Eugene Volokh
Professor, UCLA School of Law

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'Worse Than Internet Addiction'
By Eugene Volokh 04/10/2002
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"Internet Addiction," experts say, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Recent research shows that Internet Addiction is just a special case of what might more broadly be called Communication Addiction. Most healthy individuals tend to spend their time doing normal, productive things like eating, sleeping, working, caring for their children, and having sex. But recently, some have started to devote an inordinate amount of time to the clearly far less valuable and more dangerous activity of Communication (and a related behavior, Information Gathering).

Not only does this distract them from other activities, but extended bouts of Communication are often accompanied by other unhealthful behavior, such as consumption of intoxicants and sometimes excessive quantities of food. Addicts have often been known to express regret over the time this disease takes away from much more vital activities (such as sleep), and over behavior -- such as possibly unsafe sexual activity -- that Communication has indirectly facilitated.

Communication Addicts generally find it acutely emotionally painful to quit. Sometimes after only a few days away from their addiction, sufferers begin to feel symptoms that are quite similar to clinical depression. The refusal of others to continue communicating with them has been known to lead to lowered self-esteem, psychological injury, and in extreme cases even suicide.

Their recent development of the new and questionable technology known as "language" puts certain individuals, known as "humans" -- already vulnerable because of their abnormal gregariousness -- into especially grave peril from Communication Addiction. Experts believe that their troubled lifestyle may lead this particular group to become threats to themselves, to others, and to the environment.

The writer is a professor at UCLA Law School.

For more information about Internet addiction, see Net Addiction or take this test. Then, for a comparison, take the same test with the term "Internet" replaced by "reading" or "communication," e.g., Q 1, "How often do you find that you [read / talk with friends] longer than you intended?"

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