How to Understand Computer Addiction

Once I saw a documentary about computer addiction on German television. There was a segment on a 40-year old man who lost his house, job, girlfriend, and friends, and all of this because of World of Warcraft. With tears in his eyes, he recalled the day he missed his sister’s funeral. After a 72-hour game marathon, he thought he could stay awake long enough. Instead, he fell asleep until midday when his mother called him to ask where he was. Likely, he’ll never forget that day.

Stories like these are, of course, extreme cases, but they do exist. It’s shortsighted to assume these stories as the rule. There’s an undeniable fact, though, in some countries, a lot of teenagers fall victim to the grasp of the computer. In South Korea, you find whole institutions specializing in Internet addiction. At the center of any computer addiction is the Internet.

How to Understand Computer AddictionMy previous article about computer addiction met with a great amount of response, and also some great feedback with personal experiences. Before I reflect on some of those comments, I would like to weigh in with own experiences.

The day my parents bought me the original NES system is a day I vividly recall. It feels like that was a thousand centuries ago. I remember vividly the golden cartridge of Zelda, and also how many times my mother hid it away when I was neglecting my chores; almost as often, she would forget where she had hidden it. Another cartridge that was lost a few times was Super Mario Bros 3.

We would get into many arguments over how long and how often I could play in a day. When the first computer arrived with Windows 95 on it, things became even harder for my parents. Age of Empires and SimCity 2000 were the new time-eaters. They robbed me of all interest to go outside for a while.

Yes, I was and still am addicted to any kind of Internet device. By that I mean computers, phones, tablets, and anything that’s connected to the Internet. Back in the day it wasn’t all about the Web, though. In a way, it was easier to disconnect from the digital world then than it is today. This is one reason why I halted all my use of social media.

According to this CNN report from 2010 on gaming in South Korea, there’s now a nighttime curfew in place. “The government introduced the recent nighttime shut down one month after police discovered a three-month-old baby who starved to death while her parents were busy nurturing their virtual baby on a game at an Internet café.” Again, these are extreme cases where all sanity seems to have vanished. To some extent, I understand how it feels. Whenever I would get a new game, I started a temporary gaming marathon. Beyond that, no extreme level of addiction is possible, because I simply get bored with most games after a couple of weeks at most.

However, it’s hard to control oneself when a mission has been completed successfully. It’s this feeling of success — this victory — that keeps people hooked. When you level up in a game, it gives the illusion of having accomplished something meaningful. Unfortunately, many people stop trying the same in reality. For some reason it’s so much more gratifying to receive a compliment from a stranger online.

One reader commented on my previous article that it helped him to overcome social fears. Indeed, online activities that involve interaction with another human being, even through means of a virtual character, can still be considered social behavior. It’s a rather limited world view to immediately belittle online personas as valueless. This shouldn’t be anyone’s concern, as long as a person doesn’t neglect real-life responsibilities. In a way, everyone pays the price according to how much time they have spent away from reality.

Like the man I mention in the first paragraph, the price can be high on an emotional and economical level. It’s one thing to lose one’s job, and a whole different matter to miss one’s sister’s funeral. This isn’t meant to be a judgment, but rather a solemn observation. Video games are just the tip of the iceberg, for sure. The Internet is the true web of danger if consumed without moderation, but this holds true to any addiction, not just World of Warcraft.

Hey, don’t look at me. I just wake up in the morning, grabbing my phone first, before I give my fiancee a kiss. That doesn’t sound right, does it?

CC licensed Flickr photo from a n i. Y.

Article Written by

He's a writer and photographer living in Sweden. Technology, philosophy, and films are some of his other interests. In 2008, Maximilian completed a BA in creative writing in London. So, being a writer has been important to him for a long time -- although he prefers to be called a "storyteller."

  • BlazingNoodles

    It is really weird how addicting WoW is… I played that game nonstop for like 8 months! By I finally quit after seeing they were adding pandas… and pokemon…

  • Erik Nielsen

    I feel that addiction to commputers is easily solved with finding things conected to computers in the “real world” like Google + events or game cons. you can still keep your passion allive but be healthy and social as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000061961790 Ian Jackson

    I admit; I do have a computer addiction. I have a social disorder (Asperger’s) which makes it harder to interact with people. I feel that Behind the computer, I’m safe. I won’t get hurt and have to deal with rejection. I do have a job and all that, but I mainly stay at home when I can.

  • Curtis Coburn

    I can say I used to be addicted to playing video games. I got addicted to PS1 playing the first game Spyro.
    Then Came Xbox 360, and I would play Gears of War 14 hours a day for the whole summer. I’d wake up at 7:30, play to 9:30 and go to bed.

    I think now I have overplayed Xbox. 6 months ago, I gave my Xbox to my brother, and I haven’t played video games sense.
    Computers, I am always trying to get away from them, in any way I can. Every day I go for a 2 mile run. I try to get out as much as possible with friends, but when I’m home, I’m on my computer. But I need it to learn new things, and stay connected to the outside world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mel.semper Mel-Geek Semper

    Yup I’m an addict. it drives my wife nuts. she call my Macbook my girl friend. i have a habit of falling asleep with my Macbook in the bed and she would wake me up by say get you girl friend out the bed…lol. i’m not very social able however i can put on a good acting job if i have to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.epperson Andrew Epperson

    I often find myself anxious when away from technology as my life has adapted to it

  • http://www.anthonyguidetti.com/ Anthony Guidetti

    I’ve been using the computer my whole life, but I still feel the need to get away. I guess having my iPhone on me helps me get away, but sometimes I need a disconnect.

  • Abel Luna

    I think the type of addiction you are referring to can be compared to other activities such as gambling and bingo. This is, of course, an actual psychological problem. Those “extreme cases” are the ones that have a physical dependence; it’s their drug. The rest of us might say that we’re addicted to Facebook or our device, but really, it’s just due to the fact that our needs are needs as humans are changing. Look at it this way, almost everyone has a television, but would you say they’re addicted?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brad.tomlinson Brad Tomlinson

    Any addiction can become a big problem. The hardest part is recognizing that addiction and taking that first step to do something about it. Easier said than done.

  • Daniel Mraz

    Yeah computer addiction is serious. but the addiction referred to here is game addiction. The problem comes with the unsuspecting user saying, “Oh, I don’t waste time on games” yet he wastes the same amount of time online chatting with ‘friends’ he’ll never see or things like that. It’s even us, here on LockerGnome, that need to be watchful. LockerGnome.com is a great place, but we also need to take a break and remember to space out our time here.

  • http://twitter.com/SpyderBite SpyderBite

    I am not a psychologist. But, any addiction is usually attributed to some other underlying problem. For me, depression was a symptom of sleep deprivation as a result of sleep apnea. But, I medicated my depression with Alcohol for 25+ years. Once I got a sleep study done, obtained a cpap machine and had a few weeks of normal sleep, my depression went away and I quit drinking heavily.

    My point is though.. game addiction or internet addiction or any addiction can usually be traced back to something else more serious.. a root cause if you may.

    With the exception of chemicals like cocaine, meth, prescription pain killers.. very few “addicts” are physically addicted to something simply because they “got hooked” by trying it.

    WoW or any other internet addiction is no exception. There is usually something else going on in their lives.. or not going on in their lives.. which causes them to escape and invest so much passion in to an imaginary interactive world. Much like the p&p days of Dungeons and Dragons which destroyed marriages and caused people to do weird things because of their passion for the imaginary world they got to visit to escape their real problems.

    /lecture

  • http://ironiclee.blogspot.com/ Jentylee

    And a whole different thing to ignore your baby, as mentioned in your article, while taking care of a virtual baby while your real life one dies. That is just sickening. And it is not just an addiction to games, as you mentioned but an addiction to social media and the internet in general. Very scary.

  • Chris Marx

    With all the malinformation enforced on everyone from school to university by philosophy, religion, & science, let alone by the media, where else than in the internet for the first time in civilization could you look for & decide yourself on truthfulness?