A study done by researchers at Stanford’s Medical School found that “more than one in eight US residents show signs of ‘problematic internet use.’” The data was collected from 2,513 adults around the US by using telephone survey.
5.9% felt their relationships suffered as a result of excessive Internet use;
8.7% attempted to conceal non-essential Internet use;
3.7% felt preoccupied by the Internet when offline;
13.7% found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time;
8.2% utilized the Internet as a way to escape problems or relieve negative mood;
12.3% had tried to cut back on Internet use, of whom 93.8% were successful; and,
12.4% stayed online longer than intended very often or often.
After calculating conditional probabilities, preoccupation when offline looks scariest because it is highly associated with other matters. Just for fun, I played with those figures (in Table 2 of the paper) by calculating the average (in parentheses) of these conditional probabilities of each behavior (a chance of people who have one behavior to have another one as well) and ordering them. I think the relationship might somehow tell the order of severity of each category, although it is not necessarily the case.
- Preoccupied when offline (0.38)
- Online longer than intended VERY often (0.35)
- Relationship suffer (0.26)
- Used to escape (0.24)
- Tried to cut back (0.23)
- Conceal use (0.22)
- Online longer than intended often (0.18)
However, the article in New Scientist point out that the most concern by this research team is hiding internet use which “mirrors the way alcoholics behave”. Then my further question is hiding the use from whom? and when do they usually hide? and why they hide? I think these questions are also interesting to follow up.
“The issue is starting to be recognised as a legitimate object of clinical attention, as well as an economic problem, given that a great deal of non-essential internet use takes place at work,” Aboujaoude says
I think this type of research is very helpful to supplement such a controversial argument whether or not the Internet has effects to individual and social life in terms of clinical and psychological aspects. At the end of the paper, it also points out the important of sociocultural factors.
Sociocultural factors warrant exploration. Social isolation and the desire for connectedness, the thrill and freedom brought on by online anonymity, and the extreme, unregulated, advertising tools used to lure individuals to Internet venues all likely play a role in promoting problematic Internet use and, as such, deserve attention. (Aboujaoude, 2006)
Also the reference of the paper looks like a very interesting list to follow.
[via New Scientist]