Cyber addiction is today’s newest obsession. We live in an electronically-connected society where personal and professional lives fly through cell phones and PDAs on the street to laptops at home and desktops at the office. It’s easy to become mesmerized by technological advances that touch every field from medicine to home maintenance. But the cyber addict differs from a technology fan. While the techno nut is fascinated by gadgets and devices, a cyber addict spends an extreme number of hours in cyberspace either on the Internet or virtual gaming environments.
Many marriages today are affected by cyber addiction as people are attracted to the escapism that virtual new worlds offer.
It’s not just gaming or explicit images
Gaming addiction and viewing explicit images can be fed in cyberspace, but one doesn’t have to access computers for either. The Internet makes gaming and graphic photos readily available but there are other attractions for the true cyber addict. And there are several lures.
Virtual world addicts: A virtual world addict lives out an artificially created life online. He or she can connect with other real people who take on alter egos and play out virtual life scenarios together. Sometimes, they play out their exchanges in forums or chat rooms while others use software programs like Sim City that allow one to create his or her own life from scratch. The appeal is the power to lord over entire realms or interact with alluring strangers when in real life, one feels significantly less powerful, less attractive, less social or less successful.
Although a cyber-relationship may seem harmless, there are dangers that go beyond the time that is robbed from real life. And while the characters are virtual, the emotions involved are real. In Japan, one man sued his wife when she “murdered” his “online wife.” Even in less extreme cases, both husbands and wives consider emotional affairs a form of infidelity.
The news addict: The access to vast amounts of information makes the Internet appealing for people who love knowledge. Imagine having access to nearly every city newspaper, medical journal and industry insider rag. Virtual tours for popular venues around the world make armchair travel easier than ever. You can read the latest from experts from all fields and many are accessible via email.
My daughter suffers from rare memory problems and a memory specialist in Poland emailed me with advice. Another time, I settled a dispute with my husband regarding fleas from our cat. My daughter and I kept getting bitten on our ankles and he insisted that they were not flea bites because he wasn’t getting bitten. A university entomologist in the Midwest told me to tape one of the critters to a white piece of paper and mail it to him. He got the sample, identified it and emailed me to tell my husband that it was a flea and that there is anecdotal evidence that suggested this type of flea preferred to bite females during their menstrual periods. Hah! It’s one of the rare times I was able to prove him wrong! Of course, it took a bug expert to back me up, but the cat got a flea bath and all was well. Is there any wonder why I struggle with cyber news addiction?
The social cyber addict: These people love to connect with others via the Internet because there is a false sense of both security and anonymity. Even those with social phobias find the Internet a comfortable, non-threatening way to “converse” with other real people in chat rooms, forum and message boards, instant messaging and email. No scary face-to-face interaction, and escape is only a click away. Even those who can text or phone family and friends can’t resist chasing their emails or check into their MySpace and Facebook accounts more than a dozen times a day.
/b]But is it an addiction?[/b]
According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of an addiction is “the state of being enslaved to a habit that is physically or psychologically habit forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” A true cyber addict feels anxious or irritable when forced to log off the computer. He or she not only uses computer time as an outlet for frustrations and stress relief but going without it produces stresses of its own.
[b]What makes cyber addiction hard to kick[/b]
Abstinence is easier to achieve with other addictions, but because we can’t avoid technology devices in our everyday lives, cyber addiction is harder resist. The Internet is a part of our work lives, and according to a BBC News report, nearly 50% of employees admit to Internet surfing for their own personal use. Usually, the addict isn’t aware of how much time is spent in pointless cyber activities.
As with any addiction, your spouse needs to recognize that he has a problem with excessive video or computer activities. Approach it like a true addiction with some counseling help. Forcing, coercing, threatening and any other manipulation attempts to get him to stop will only worsen the problem as well as your marital relationship.