It is instructive to use the “operational definition” for addiction summarized by Griffiths (1998), in his chapter on Internet Addiction, as a litmus test for CAD:

1. Salience: talk may be a primary and most important activity to a person. A person
may be thinking about what s/he will talk about the next time s/he will be talking (see Berger & Jordan, 1992)

2. Mood modification: Some people enjoy talking to one another, and receiving acceptance and liking through such talk is an affectively enhancing activity (Bell & Daly, 1984).

3. Tolerance: As discussed in the case of the talkaholic, there seems to be a need among some to talk all the time. An upper limit cannot be established, since some people can (a) talk all their waking hours, (b) stay up talking long past their normal sleep intervals, or even (c) even talk in their sleep (personal conversation, Sandra Walther, 1982-1999, passim).

4. Withdrawal symptoms: Again, in the case of the talkaholic, some are uncomfortable when they cannot speak.

5. Conflict: As noted, the social partners of talkaholics can readily identify this disturbing behavior, and excessive talk conflicts with other desirable activities such as listening or attending to class material.

6. Relapse: Since talkaholism is so tolerated in society and there is as yet no treatment for it, no relapse data are available. As talkaholics have tried unsuccessfully to reduce their speech, there is a high potential for this syndrome to be intractable.

Clearly there is cause for the recognition that some people talk too much and that their talk is out of control. It upsets others, and may have deleterious effects on their social lives based on its sheer excess alone; like Internet Addiction, excessive talk may be harmful on the basis that its very activity leads one to ignore other important aspects of healthy social interaction. Yet, like excessive Internet activity, there are specific activities and functions to which talk is often put, which are also potentially harmful. Before we impugn talk on the basis of its sheer excess among compulsive users, we should examine to what ends talk may be put, to see if there is cause for alarm that it is an activity that draws its users into unseemly and socially undesirable behaviors in its own right. We may find instruction again from the socially unacceptable ills of the Internet, which include interacting with strangers, identity manipulations, deception, sexual deception and coercion, and flaming.

Harmful Effects of Communication

Interacting with strangers

Despite educational efforts that target even the very young not to do so, numerous people engage in talk with other persons whom they do not even know (Berger & Calabrese, 1975). In this process they tend to reveal personal information and ask questions, manipulate the environment, and even tap into targets’ social networks in order to acquire personal information about one another (Berger, Gardner, Parks, Schulman, & Miller, 1976; Cline & Musolf, 1985).

Questionable identity presentations, or, Can you say Milli Vanilli?

Of course, there are cases in which people make up entirely fictitious identities face-to-face. More chronic, however, are the partial and strategic self-presentations by which people conceal aspects of themselves while enacting other, situationally-demanded affectations. Such modern classics as Dale Carnegie’s (1936) How to Win Friends and Influence People and Erving Goffman’s (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life suggested what is now widely accepted: impression management through talk and face to face behavior is a common and expected aspect of social interaction. According to Hogan, Jones, and Cheek (1985), success at intimidating or seducing others through communicative actions is linked to personal and species survival. Almost a decade of research in social psychology focused on Snyder’s (1974) construct of “self-monitoring,” including its subdimension, “acting ability.” Clearly most people are not presenting themselves in their most unguarded, unmanipulated, and nonstrategic fashion, when they talk to one another face to face.