Internet addiction: Opting out of reality?

Allow me to cite a few excerpts from articles I read:

“User participation at sites such as Blogger.com, MySpace.com, and Wikipedia.org increased by 525%, 318%, and 275% respectively. ” (Byun, et. al. 2009, 203)

“Social escape is the use of the Internet to escape pressure or to alleviate feelings of sadness or depression…Virtual intimacy is the affinity an individual has for interacting with others on the Internet in comparison to real-world interaction.” (Zhang, Amos, & McDowell, 2008, 729)

“Social problems of addicts include conflicts with family and friends, relationship breakdown, impairment in jobs and academic work, and financial difficulties….

Warning signs include: change in sleep pattern, demands for privacy, ignoring household chores, evidence of lying, personality changes, financial problems, physical problems, declining investment in relationships, decreased productivity, less interaction with co-workers, reduced tolerance of workplace conditions, excessive fatigue, and increased sick leave.” (Murali & Onuba, 2009)

“Social aspects of the game world [become] more important and satisfying than social relationships in their real world…65.8% of players agree that ‘they sometimes feel proud of their avatars.’ [MMORPG] Players with a higher tendency towards addiction are usually more proud and ashamed of their virtual character…MMORPGs offer some players the option to work on their consistent self. Their progress in this cases is, however, not usually transferrable to situations out of the game universe. A greater emotional engagement then seems to suggest that the player is ‘stuck’ in the game and that it could be a reality replacement for the player.” (Smahel, Blinka & Ledabyl, 2008, 715, 717).

What do you think about the relationship between our internet use and our faith commitment as Christians?

It hardly seems to me as simple as avoid everything, embrace everything, or use in moderation. This matter seems somewhat tied to personality strengths and weaknesses as well as our individual Christian convictions. Those with addictive tendencies are going to need to take drastic measures. Likewise, people that believe use of certain internet tools would not be edifying or building them and others up in the Lord may also have to draw some boundaries around what they can and cannot do. Many other people will fall in the camp of some semblance of moderation and the idea that they can employ some of these technologies to maintain contact with friends and family.

Principles to keep in mind:

Are you seeking after His kingdom first?

Would you be willing to cease Internet activities or be held accountable for what you’re involved in?

Are you able to keep up with the responsibilities you’ve been entrusted with?

Are significant relationships in your life continuing to grow and flourish?

Is your heart divided when engaging in Internet activities?

Are you representing your true self or a false self online?

Does time spent online replace face-to-face relationships or hands-on projects?

Does your Internet activity lead to greater dissatisfaction with real life situations and relationships?

If held in account for the way you spend your time each week, would you feel at all convicted about any of your Internet involvement? (i.e. are you killing time that the Lord has provided you for another purpose?)

I am increasingly concerned with the impersonalization of our contact with others by the use of the Internet.

  • Partly, it bothers me that big news in our lives can be broadcast to everyone on an updated facebook status. Does that trivialize some of the depth of our relationships or the way we ‘should’ feel about things that are personally significant?

  • In addition, it troubles me that young and emerging adults might spend more time online than engaging their friends face-to-face or getting involved in their community.
  • How much are we able to do in secret these days that no one can call us into account for? Certainly the Holy Spirit can even if no one else says a word, but the further we move away from investing time in relationships side by side, the more likely we are eventually to listen and obey the Spirit.
  • How are these patterns throughout teens, twenties, and thirties going to impact us for the rest of our lives? What did we sow and what will we reap?

I’m not saying we can’t use many of the Internet tools to the glory of the Lord, what I am saying is that once we log on, we will not be encouraged to think critically about what we’re doing, what we say, where we visit, or how long we hang out. So, I want to continue to think about what I’m doing and reevaluate the role the Internet has in my life and I would encourage you to periodically check your heart on these matters with the Spirit, too!

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