internet use, but damning or fearing the web for that is ridiculous. That rock and roll music, that's the real problem. Luddites.
posted by Muttoneer at 9:04 AM on June 26, 2008

Begin the countdown to drugs aimed at treating internet addiction. Mark my words, they're coming.

Leave the pills, they're for squares. Back in the day, we self-medicated with ma-huang cocktails.
posted by Kinbote at 9:17 AM on June 26, 2008

Whenever I see the word 'compy' I think of these.
posted by quin at 9:45 AM on June 26, 2008

giraffe I meant "no financial payoff", not "no payoff of any sort so why bother playing". Should have been more clear.

I still think that a possible financial payoff in a WoW-like game will produce the end of civilization.
posted by sotonohito at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2008

My very first thought here is what is it that's ON the computer that's the addiction? You're not going to get anywhere trying to address the hunk of plastic and silicon. Anyone who tosses around the term "internet addiction" or "computer addiction" should be chalked up as belonging to the School of Crack Pipe Psychology, because goshdarnit, if you're life is falling apart because you can't lay off the crack pipe, then you must have a crack pipe problem.
posted by crapmatic at 10:06 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's totally a financial payoff if you're willing to sell your account (and don't get caught). But it's probably pretty minimal when you consider how much time you spend leveling and raiding. I have at least 2 years of work invested in my account. So yeah, your point still remains incredibly valid.

I do wonder if gold farmers have ever actually turned a profit.
posted by giraffe at 10:09 AM on June 26, 2008

I'm wondering if Dr Jerald Block has actually every used a computer. He says of these "addicts" that their "reationship is with the computer." Yeah, right.

Here's a simple scientific test Dr Block: unplug the Ethernet cable and see how long your test subjects interact with "the computer."

One of my favorite words is synecdoche.

I don't know enough about DSVM or whatever to declare that internet addiction is a clinical disorder, but I do know that some people spend too much time "on the Internet."

How much is too much? Well, that's the highly subjective rub. When it begins to significantly decrease your quality of life, and yet you continue to do it more and more, that's generally a good qualification of "addiction" for me. (right, right, define "significantly decrease" ...)

And yeah, it is the "content" (for lack of a better word) that's addictive, not the technology per se (although email/social networking addiction might cut both ways). However, the Internet is a very good enabler for porn, gambling, shopping, etc. addicts.

But does an Internet gambling addict need to be classified differently than a gambling addict? Again, dunno, and can't say I care too much.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:13 AM on June 26, 2008

From wiki: He notes that research has shown that up to 86% of study subjects showing IA symptoms also exhibited other diagnosable mental health disorders .

We've discussed this before, and this is the heart of the "issue." Sure if you're already suffering from depression, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, schizo-affective disorder, etc etc, you may be prone to developing an unhealthy relationship with ___________ (which may include the internet). I submit that it's better than developing an actual addiction.
posted by mek at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh thank god! So this means I'm not a problem drinker after all?
posted by giraffe at 11:32 AM on June 26, 2008

I 100% disagree that internet addiction is a fiction and there's only people with addictive personalities. I have no other addiction than my old problem being addicted to MUDs/internet. Its a real discrete thing. I think the addictive personalities canard is a fiction we believe in because its nice to believe that there are some broken people out there but the rest are fine. Actually you have no idea what will make you crazy compulsive until you actually experience it, regardless of your current situation.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:40 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: please don't quibble about semantics.

you *do* realise that the F in filter is supposed to be capitalised, right?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:16 PM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

Perfect UbuRoivas.
posted by Cranberry at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2008

British psychiatrists have previously reported that between five and 10 per cent of online users are internet addicts.

British dietitians have previously reported that between five and 10 per cent of dairy users are cheese addicts.

British advertising executives have previously reported that between five and 10 per cent of sports television users are football addicts.

British cellular industry analysts have previously reported that between five and 10 per cent of cellular users are SMS addicts.

I suspect, given a large enough selection of any group sharing a common interest, a substantial portion of that group will having something approaching an addiction to that thing. This is just people work.

Now that I am done talking about the latest fear, I am going to pop the collar on my green shirt, and see if I can 'tooth Chris Hansen into an encounter in the park.

(Oh, and there is a drug for that.)
posted by Samizdata at 12:42 PM on June 26, 2008

And, well played, Ubu.
posted by Samizdata at 12:43 PM on June 26, 2008

internet addiction (and its three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations and e-mail/text messaging)

My god, I've hit the trifecta.
posted by tallthinone at 1:16 PM on June 26, 2008

Pastabagel said it well, i think.

To pile on...

The phrase "internet addiction" jives with the other forms of addictions already in use. If we accept gambling as an addiction even though it's non-chemical, then the same logic would have us accept internet addiction. The root cause of your alcohol/heroin/painkiller/meth addiction may very well not be chemical (or at least completely so), but i would find it very difficult to stare you in the face and tell you a meth addict's problem isn't meth. It just might also be borderline personality disorder, adhd, etc. Dual diagnosis is a bitch to treat, but people self-medicate.

Now, the internet (or any other activity you can obsessively do to the exclusion of the world around you) may be safer in that it isn't delivering poisons into your body (that we know of, yet), but i think that creates a disadvantageous sense of safety.

Coming from the other perspective, I dated and lived with a guy who had gaming problems, along with some others. Whether it was alcohol abuse, heroin or gaming, he was almost always using something to fill some void within himself. Sure, gaming was better for his body than a night of heroin topped off with some crack, but I saw him hurting and watched him try to escape that pain every which way. I think that as he started to see gaming as a problem, it helped him to see how pervasive the underlying issue was. I don't know if he ever found that answer, though he seems to be doing a lot better these days. ::bites tongue upon discovering he's apparently quite hungover at the moment::
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 2:25 PM on June 26, 2008

Compy according to the urban dictionary and Compy if you were to try and define the string on Google...

In any case, it really only points to one thing... a computer. *shrugs* ;)

And er... Mr. Hat, I picked up the word in the family.

Sorry if that shorthand wording caused a rather large disruption, I was waking up for work as I made the comment.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2008

I have just come through a difficult year for my marriage that non-coincidentally started at the moment that I installed WOW. Now, the problems were already there, but WOW made it sooo easy to not talk to my wife and deal with our problems. I mean, who does she think she is saying what a bum I was? I was an uber Pally with leet gear and an officer in a large powerful guild. The game made me feel good. I had many friends there, I was accepted and NEEDED because I could tank.

But, thankfully, I woke up and realized that the whole year had slipped by without me accomplishing much of anything in my 'real' life. I am still trying to learn to play the game without turning into a WOW-crackhead again, but now I am dealing more with real life.

God help us all if virtual reality ever got paired with something like WOW.
posted by UseyurBrain at 3:46 PM on June 26, 2008

If we accept gambling as an addiction even though it's non-chemical, then the same logic would have us accept internet addiction.

I think there's a lot of truth in that.

Psychologist BF Skinner famously demonstrated that the strongest way to condition subjects' behaviour in an action-reward scenario is when the reward is not given every time the action is performed, and nor when it given at fixed intervals. Rather, if the reward is given intermittently with no set pattern (known as variable reinforcement) that's when it becomes the most 'addictive'.

In gambling, the reward is obviously a financial win, often with visual & aural reinforcement like flashy animations & music (in the case of a poker machine) or a pleasing ritual (say, on a gambling table, as the croupier flamboyantly rakes the chips over to the winner).

On the internet, the reward may be new friends or messages on Facebook or MySpace, more virtual money (or whatever you collect) in WoW, or even extra favourites on MetaFilter.

Even though these are not financial rewards, the principle is the same: if you knew you'd have more whatevers every time you logged on, you'd quickly get bored of it. Log on (or refresh) five times with no result, but receive a small windfall on the sixth, and you can easily get hooked.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

if you knew you'd have more whatevers every time you logged on, you'd quickly get bored of it.

Relevant to WoW, a lot of quests involved gathering 10 eyes of newt or tusks of boar, yet apparently 9 out of 10 newts and boars lack eyes or tusks. This was one of the more blatant slot machine mechanisms, especially given how boring and unchallenging I found at least the lower level combat to be.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:11 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry if that shorthand wording caused a rather large disruption

No need to apologize, I love discovering new usages!
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on June 26, 2008

Around here, we say "newsages".
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:57 PM on June 26, 2008

> There is a lot of denial among "geeks" for whom the physical isolation but illusion of social connectedness offered by the internet/online games has made them feel empowered and/or socially capable when they otherwise were not.

I think that's the rub, though -- if you really are using the computer to connect to other people, is it really illusory? It's not immediately clear to me why it is. A social interaction that's mediated via some piece of technology is still a social interaction, if there's a person at either end of the wire.

I think there's a legitimate argument to be made regarding the dangers of trading high-intensity interpersonal relationships for a large number of diffuse low-intensity ones (e.g. neglecting family/friends for "those people on the Internet," none of whom you know well), but I'm not sure why an interaction that's technology-mediated is inherently inferior or illusory.

It's the quality and depth of the relationships that matters, not the medium over which the communication happens; people can and do establish lasting interpersonal bonds via technology, so it's not really the technology that's at fault. You could have the exact same problem without the computer at all -- someone who neglects their family and close friends to hang out with a group of people, none of whom individually know them that well or really care. The difference seems to be that there are fewer opportunities to do that in the real world (the only example I can think of is gangs, although I'm sure there are others), and people seem to notice that they're harmful much sooner.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:01 PM on June 26, 2008

There are plenty of real-world examples. Almost any group social event, for example, or frequenting nightclubs or music scenes, or participating in sports or work events or shared hobbies or classes etc.

99% of our socialisation is with people who couldn't answer even basic questions about us, like where we grew up, what our favourite food or music is, or what religion we are.

That's just the way things are, and it's no different online from off. You might end up with a deeper connection with 1% of these semi-random encounters, but for the most part you won't even remember their names three years down the track.

Whether or not you pursue these things "to the detriment of your friends & family" is merely a function of how much free time & energy you have to spread yourself around amongst these competing priorities.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:26 PM on June 26, 2008

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