No-fault Internet addiction
Online chat host: Good morning, cyber pals. As you know, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the psychiatric “bible,” is to be released this month. It will include “Internet-Use Disorder” — also referred to as Internet addiction — as a condition recommended for further psychiatric study. Our guest today is Dr. Adam Von Cybercruncher, America’s leading authority on Internet addiction.
Dr. Adam: Hello, all. More people are spending hours online to the detriment of their families, friends, jobs and other responsibilities. But as is the case with many psychiatric disorders, it is not their fault.
Host: OK, let’s open up for questions from our cyber pals.
MotherMary: My young children think I’m an Internet addict, but I think they’re the ones with the problem. They’ve been banging on my door for hours, muttering something about food.
Dr. Adam: They are young and don’t understand your challenges, Mary. Group counseling will help.
IowaSusan: My husband spends every waking moment typing notes to his friends in online chat rooms. He avoids me and the kids, and he doesn’t do any chores around here.
Dr. Adam: Please be more sympathetic, Susan. Have you considered group counseling?
BuffaloBill: First, my wife replaced our portrait of our children with one of Bill Gates. And I think she is seeing another man on the Internet!
Dr. Adam: What makes you think that?
BuffaloBill: She received a dozen roses from somebody named Bob7135.
Dr. Adam: It’s not a big deal, Bill. Marriage is hard and people get bored. It is to be expected that your wife might fantasize about a better life with a stranger. Try to understand.
EliteEllen: My husband used to be an adventurer. We traveled to exotic places. Now, we go nowhere, because he refuses to leave his computer.
Dr. Adam: Get thy family to a therapist.
SuperDad: Dr. Adam, I bought smartphones for all three of our children and they spend hours locked in their rooms, texting people. My wife thinks this is not good, but I like it, because now I can communicate with them by text and don’t actually have to be with them.
Dr. Adam: Your wife is living in the past, SuperDad. Perhaps she can join you in family therapy.
Vince: Dr. Adam, with all due respect, aren’t you overdoing it with all this talk of addiction?
Dr. Adam: Internet addiction is a serious problem, Vince. Those afflicted by it are helpless, just the way some people are made helpless by alcohol and others are sent out of control by gambling. There are many addictions in life, and this is but another.
Vince: Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Adam. I agree that some people can’t handle alcohol or gambling. But for the vast majority of us, might we not be making some excuses?
Dr. Adam: Excuses?
Vince: Look, I don’t doubt some people are addicted to the Internet and electronic devices. But it seems to me that many of the people who overdo it on the Internet — or overdo other vices, for that matter — are often just being selfish and lazy.
Dr. Adam: What are you getting at, Vince?
Vince: When I was a kid, we used to call most “addictive” behavior slothful behavior. Most people who overindulged at the expense of their families and responsibilities were being inconsiderate at best and rude at worst. Nowadays, nothing is anybody’s fault.
Dr. Adam: Ah, you are a Republican. Like so many closed-minded people, you are a square who is addicted to living in the past. You need to get to a therapist.
Host: Well, that’s all the time we have, cyber pals. In our next chat, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of conducting an online affair.
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated.