2008-08-20 / Opinion

Gabbing About Gadgets

by Alex McRae

To Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, all video game manufacturers, and inventor of the Internet Al Gore, let me say ...

"Congratulations, folks!" It worked.

What worked? Why, the business plan, which was to create and promote the biggest "addiction" to come along since nicotine.

Before you scream "Defamation!" and call your lawyers, hold up. I'm not the one saying y'all are on par with the corner crack dealer. The "addiction" charge was lodged in a paper published in the Journal of Psychiatry.

The author is Dr. Jerald Block, who trolls for new grant funding at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

Block's paper said obsessive Internet use is a public health problem that is so serious it should be officially recognized as a clinical disorder.

For those of you not fluent in health care, this translates as, "Dude, if we can get heavy Internet use declared like, an actual, you know, disorder, we'll be able to charge a fortune to treat it. This could be a bigger scam than sex addiction."

Chances are it won't be long before this "Internet addiction" is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Which means employers unfortunate enough to hire video game or Facebook "addicts" will have to pay to send them to a 12-step program to cure their uncontrollable urge to spend their waking hours playing Grand Theft Auto or texting Tina in Toledo about what to wear to the Global Warming concert.

According to press reports, "sufferers" have four symptoms:

1. They forget to eat and sleep.

2. They need more advanced technology or more hours online as they develop "resistance" to the pleasure given by their current system.

3. If they are deprived of their computer, they experience genuine withdrawal symptoms, and ...

4. in common with other addictions, the victims also begin to have more arguments, to suffer fatigue, to get lower marks in tests and to feel isolated from society.

This is an addiction? I know people who act the same way about fishing and golf. Bet they'd love to have their "disorder" declared an addiction so they could excuse poor work habits and, if they're lucky, collect disability benefits.

Block's paper says, "The relationship is with the computer. It becomes a significant other to them. They exhaust emotions that they could experience in the real world on the computer through any number of mechanisms: e-mailing, gaming, porn ... rather than having sex, or arguing with their wife or husband, or feeding their children, these adults are playing games."

They're playing games all right. With taxpayers' wallets. Everybody knows it's more fun to play than work, but video gamers shouldn't expect government workers or gold-digging doctors to support their hobby.

The shrinks that push this new disorder don't care about solving real mental health problems. They care about finding new sources of income, and for shrinks there's no better way to increase the bottom line than to create a previously non-existent illness.

Lots of things are truly addictive, in the clinical sense of the word. Drugs and booze come to mind. But video games? You can bet the only people who will ever get any relief from this non-existent disorder are the doctors who'll get paid to treat it.

(send your e-mail comments to: alex@newnan. com)

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