Addico, ergo sum contd ...
The Internet is neither good nor bad, safe nor dangerous. It has no power unto itself. It can addict no one. Yes, the Internet is expanding exponentially. This is a function of its utility. It's not the size that counts, but how you use it that's important. Just as there is no such thing as a typical "addict," there is no such thing as a typical Internet addict. The people we label addicts constitute a heterogeneous population. This a fancy way of saying people are individuals. They log on and off of the Internet for diverse reasons, in diverse ways, and with diverse consequences.
Pronouncement without evidence is evidence of self-assigned God-like status. There is no evidence that Internet addiction exists, much less that it is a disease. Since it is not a disease, it cannot be treated. What passes as "treatment" for Internet addiction is simply conversation characterized by different rhetorical styles. Some people find the conversations called "therapy" useful. Many people think that therapists are crazy.
The conversation labelled "treatment" for "Internet addiction" consists of political, ceremonial, forensic, base, and noble rhetoric. The therapist and the designated "patient" urge one another to do or not do something in the future (political rhetoric). They praise or censure one another or others for what they are doing in the present (ceremonial rhetoric). They attack or defend one another or others for something someone did in the past (forensic rhetoric). They lie to one another, confusing symbolic and literal reality (base rhetoric). They tell the truth to one another, separating fact and fiction, encouraging courage, autonomy, responsibility, and liberty (noble rhetoric). These are ethical endeavors, not medical ones.
If we truly seek to comprehend the nature of "Internet addiction," we must study the "addictionologists" and the social, political, and economic context within which such persons make their pronouncements. We do not need to study the Internet, or the people communing with others via the Internet, to comprehend the mythical disease called "Internet addiction." Res ipsa loquitur.
1. In considering the claim that certain persons addict themselves to the Internet in ways that are amenable to "treatment," I rely primarily on distinctions between behavior and disease made by Thomas S. Szasz, MD over the past forty years.
Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D., is a psychologist and adjunct professor of justice, law, and society at American University's School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He is the author, most recently, of Addiction Is a Choice (Chicago: Open Court. 2000). His home page on the Internet is www.schaler.net .
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