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Caught in the Web: Internet Addiction and the Electronic Threat to Reality

Caught in the Web: Internet Addiction and the Electronic Threat to Reality

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Published by Mateusz Buczko

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Published by: Mateusz Buczko on Sep 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Internet Addiction and theElectronic Threat to RealityBY
The setting: an anarchic citadel somewhere in the Middle East. Tim Wilde,the only surviving member of an elite counter-terrorist force, crouches behind a crate, holding tight the one remaining friend he has left: his Coltcarbine sub-machine gun. The rest of his crew have already fallen, their  bodies lining the passageway that together they fought through to get thisfar. Now, it’s up to Tim alone to defuse the bomb – and he’s got almost notime left.In a fraction of a second, he springs up from behind the crate and,with lightning-fast reflexes and eagle-eye precision, guns down the twoterrorists creeping along the passageway towards him. Before they even hitthe ground, he grabs a grenade from his belt and hurls it towards the end of the passageway.
The force of the explosion propels the body of the last defendingterrorist from around the corner. Without a moment’s hesitation, Tim dashesinto the thick cloud of smoke and, with only seconds to go beforedetonation, successfully deactivates the terrorist bomb.
Counter-terrorists win.
“Yes!!!”Tim leans back in his chair, triumphant, and wipes his hands on his shirt.“Eight kills, zero deaths” he reads off the screen proudly.TimWilde isn’t
part of a counter-terrorist force, and he’s nowhere near the Middle East. In fact, he’s just another mouse-happy teenager sitting inhis messy, stale-smelling bedroom in Brighton; blinds drawn, computer whirring quietly in the darkness. He looks like he hasn’t been in the sun for days, let alone the Arabian desert, and in reality, he wouldn’t even knowhow to get the safety lock off a Colt carbine. Online however, Tim is rankedas the fourth best
player in Australia no mean featconsidering we’re talking a 30,000-member community of some of the mostnimble-fingered geeks in the country.Having flawlessly accomplished his mission, Tim takes a sip from theCoke can stationed next to his mousepad. “I used to play this every night, for hours on end,” he confesses. “I was addicted. I guess I still am.”
Forget weed, booze and cigarettes – computer games are the most popular drug among young males today and, some would argue, the most addictive.Since ID Software released their first three-dimensional shoot-’em-up in1992, teenagers have been up all hours of the night slaughtering Nazis in
, then demons in
, and pretty much everything else since – these days, online, they shoot at each other. But in a computer game, of course, you don’t
take over the world, or marry the beautiful princess,or suppress the terrorist bomb threat. You don’t even get a friendlyhandshake to say,
. So what’s the big deal?“Computer games let you do things you normally couldn’t do,”explains Tim, as he commences another round of counter-terrorism. “Youcan fire guns, throw grenades, plant bombs…” – and, sure enough, it’s allright there on the screen, in stunningly realistic, highly detailed graphics.However, watching Tim himself, it’s painfully obvious that he isn’t actuallydoing
– he’s just sitting in his chair, hair still messed up from sleep,staring at a screen while frantically clicking his mouse, his speakersdrumming out loud and very realistic bullet sounds as he does so. In thenear-blackness of his bedroom, it strikes me as even somewhat surreal.So, how often does he do this?“I don’t know how much time,” he admits, standing on a balcony witha sniper rifle, “but basically, when I’m at home, I’m online.”This – “Internet addiction disorder”, as one sociologist calls it – is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the major social problems of the twenty-firstcentury. The problem isn’t getting people
to the Net anymore – it’s getting them
connected. According to a 2002 survey, 94% of Australian teenagers use the Internet, 39% of which use it predominantly for online gaming – at the expense of their studies, their social life and their  physical health. Yet online gaming is just one example of “Internet addictiondisorder” – even more potent, particularly for female users, is online chat.Go back 24 hours and I’m talking about this with Hakon Andersson, asecond-year Information Systems student at Melbourne University. Sittingopposite me, unshaven and dressed in earthy colours, he doesn’t give theimpression of being much of a technohead, but, being one of the fewAustralians to adopt the Net in the early 1990s, he has observed many of thechanges that have taken place both in and as a result of the medium. As wesit in a cafeteria near Melbourne University’s I.T. faculty, he makes someinteresting and revealing observations.

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