Who can truly self-analyze themselves and come to the conclusion that they need perhaps a bit of help? As a social worker, this is something we are encouraged to do quite often in order for us to help others better. In my latest self-analysis I realized I am part of a growing trend: internet addiction.
I admit that I simply must get online each day to check my Facebook friends and see what has been happening in the world of my friends and associates in the few hours I was away. I am truthful enough with myself to know that I am not addicted to the games on Facebook (though I am a part of way too many of them!)--I am addicted to the connection to the outside world in a way that is comfortable to myself.
I have always been an introvert, prefering to stay inside and read a book than attempt to make a fool out of myself trying to make friends with the local children. The few times I attempted to seek friendship I was viciously rejected, driving me further into my self-isolation. I escaped my lonely world through the adventures of other characters and sought companionship in my cat, who never rejected or humilitated me. I was content; I was socially isolated.
Then the world of the internet opened up (and became faster). I discovered that I could be myself through the written word and obtain friendships with others that otherwise might not have accepted me in a live situation. Online I had no peer pressure to worry about, and I thrived. I went to college, made a few (live) friends, we graduated and moved back to our prospective states, and then distance made it nearly impossible to spend time with them.
Until Facebook came along.
We found each other once again through this internet tool and have been in constant, even daily, contact since! A friend I consider my soul sister who lives in Texas converses with me every day, and we are able to indulge ourselves in constant Scrabble games with each other--all due to Facebook. Is it a wonder I've become addicted? Who would not be if you could re-connect with dear friends, keep in touch, and share in each other's lives this way?
Facebook is free...stamps cost money, as does paper and envelopes.
Facebook is instant...mailing a letter takes weeks for a reply.
Recently, I have become aware of a growing problem besides addiction to the internet, and this is internet bullying. Never one to really think of my age, it was brought to my attention that the younger generation is dealing with this horrible and unneccessary problem. In our world that allows anyone who can type to create a website on absolutely anything they can dream, some mean-spirited teenagers are using this medium to attack and spread hate. Emails, instant messaging, Facebook, websites...all are used to create a world of misery for others. Unlike when I was younger when I could run away from my taunts by simply going home, now our teenagers are being targeted while they are at home as well. There is no reprieve for them. Teen suicide is rising, and there is a distinct and direct link to internet bullying.
What can be done?
As adults in today's society, we should be more carefully monitoring our teens and the mediums that they use. This is not only for their safety, but for others' safety as well. We should filter their inbox and outbox, block certain content from being available, and closely watch whenever they log into the world wide web. Perhaps if we adults become more vigilant, we can help decrease the misery and deaths of younger people. I know that we as parents do not like to think that our child would be involved in tormenting someone else, but we cannot keep blinders on. We, the parents of these children, are responsible as well for these rising suicides if we do not do our part to keep our children from contributing.
Perhaps I am hyper-sensitive since I was "teased" growing up, but I will do what I must to ensure my daughter does NOT either become a statistic nor adds to them.
Internet addicted? Perhaps.
Internet blinded? Hopefully never.
What are your thoughts about internet addiction and internet bullying?