Walking around campus and seeing my fellow Hokies with their noses pressed against the screens of their phones is not an uncommon sight. Nor is it peculiar to see someone at every dining hall looking at a computer screen instead of a friendly face.
It’s the everyday life of a student, but is it healthy? I think not.
This behavior, however, has become a part of our culture. In fact, it’s a part of many cultures around the world.
And it’s about time that changed — especially because last Monday an inpatient treatment program opened at Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania whose goal is to treat individuals suffering from Internet addiction. According to the Center’s website, “(expert clinicians) work with individuals, couples and families to help them better understand and recover from a video gaming or technology related behavioral addiction.” Now, they have developed a voluntary program that will aid addicts for ten days to help overcome their “addiction” by denying them the use of technology and subjecting them to intensive therapy and evaluation.
While this has not been declared a “legitimate” disease yet, meaning insurance won’t pay for it because it is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Internet addiction is still a huge problem. It has been defined as “any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one’s work environment,” according to the program’s director. Sounds like alcohol addiction to me.
Our country isn’t the first to develop this type of treatment, and I believe Pennsylvania certainly won’t be the last state in the country to do so either. So what can we do?
We can let our family, friends, neighbors and classmates sit on their computers all day. We could just watch our best friends play video games until they run out of imaginary lives.
Or, we could decide that it’s not socially acceptable to behave this way.
I can’t count how many times I’ve sat down to dinner with a friend and been ignored because of a text, tweet or Facebook update. Some say that it’s just our generation and that “teens” don’t think it’s rude, but I do. And I know plenty of adults that are just as rude as our generation.
It may have started with us, but our elders didn’t deem it socially unacceptable until it was too late. Now we’re all dealing with the possibility of a widespread “Internet addiction.”
It’s time to speak up to our friends, close the laptop for a few hours and put the phones in our pockets. Cyber-life can wait.