Cognitive Daily

Take a look at these graphs:

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Most bloggers and web designers will find this sort of chart familiar—it’s a record of Cognitive Daily’s visitor statistics for the month of November. The first graph records the amount of traffic we received each day. Notice that the pink bars are shorter—these correspond to the weekends. You might think that weekend traffic is lower just because we don’t post new articles on weekends. But we didn’t post an article at all on November 14, a Monday, yet still saw an increase in traffic compared to the day before. The second graph charts a number of indicators of traffic based on hour of the day (U.S. Central time). Here you’ll notice that our busiest hours are right smack in the middle of the U.S. workday (over 75 percent of our traffic comes from the U.S.).

It’s no leap of faith to suggest that many, if not most, readers of Cognitive Daily are doing it at work. This is not to say our readers don’t have legitimate, work-related reasons for visiting this site. They may be psychology teachers. Or they may simply be seeking information for their employers: for example, employers might want to know that 64 percent of corporations in a recent survey have disciplined employees for inappropriate use of the internet at work. However, the site statistics on my personal blog follow a similar pattern. I have a hard time imagining an employer that would want its employees to read about my video game marathon with my son or my hike with my daughter, on company time.

One survey of employee internet use indicates that nearly 15 percent of workers surf the internet “constantly” while at work, and over 27 percent use active measures to conceal their surfing habits from their bosses.

One caution about the vault.com study—unlike the other studies we cover on Cognitive Daily, this one does not appear to be peer-reviewed. So what does peer-reviewed research have to say about the subject? In a 2004 descriptive article, Kimberly Young documented the phenomenon of internet addiction. She bases her definition of internet addiction on models for gambling addiction. Internet users are asked the following eight questions:

  1. Do you feel preeoccupied with the internet (think about online activity or anticipate the next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the internet with increasing amounts of time to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the internet?
  8. Do you use the internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g. feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

Using a similar model, Louis Leung surveyed 699 Net-geners (members of the generation born between 1977 and 1997 who grew up in a world dominated by computers and electronic communication) in 2001 in Hong Kong and found that 37.9 percent met the criteria for internet addiction.

So what’s special about these internet addicts? Perhaps surprisingly, they don’t spend a lot more time online than non-addicted Net-geners: 34.8 hours a week compared to 27.1 for the non-addicted. They don’t use the internet more than average Net-geners for commercial activity, seeking information, or social interactions such as online forums, games, or bulletin boards. The only significant correlation between internet addiction and a particular online activity in this group was use of ICQ (generally called IM—Instant Messaging—in the U.S.), and even that was a relatively moderate correlation of Ī² = 0.13.

But some other general patterns about internet addiction emerged from Leung’s study. Internet addicts tended to be female students, in contrast to previous studies finding that most problem computer use was among socially unskilled males—the traditional “computer geek.” There were few socioeconomic differences between addicts and non-addicts, and Leung believes that as internet availability becomes more widespread, whatever small differences that remain will disappear.

Finally, and perhaps most critically, there was no difference in experience using the internet between addicts and non-addicts: addicted users averaged 2.64 years online, compared to 2.75 years for non-addicts. It seems that the critical dimension of addicted versus non-addicted behavior is the ability to control one’s use of the internet.

Kimberly Young points out that there are several factors which make internet addiction difficult to treat. Employers and schools often encourage internet use, even to the point of integrating it into business and curriculum procedures. This makes addiction difficult to identify, and potentially legally problematic for businesses who are providing the very item their addicted employees crave. The newness of the disorder makes it difficult both for victims to be taken seriously, and for practicable treatments to be created.

In reading through the research, I’ve identified another problem: the technologies that researchers are trying to study are progressing so quickly that they often have changed or ceased to exist by the time of publication. Leung writes extensively on ICQ and bulletin boards, which have now virtually vanished from the online landscape, even though the article was published in late 2004. Young’s 2004 article cites data on online use dating from the late 1990s—an eternity ago in internet time. Today, we want to know about the impact of MMORPGs and podcasts, but in the several years it takes to carry out a peer-reviewed experiment on the subject, these technologies may have morphed into something else entirely. In the meantime, there’s little doubt that addictive online behavior will continue to be a problem, so continuing research on the issue, no matter the difficulties, is essential.

Leung, L. (2004). Net-generation attributes and seductive properties of the internet as predictors of online activities and internet addiction. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(3), 333-348.

Young, K.S. (2004). Internet addiction: A new clinical phenomenon and its consequences. The American Behavioral Scientist, 48(1), 402-415.

Comments

  1. [...] Go outside. [...]

  2. #2 Mengü Gülmen
    December 8, 2005

    The problem with understanding the “Internet Addiction” starts at the definition. People think that, internet is some kind of drug, some source of excitement etc..

    But, the matter of the fact is, internet is “a part of the life” now. Nothing functions without the internet and we can do almost everything through the internet.

    Our children grow up with the internet. So, doing the maths, you’ll see that in 50 years from now, no one will be shopping at malls, they’ll shop online. so there won’t be malls. No one will be eating at a restaurant. they’ll be ordering online. no restaurants.

    you get the picture.

    So maybe, investigating this Surprising New Technology with fear, is not the right thing to do.

    Accept that it is, and must be, a part of everyone’s life, like a table or a chair. And I have that slightest urge to believe that, this new perspective will reveal more about our collective minds.

  3. #3 Griffin
    December 8, 2005

    Interesting. I just posted about this the other day as well. I kinda come down on the side of one can’t be addicted to the internet any more than they could be to the mall. Aspects of the internet may be addictive but not the net. Anyway, feel free to read my post if your bored or got some time to kill, (a note of warning i’m in the process of importing posts from wordpress.com (no export=big hassel) so links are not active,

    http://www.griffinopolis.com/2005/12/03/pathological-internet-use/

  4. #4 D.
    December 8, 2005

    I’m curious as to why internet addiction is measured like gambling addiction?

    Is spending time on the internet anything like gambling?

    I understand that gamblers, particularly those who play slot machines, gradually seek more time alone. In the end they aren’t in it for the win, not in for the money, but the escape. A win can actually disrupt their escape!

    As somebody who uses the internet heavily, I miss my connection with my friends when I’m not online. Is that unresonable?

    Gamblers are not socially motivated, yet as somebody who is socially motivated I meet the requirements above when they apply to Internet usage. Does that make me an addict or is it just sad that the primary communication I have with my frieds is via an electronic media?

  5. #5 Mind Hacks
    December 9, 2005

    2005-12-09 Spike activity

    Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest launched! “>Arguments between couples slow wound healing (presumably suffered during previous arguments). Mirror neurons work differently in people with au…

  6. #6 Monica
    December 9, 2005

    I love the net and can’t get enough.

  7. #7 dweller
    December 11, 2005

    I am totally addicted to the internet.
    I am also a relatively socially unskilled male.
    I can split my main internet use into four categories.

    1. keeping up with news and current affairs and commentary – relatively benign.

    2. downloading music – I have to check which interesting new bootleg or obscure piece of music I can get my mits on. Getting to be a bit of a dangerous obsession.

    3. communication on online bulletin boards/online communities. this is ok, though I have had jobs where my work has suffered due to me being constantly distracted.

    4. self publishing, blogging and fascination with who has seen your amazing meisterwerks. don’t spend to much time on this but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a kind of obsession.

    Conclusion,
    two points
    1. the internet can seem to be the infinite repository of instant experience, this is the “something for nothing” urge which we humans find hard to resist.
    2. attention seeking, we want to extend the range of our social communication, to show different parts of our selves which are shielded for societal/psychological reasons in our daily lives, we want these sides to ourselves to be respected and appreciated.

    Its a dangerous cocktail of deep human pining urges. I am afraid of the impact of the internet. I believe that normal face to face relationships between friends, family and work colleagues will suffer as a result of a pandemic internet addiction syndrome.
    (and I haven’t even gotten onto porn yet)

  8. #8 Dennis McClain-Furmanski
    December 16, 2005

    There is no evidence there is such a thing as internet addicition. The useage data presented argues against it. Young’s questions, (derived from gambling addicition, derived from alcohol addicition) are not valid. The original questions were derived from self-report. Presnting these in summary and requiring a response instead merely provides the opportunity for someone who feels bad about something to find something to blame, and/or present themselves as in need of emotional support, regardless of the real reason. After all, we do not quiz clinical patients with the DSM criteria and use their responses to these as justification for diagnoses. In our well meaning attempts to not blame the victim, we end up blaming the focus. This is invalid in that there is nothing inherent in the internet to say that it is addictive in and of itself, and it allows the person who happened to focus on this particular activity to project their internal problems upon, rather than taking responsibility for their behavior.

    Dennis McClain-Furmanski PhD
    Dept. of Psychology
    Cameron University

  9. #9 Dave Munger
    December 21, 2005

    Dennis,

    I think there’s a lot of sense in what you say, but I do wonder if “internet addiction,” whether it’s a discrete problem or rather just the focus of a larger problem, does present some unique difficulties based on the way Internet use is actively encouraged by employers and educational institutions.

  10. #10 Dr. Martin Winkler
    December 27, 2005

    Searching blogs for the term “internet addiction” is one aspect of my addictive behaviour related with searching news and try to keep up with all the different aspects of mental health and the internet. I know it might be related to my adhd since my brain is always looking for more input. The new developments of web2 technologies may cause new problems because it is rather difficult to stop…

  11. #11 Mark Ellis
    January 7, 2009

    Great article! Has anyone done any statistical research into the rise of ADHD in young people and the correlation between those stats and the usage of electronic equipment of young people? I have a theory that much of the symptoms of ADHD are due to the fact that kids are fighting sleep deprivation in the classroom instead of this being a disorder. Many of my students talk of stying up until 2 and 3 AM playing video games, surfing the net and text messaging on cell phones.

    I would really be interested in reading a study like that.

    God Bless,
    Mark Ellis