Magazine 2013
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Internet: This Century’s Bliss Or Bane  
Anuja Deshpande  
This article is a review of literature that aims to highlight both, the benefits and drawbacks of  
internet addiction. The article explores the findings of significant studies in the field, and attempts to  
consolidate the knowledge that may be gained from the same. While the internet and its use have  
become a necessary part of most people’s lives; there has also been a growing concern about  
understanding the ever increasing phenomena of Internet addiction. This article will attempt to  
demonstrate the prevalence and the causes of internet addiction, and will try to explore the concerns  
associated with the same. While the methods of treating internet addiction are beyond the scope of this  
article, it tries to tie together the empirical evidence that may provide a direction towards developing  
just such a treatment method.  
Keywords - Internet, Internet Use, Internet Disorder  
The Internet is a new medium or network that connects persons across the globe in a single click. While  
it affords its users the ability to access information and entertainment with relative ease, it has been associated  
with unpleasant consequences as well. Essentially the Internet allows a user access to material from various  
fields, often in copious amounts (Katz & Rice, 2002). It is of great use to people who need to find and use data  
on different subjects – whether with respect to work, leisure or education. In some cases, people are able to  
follow events that occur half way across the globe in real time. But like any tool, the Internet also becomes  
implicated in certain negative situations, and has taken its share of blame in causing behavioural and emotional  
problems in people amounts (Katz & Rice, 2002). It is an unfortunate truth that a student may use the Internet  
to cheat just as easily as to study; that an employee may use it to cut corners just as frequently as to add  
efficiency to their work.  
Pros of Internet use  
Given a basic understanding of the Internet and its use, it may be said that Internet use has both positive  
and negative consequences for a user. Whether any particular individual will experience predominantly positive,  
negative or mixed consequences is often based on other personal and situational factors. Research has found  
that the use of the Internet has been implicated in the following positive consequences for users (Katz & Rice,  
Expanded Knowledge Base  
The Internet enables you to access information sources from around the world, giving you the ability to  
conduct both research and business transactions. Internet users can access data from international libraries,  
museums and schools for a wide range of subjects (Dill, 2009). This enables them to collect a large amount of  
information in relatively less time and with lesser effort. Many use the Internet to explore their surroundings and  
make vacation plans, make car, hotel and airline reservations movie bookings or shop online for a variety of  
products. Free movies and books are available for downloading through various websites. On-line banking  
gives an individual the ability to track their finances on a daily basis and to pay bills instantly and keep  
paperless records. Schools have built Internet use into the curriculum, to improve their students’ vocabulary  
and study habits and to help the students feel they are part of the wider world (Dill, 2009). Children research  
school projects and often use the Internet for fun, games and communication with others. According to Maddux  
and Johnson (2005) – the authors of “Internet Applications of Type II Uses of Technology in Education,” Internet  
use in schools empowers students to use technology to create their own learning environments “filled with  
enthusiasm and self-motivation.”  
Ease of Communication  
Email, blogs, discussion forums and chat rooms give Internet users the ability to communicate with  
family and friends faster and more easily than at any time in previous history amounts (Katz & Rice, 2002). The  
ease of sharing photos and other material with others, the convenience of email, even the use of the Internet to  
make phone calls are all benefits of the Internet. Working from home via the Internet has changed the way many  
businesses operate, allowing them to work with people in far-flung areas (Dill, 2009). It even has the benefit of  
reducing rush hour traffic and reducing the costs of going to work, such as the cost of commuting and the cost  
of a wardrobe for the office for those who work from home.  
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While Internet addiction can harm personal relationships (if Internet use takes the place of doing things  
with your family and friends), the Internet can also make relationships stronger because of the ability to  
communicate easily. Another valuable aspect of the Internet is the possibility of creating new friendships with  
people around the world by meeting them through chat rooms and discussion forums (Maddux & Johnson,  
005). It is possible to find a group that shares one’s interests, whether they are literature, travel, cooking,  
religion, health or anything else amounts (Dill, 2009). Internet users share ideas and collaborate with others on-  
line. An individual has the potential to develop a network of friends around the world who share his/her interests  
and ideas.  
Cons of Internet use  
On the other hand, Internet use (or the excesses thereof) has been also associated with some negative  
consequences for an individual. These may be summarised as:  
One potential problem with Internet use is that it can cause users to isolate themselves from face-to-face  
social interaction (Dill, 2009). The Internet allows home users to remain withdrawn from physical interaction with  
others by taking part in Internet activities alone. According to Jerald J. Block (2008), this withdrawal can result  
in feelings of anger and even depression when the computer is not accessible to them.  
Social Skills  
Research has shown that Internet addiction may also have a negative effect on the development of social  
skills (Dill, 2009). Although interaction can occur through chat rooms and email, virtual interaction is not a  
replacement for real-life social situations. This can leave those dependent on the Internet for social needs –  
especially children and teenagers – at a disadvantage when it comes to real-life interactions such as job  
interviews or building friendships.  
Relationship Effects  
An addiction to Internet can also have a negative impact on intimate relationships, especially since many  
Internet activities revolve around sexual activity. An estimated 20 to 33% of Internet users go online for sexual  
purposes, according to statistics compiled by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy  
(Price, 2011). This activity may cause rifts in dating relationships and marriages, even to the point of infidelity or  
Internet addiction can also take a toll on both your physical and emotional health (Price, 2011). Internet  
activity requires little to no physical activity, which can contribute to problems with obesity and other weight-  
related health problems. Internet addiction may also contribute to depression or anxiety-related disorders.  
Internet Use Disorder  
In recent times, it has been seen by professionals that people are getting dependent on the Internet for  
basic information. People are spending more time on Internet; – the reason for this varies from individual to  
individual. While for the most, people lead relatively healthy lives in spite of extended access to the Internet,  
some people are unable to abstain from Internet use even when life circumstances require them to do so. They  
exhibit symptoms of agitation and mental discomfort when they are unable to use the Internet; and may be  
unable to function in other aspects of their lives as a consequence (Gackenbach, 2011). Such people are  
referred as being an “Internet Addict” or having the “Internet Use Disorder (IUD)” (Gackenbach, 2011). This  
condition is seen across groups so that essentially, anyone with access to the Internet can become dependent  
upon it regardless of gender or age. The Internet and mobile technologies offer a world of attractions to all: it  
is available 24/7, it is easily accessible, and it offers continuous entertainment and stimulation. It also offers the  
opportunity for anonymity and can offer an escape from reality. It can be a place where you can lower your  
inhibitions and experience an increased sense of intimacy. The five basic uses of Internet that, if used in excessive  
can hamper are normal routines are as follows (Gackenbach, 2011):  
Social networking/blogging  
General surfing.  
Internet gambling/games  
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e. Celebrity gossip/free downloads.  
The main concern associated with this condition arises because Internet Addiction is not yet recognised  
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as an official disorder in the current version of the DSM. The reason the disorder is uncategorised is because its  
principle features are very confusing – i.e. - it comes across as impulsive behaviour rather than substance  
dependence (Gackenbach, 2011). Since there is no clarity about reading the symptoms, the diagnosis for this  
condition is challenge. According to the American Psychiatric Association and the crafters of the DSM-V, a  
person with IUD will experience “preoccupation” with the Internet or with Internet gaming, withdrawal symptoms  
when the substance (Internet) is no longer available, tolerance (the need to spend more and more time on the  
Internet to achieve the same “high”), loss of other interests, unsuccessful attempts to quit, and display use of the  
Internet to improve or escape negative mood (Gackenbach, 2011).  
Internet addiction is becoming widely recognized and acknowledged, particularly in countries where it is  
affecting large numbers of people. In South Korea, it has even been declared a national health problem. Much  
of the current research on the subject of Internet addiction has been carried out in Asia which sees a large  
number of cases. It is also a growing concern in developed nations in North America and Europe (Price, 2011).  
Gender influences the types of applications that a person is addicted to, and underlying reasons for  
Internet addiction. Men tend to seek out dominance and sexual fantasy online, while women seek out close  
friendships, romantic partners, and prefer anonymous communication in which to hide their appearance (Price,  
011). It seems to be a natural conclusion that attributes of gender played out in Cyberspace parallel the  
stereotypes men and women have in our society. A possible reason for this may be that certain desires are  
reinforced by society, although the means to fulfil them are relatively unavailable. Thus, when the Internet  
provides the individual with the opportunity to do so, people feel motivated to take and use the said opportunity.  
There has been more and more scientific research devoted to understanding what the nature of IUD is, how it  
works neurologically, and how we can treat it. Research has shown that people with Internet addiction have  
demonstrable changes in their brains – both in the connections between cells and in the brain areas that control  
attention, executive control, and emotion processing (Gackenbach, 2011; Price, 2011). The most intriguing  
aspect of these facts is that some of these changes are similar to those seen in the brains of people addicted to  
cocaine, heroin, special K, and other narcotic substances.  
Further, other researchers have found that people who are addicted to the Internet have changes in the  
operation of the brain’s dopamine system – dopamine is generally credited for allowing us to experience  
pleasure and reward. Studies have found that people with Internet addiction have fewer dopamine receptors in  
certain areas of the brain, and a few other studies have suggested additional ways in which dopamine function  
might be impaired (Gackenbach, 2011; Price, 2011). Very recently studies have suggested that even specific  
genetic variations might be involved in Internet addiction.  
Studies based on Internet Addiction  
A number of researchers have tried to establish the incidence, prevalence and effects of Internet addiction  
among different groups. Other researchers have tried to determine the correlates of the condition while still  
others have tried to determine what factors lead to and precipitate Internet addiction. For example, Young  
1998) was able to determine that people showing dependence on the internet spent on an average 39 hours  
per week using it, while the general population shoed an average on only 5 hours per week. While this may be  
expected of persons whose jobs require the use of the internet, this internet usage was not associated with work  
related activities. Similar trends were also found by Chen and Chou (1999) who reported that an Internet  
addiction group (n = 69) spent significantly more time using the internet than a non–high-risk They also found  
a relationship between students’ scores on the Chinese Internet Addiction Scale and weekly amount Internet-  
use. These results were held up by Chou and Hsiao’s (2000) study which found that persons who were addicted  
to the internet spent thrice the amount of time using the internet as those who were not.  
The Young (1998) study also highlighted the use of predominately two-way communication functions  
such as chat rooms, role-playing games newsgroups, and/or email by persons with Internet addiction. On the  
other hand, non-dependent persons were more likely to use applications that enabled information gathering.  
Given these findings, Young proposed that the internet in its entirety could not be considered addictive; but  
certain applications were likely to be implicated in internet associated pathology. Kandell’s (1998) study supports  
this opinion by demonstrating that interactive activities like MUD games and chat-rooms are associated with  
addictive behavior. These findings also demonstrate that compulsive checking of email and web surfing were  
also associated with addition. Chou, Chou & Tyan (1999) also found that college students who were considered  
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RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
addicted to the internet typically preferred using chat functions, Bulletin Board Systems, File Transfer Protocol,  
Newsgroups, email, and games. Findings of Chou and Hsiao (2000) supported the findings of Chou, Chou &  
Tyan (1999).  
Given these findings, it may be said that while the internet cannot be considered addictive in its entirety,  
there are some functions that are associated with higher use by persons demonstrating addiction. These functions  
are also likely to contribute to a pathological dependence on the internet (Chou, Condron & Belland, 2005). It  
is interesting to note that all the implicated functions are interactive, and provide the user with an experience of  
accomplishment (games) and connectivity (chat / voice functions).  
As with any important debate, it is difficult to take one particular stand on the virtue of the Internet in  
today’s world. There is no question about the value that the Internet brings into the lives of most people. It not  
only aids in education and work, but also informing and maintaining social relationships. It allows people to  
progress rapidly in both academic and practical use of information, often as soon as hat information becomes  
available. The Internet has become a tool to not only reduce distances and differences, but also to foster  
growth and communication across situations. But on the flip side, it also opens up a Pandora’s Box of concerns,  
especially as it is impossible to regulate all the (mis)information available. Persons who demonstrate addiction  
to the internet seem to show a preference for interactive functions, and these same functions also seem associated  
with the development of pathological dependence. It is difficult to apply any notion of morality, acceptability  
and validity given the varied spectrum of users that the Internet has; and often this means that people will get  
access to material that can interfere with their ability to lead healthy and productive lives. While in most cases  
the problems are remedied with behavioural adjustment, some people may get addicted to using the Internet.  
As more research is conducted with such persons, underlying factors that can pre-dispose an individual to such  
an addiction are becoming evident. With time, it is hoped that research will yield an understanding of the  
phenomenon of IUD that can be applied to helping people cope with and avoid IUD.  
Block, J. J. (2008). Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction. American Journal of Psychiatry, 165: 306–7.  
Chen, S. H., and Chou, C. (1999). Development of Chinese Internet addiction scale in Taiwan. Poster  
presented at the 107th American Psychology Annual convention, Boston,USA. Print  
Chou, C., Chou, J., & Tyan, N. N. (1999). An exploratory study of Internet addiction, usage and  
communication pleasure—The Taiwan’s case. Interntional Journal of Education and Telecommunication,  
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Chou, C., Condron, L. & Belland, J. C. (2005). A Review of the Research on Internet Addiction. Educational  
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Chou, C. & Hsiao, M. C. (2000). Internet addiction, usage, gratiûcations, and pleasure experience—The  
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