Tangled in the Web

The Tab’s poll results are in and it’s official: the Internet has become an addiction. RAYMOND LI investigates.

Blackberries China clinical Facebook Far East fitfinder Internet Addiction South Park World of Warcraft Xtube

You should be revising but hey ho, you're taking a cheeky peek at The Tab. You're probably simultaneously surfing Spotify, and then later you will check out the library talent on FitFinder. You tell yourself that those revision cards will get done but somehow you've ended up stalking your best friend's boyfriend’s sister. Or you’ve pitched up on xtube, taking those exam term stresses out over your keyboard, whilst making sure not to disturb your neighbours.

In The Tab’s online poll, 85% of you admitted that you frequently stay online for longer periods of time that you had initially planned. It’s a common scenario: that brief fifteen minute break you took in order to check your emails has suddenly morphed into two whole hours.

It seems that Cambridge students just can’t get enough of the World Wide Web. 56.5% of you admitted to spending more time on the internet than on work and 57.4% believed that their academic work had been badly affected as a result.

The amount of hours people spend on the internet per day is a cause for concern: 46.3% of our survey respondents spend 4-5 hours a day on the net, whilst over one fifth of you spent over 6 hours on the net daily.

It’s no surprise that most of this internet action was spent on social networking; 63.9% admitted to spending the most amount of internet time on websites like Facebook. But when does internet activity become an internet addiction?

An extreme example to put things in perspective is the tragic case in 2005 in South Korea, where a couple left their baby to starve to death because they had become obsessed with their alter-egos on ‘World of Warcraft’, a popular multiplayer online game which clearly became all-consuming for this particular couple. Apparently, the couple were so obsessed with raising their online child, that they completely forgot about their real baby. Suddenly that South Park episode doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous. More worryingly, there are other similar role-playing games which are increasing in number and are free. Just as you’re getting bored, the games reward you with extra levels to explore whilst your bloodshot eyes cry out for sleep.

The online gaming world dominates teenagers’ lives in the Far East and will cause similar problems here in the future. Thankfully most of us do not have the same attachment to the internet as alcoholics or heroin addicts do to their respective vices; most of us would blame our internet obsession on laziness and procrastination, but with 18% of our poll actually admitting that they find themselves anticipating going online again, who’s to say that this is not a full-blown addiction?

The medical world appears rather ambiguous about the issue of internet addiction. The American Psychiatric Association and the British Medical Association have not officially classified it as a mental disorder. However there are ‘rehab’ clinics for internet addicts in America, China, Japan and South Korea. 80.56% of you believe that internet addiction exists but 53.7% do not believe that it should recognized as a clinical disorder.

There can be no qualms, however, about the fact that we cannot escape the internet, so if you feel that you are addicted then you’re pretty much screwed. It’s not like alcohol or drugs, where going cold turkey is a valid option. With supervisions being organized by email, practice papers only available online, and supermarkets doing delivery services through website order forms, there’s simply no way out. A plague of Blackberries and iPhones has hit: you’re online wherever you go. You can check out the latest news whilst you’re walking to lectures or even when you’re taking a dump. Our lives are now routed to the internet 24/7.

Part of this is due to the expansion of the media and the rapid development of consumer technology. Laptops are becoming as cheap as chips and gone are the days when video games, radio, television were segregated in their own boxes.  Not only will you will play video games and watch TV on your laptop but even programmes are using all three – Doctor Who Adventure Games will be released in June on the BBC website, creating an immersive experience through 'interactive episodes', where you will be able to blast Daleks off to the void and save the world. For some, virtual life will seem more exciting than their own real lives.

So whether you’re addicted to the internet or not, it’s going to get worse in the future as technology continues to make leaps and bounds. Two years ago, owning a smart phone was mainly reserved for City workers, but now they’re de rigeur for any self-respecting Cambridge student who wants to turn up to a supervision on time.

It’s not long before those clinics will hit Britain and perhaps Cambridge might take on one. You only have to look round your college library to see that the Oxbridge workload and lifestyle can act as triggers for depression, and addiction is partly driven by the need to escape one’s life.

But don’t worry – there are loads of websites that can give you advice on how to beat your addiction, and they’re all just a mouse-click away.