I’ve been saying it for as long as it’s been around — “Internet addiction” is an unhealthy focus and fascination on the technology, as though it caused people to enjoy spending time interacting with it. If people are using the Internet to socialize — on Facebook, Twitter, etc. — how can we turn around and characterize that as a bad thing? Would we engage in the same negative characterization if we were referring to someone who simply did this over the telephone? Or face-to-face?
Of course not. And that’s the disconnect that happens when psychologists throw out these not-well-thought-out terms to describe something they are concerned about. They turn it into a dysfunction through inadequate and poorly theorized labels, that then get picked up by others and the mainstream media, and completely blown out of proportion.
So it was with a twinge of joy and a kick of my heels that I read Virginia Heffernan’s piece full of common sense this morning over at The New York Times, describing the case of Gabriela, “a professed Internet addict, [and] a 20-year-old college student in New York.”