Photo: Fusion / Kristen V. Brown/Kent Hernández



Fusion offers a longish but revealing article on “click sickness.” at a treatment centre in rural Washington state, which is home to Microsoft, Amazon, and Nintendo America, where early adopters have been experiencing the fallout.

It feels like an idyllic woodland retreat, but inside the center’s main house are reminders of the reason people come here. A sign at the entrance asks visitors to turn off their phones. A wall in the dining room is covered in post-it notes responding to the prompt, “How does digital media use get in the way of living your life to the fullest?” On them clients admitted to wasting their day on Pinterest, becoming a slave to e-mail and giving in to the sense of false accomplishment they felt from playing an online game. One scrawled: “More likely to sit and watch something then go out and do something.” In the living room, a digital picture frame flashes motivational phrases, like, “Social media: update less. connect more.”…

People wind up at reSTART, generally, because they’re spending so much time online that their offline lives have begun to unravel. When the center first opened in 2009, it received a call from a parent whose son had played an online game for so long that he lost blood circulation in his leg and had to have it amputated. Most patients are college drop-outs or have trouble holding down a job. Many were so wrapped up in their online lives that they never learned to do very basic things, like drive, balance a budget or scramble eggs.]

So yes, it can be serious. ReSTART’s cold turkey approach to the internet is intended to help clients come to terms with why they want to live on line:

Much of the treatment is similar to that for drug addicts; reSTART’s basic recovery philosophy is an adaption of Alcohol Anonymous’s 12-steps program. What makes internet addicts unique, Cash said, is that so many of them missed out on learning to be basic, functioning adults because they spent so much time glued to a screen.

It’s worth the struggle. The Daily Mail reports,

Generation #fail: Social media addicts more likely to feel bad about themselves… 

Around a third of Britons believe that they are not living up to their full potential, but that figure rises to more than half (56 per cent) among people who use social media, according to the study. Young men are likely to feel it the worst. One in three men aged between 25 and 34 wish that they were more like the person they described themselves as on social media, than the one they are in real life.

Possibly, that’s the underlying basis of the addiction: On has created a flattering hologram of oneself in an artificial world, and now must match it in the real world.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people who have grown up with social media are more likely to feel bad about themselves than older users, who tend to take online appearances with a pinch of salt. According to the survey, nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of people aged between 17 and 33 felt they are failing in life, compared to just 37 per cent of so-called baby boomers, aged 55 to 70.

At all events, counsellors will have their work cut out for them. The problem isn’t easy to solve. The internet is omnipresent in our society, in a way that alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and porn aren’t. Plus, it is essential to the way many people make their living today. So remaining a human being and not an algorithm expressed in binary code can become a lifetime project for some.

Best not to need the project in the first place.

We should always remember that most of what we see on the internet has a better chance of being false than what we see on our street.

See also: No wonder Steve Jobs was a low tech parent. As noted earlier, children (and teens) are at risk for Internet addiction because, unlike substances, it isn’t controlled—except by parents or teachers.

Why screen addiction matters to children. Many parents seem unaware of the harm the digital babysitter can do.

The Internet can foster crime or addiction, but weigh remedies carefully. People sometimes argue whether the ends justify the means. The reality is that the means shape the ends.

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...