« Andrew Keen | Main | Fighting the Digital Divide »

Second Life Scares Me

These past few weeks, we've discussed Internet use a great deal. I am definitely on the side of researching Internet addiction - I think there are clear signals that some people use the Internet in an unhealthy way. One of the major red flags that was raised for me was the article about Second Life - particularly the man who spends nearly all day on the computer in Second Life. Not only was the man's personal life affected by his dedication to the game, his eating habits seemed to suffer. His breakfast sat beside him for hours one day without him noticing, even though his wife came in to bring it to him. The stories of people starving to death from playing World of Warcraft could be embellished or not, but I think this instance is a clear example of some people losing touch with the outside world.

But I do think determining Internet addiction is a careful line to tread. In "Growing Up Online," it seemed some parents thought their children were far too reliant on the Internet, and wouldn't know how to function without it. These days, part of that reliance is necessary for work. It seems nearly impossible to be a Journalism student here without Internet access to online articles, e-mail and other sites. Last week, I was without home Internet access for several days and had to use campus computers in order to finish my homework. I went without Facebook and YouTube for a week and survived without any signs of withdrawal.

But I am wary of Internet habits more extensive than my own, and I found myself agreeing with some parents in the program. I, for one, would be extremely concerned if I were unable to get someone's attention because they're too engrossed in their computers. I would never resort to monitoring my kids' online activity (since they'd probably be able to work around it), but I would absolutely set boundaries to use and access to put a cap on what I see as healthy use and addiction. Hopefully by the time I'll have to deal with this as a parent, Internet addiction will have been more researched and credited.