Friday, August 17, 2012


Do we need research to tell us that the Internet is making us crazy?

A big cover story in Newsweek has declared and proved that the Internet makes us lonely, depressed, and sometimes creates extreme forms of mental illness.

Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on us are as old as the Internet, which was born with in fifties with the first computers. If you wanted to be in tune with the times, you read your instruction manual and slowly, nervously learned how to do most of what the manufacturer promised your computer could do. It wasn't till the early nineties when AOL was launched for "DOS," that you joined AOL or some “Internet service provider,” and wow – joyfully, fearlessly, started visiting various places on the Internet.

Well... Now there are scary facts -- proof that we’re being hurt by the Internet is piling up.

Researchers report that adult Americans spend about eighthours a day on the computer, more time than they spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit about seven hours of screen time into the average school day. The average person, regardless of age, sends or receives about 400 texts a month (that’s four times what it was five years ago); teens process an astounding 3,700 texts a month.

Many authorities on the subject are saying we are getting addicted.
Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said, “The computer is like electronic cocaine, fueling cycles of mania followed by depressive stretches.”

Nicholas Carr, whose book “The Shallows,” a highly praised treatise on the Web’s effect on cognition, said, “The Internet fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions.”

Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades, has declared, [it] “ ...encourages and even promotes insanity.”

The concern about the Web's pathological affect has intensified since Larry Rosen’s new book, “Disorder,” was published. His team surveyed 750 Californians -- teens and adults – their tech habits and feelings about those habits, and their scores on a series of standard tests of psychiatric disorders. Rosen found that most respondents, (with the exception of those over the age of 50), check text messages, email, or their social network -- “all the time” or “every 15 minutes.” He also found that those who spent more time online had more “compulsive personality traits.”

At UCLA Memory and Aging Research Center, scientists have reported that the brain of a computer addict looks like the brain of alcohol or drug addicts. Chinese researchers concur. They've published photos of “abnormal white matter – extra nerve cells in the areas of the brain that deal with attention, control, and executive function.” A similar study found similar changes in the brains of video-game addicts.

Hey, I don't need researcher’s reports, or brain scans, to tell me what I’ve observed about myself. I’m working longer hours. I talk faster. I’m often cranky. I yell and actually lose my temper. I get seriously impatient --I storm out when I ask my husband a question and he takes time to mull it over before he answers.

Have you experienced “Facebook” depression, or Tweet “depression? I have. (Is it because everyone seems to be getting more friends and more followers than I am? Or because social networking often seems ridiculous, dumb- dumb, a big waste of time?)

No doubt about it -- based on what I’ve learned from Newsweek, everything I’ve described about my behavior says I’m addicted.

What should I do about it? Newsweek suggested medication, like Xanax -- it's is often prescribed for addicted adults. Research reports the number of people using Xanax has tripled in the past five years.

Dr. Em tells me GET A NOTEBOOK – for three days, keep track of how much time you’re Interneting, (Facebooking. tweeting, or creating your blog.) Then, cut the total time down by 1/3, and make a list of what you can do with the time that you've freed up.

Pick something from your list, and do it.

I’m telling myself and you what I wrote in my book, “Somebody, Woman of the Century” -- it’s what my heroine’s Grandpa told her– words that the older, wiser Cordelia told her children -- “You are the master of your fate, captain of your soul. It’s up to you!”

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