...few people will survive unscathed...
It all starts with mental problems, dear blog reader and fellow sufferer:
The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic.[emphasis added]
Worse than that,
At Stanford, Dr. Aboujaoude is studying whether some digital selves should be counted as a legitimate, pathological “alter of sorts,” like the alter egos documented in cases of multiple personality disorder...
These psychological charges lead Dokoupil to drug addiction. Not only does the internet make us psychotic, but
Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways...
Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, argues that “the computer is like electronic cocaine..."
The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts.[emphases added]
Where to begin...
First, the writer flings these controversial (at best) or bogus arguments with utter assurance, blithely ignoring any discussion. (Say, doesn't the internet make that kind of rhetorical style happen?) Better yet, he quotes Susan (Baron) Greenfield as an unimpeached source, similarly sidestepping any hint of dissenting views. Dokoupil brings up the DSM's new approach to internet addiction, forgetting to mention the huge problems with it. In fact, the article barely supports its huge claims at all.
When critics do appear, they don't get to make a case. Instead, they are, somehow, quietly, "puckish" (a term Dokoupil likes so much he uses it twice).
Second, Dokoupil ascribes vast, Svengali powers to internet-enabled devices. At no point does he raise any other reason to use the technology beyond addiction and madness. He mentions "corporate employees" tethered to smartphones, neglecting to consider that, just maybe, corporate culture and the bad jobs market might have something to do with it. Going on line to learn, connect with friends and family, express oneself... none of those non-Satanic reasons are allowed in this vision of internet as gargantuan crack pipe.
Similarly mood disorders are "linked" to online activities, neatly avoiding the possibility that casuality could run another way. Until the author weirdly tosses his argument aside at the end:
in a way, it doesn’t matter [!] whether our digital intensity is causing mental illness, or simply encouraging it along, as long as people are suffering.
So... "Everything I just wrote might well be wrong. But bad stuff is happening, dude. Could be the machines."
Third, the article commits the all too common error of assuming nobody has ever thought about this before.
[A]ll of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid.
"all of us", eh? Like the Association of Internet Researchers (founded 1999)? Or those studying the philosophy of technology? Brilliant, accessible thinkers like Howard Rheingold have been on the case. Librarians have been helping us from the start. Teachers have been teaching the heck out of the net. Why is such ignorance acceptable for Newsweek?
"without much conscious thought": how many articles, books, presentations, speeches, videos, and works of fiction have appeared over the past two generations doing that very conscious thinking? You'd have to be blind - or perhaps distracted - to have missed that.
"accept it" - apparently no human was involved in making the internet. We just received it passivel. The internet simply appeared in full completion, like a 2001 monolith, and we sat there, gawping, addiction circuits gaping wide.
Fourth, it's unclear which technology is in the author's cross-hairs. The titles claims "Web", but also mobile devices (hence the sickeningly trendy "iCrazy"), and also internet, not to mention the dreaded videogame world. The piece doesn't distinguish between any of these. Legacy tech appears, but mysteriously. Notice how the article folds tv into cyberspace via the typical weasling language of "screen time":
Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day; 11, if you count time spent multitasking on several devices.
Does this include tv watching, either hardware or content? Does the internet reframe decades of television experience in some way? The author is silent on this too-realistic point.
Entertainingly, note the magazine cover's celebrity gossip headline, and the Octomom and Tom Cruise links within the article. Presumably some media is a-ok.
I want to point to the "Dorito-encrusted" line, but prefer to leave that bit for the reader to discover. Picking this apart is ultimately saddening.