The list of imagined effects from the use of computers and devices connected to the Internet and one another has never been short and have always been supplemented with exaggerated imaginings. But it appears that addiction to that connection may be a real thing.
Since 2008, China has declared Internet addiction as a real condition a person can fall victim to and have backed up this hypothesis with rehab centers around the country to help the group most readily affected by Internet addiction–young people.
As chronicled in the PBS documentary Web Junkie, teens in southern Beijing are lured–occasionally deceptively–to a boot camp for addiction recovery by parents and loved ones. For many this seems a betrayal. To be disconnected from friends and lives accessible only through an Internet connection causes distress in many, which highlights the escapism they’ve fallen victim to.
Tao Ran, former psychologist with the Beijing Army, heads a facility where patients are housed for a minimum of four months as they are rehabilitated from their addiction. It’s only one of more than four hundred rehab centers across the country. There, patients are put through grueling physical and psychological exercises designed to address the root causes of their addiction. Many of these tactics have been drafted from China’s military, which is fitting as patients are dressed in fatigues and are expected to live as new recruits would in any of China’s military branches.
Families are also recruited to take part in the recovery of their children. For the Chinese this proves a tricky area, as, culturally, they are reserved with their feelings. A culture that provides many avenues for social isolation and a persistent pressure to devote more time and energy towards career and academics has been cited as being at the nucleus of the rise in Internet addiction in China.
While this seems to be an actual problem estimated to be affecting an estimated 420,000,000 people worldwide, only Japan has really seemed to step up efforts in addressing the addiction with rehab centers of its own. Only in recent years has the Manual of Mental Disorders consider the condition worthy of study and research.
Going forward, as technology is more readily adapted into our everyday lives, more a identifying factor of the people that we are, those we interact with, and the lives that we live, the perils of this new reality should be approached with a bit more apprehension than they’ve been shown in the past. There’s a definite solipsism that associated with this condition. In Web Junkies, hearing the patients talk about the lives waiting for them while they’re AFK is a reminder that the borders of one reality and another are slowly bleeding into one another. Will we reach a point in the Holocene where one is preferable to the other? When one dominates the other? And when we reach that point, how do we go about deciding addiction and differentiating it from merely laterally transitioning from one accepted reality to another?