Is The Internet Driving Us Crazy?

Newsweek magazine just ran a front-cover story asking, “Is the Web driving us mad?” It cites new scientific research to argue that the internet is causing depression, changing our brain structure, and creating other mental illnesses. One UCLA research director tells the magazine “the computer is like electronic cocaine,” fueling a similar cycle of highs and then lows, and they also cite California psychologist (and book author) Larry Rosen, who believes the internet “encourages – and even promotes – insanity.”

Hachimaki (CC)

But at least one response argues that Newsweek is deliberately overstating the research, citing misleading sentences like “When the new DSM is released next year, Internet Addiction Disorder will be included for the first time, albeit in an appendix tagged for ‘further study’…”

Here’s the beginning of the Newsweek story by Tony Dokoupil:

Before he launched the most viral video in Internet history, Jason Russell was a half-hearted Web presence. His YouTube account was dead, and his Facebook and Twitter pages were a trickle of kid pictures and home-garden updates. The Web wasn’t made “to keep track of how much people like us,” he thought, and when his own tech habits made him feel like “a genius, an addict, or a megalomaniac,” he unplugged for days, believing, as the humorist Andy Borowitz put it in a tweet that Russell tagged as a favorite, “it’s important to turn off our computers and do things in the real world.”

But this past March Russell struggled to turn off anything. He forwarded a link to “Kony 2012,” his deeply personal Web documentary about the African warlord Joseph Kony. The idea was to use social media to make Kony famous as the first step to stopping his crimes. And it seemed to work: the film hurtled through cyberspace, clocking more than 70 million views in less than a week. But something happened to Russell in the process. The same digital tools that supported his mission seemed to tear at his psyche, exposing him to nonstop kudos and criticisms, and ending his arm’s-length relationship with new media.

He slept two hours in the first four days, producing a swirl of bizarre Twitter updates. He sent a link to “I Met the Walrus,” a short animated interview with John Lennon, urging followers to “start training your mind.” He sent a picture of his tattoo, TIMSHEL, a biblical word about man’s choice between good and evil. At one point he uploaded and commented on a digital photo of a text message from his mother. At another he compared his life to the mind-bending movie Inception, “a dream inside a dream.”…

And related video:

[more at Newsweek]

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  • v67

    Legacy media wants to keep you away from the Net at all costs.

    Why?  Because it is the end-run around the “news” oligarchy in our United States.

    I’ve heard only 5 companies now own 96% of U.S. media (which I assume refers to legacy media, not new media).

    “journalism”, so-called, in the U.S., is now an entertainment industry.  Time to sing Blues for News…

  • Anarchy Pony

    Short answer? Probably. I know that on days when I cut it out, I do feel remarkably better, but of course, less informed.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do

      There’s something addictive about being informed

      • Anarchy Pony

        Survival mechanism I imagine. 

        • Calypso_1

          I believe it is a drive that is as likely to get one killed.

    • Calypso_1

      This is why I stockpile weighty tomes of knowledge as if the fate of civilization might once again depend on such endeavors.

    • rtb61

       What is driving us crazy is being exposed to the reality of our world, the internet is digging beneath mass media bullshit and exposing a never ending stream of corporate deceit.
      This exposure to out world of lies is really putting people on edge. Prior to this, they thought they were the odd one out, the rare bad experience, the unusual and it turns out they were in fact the typical victim of corporate reality lie, cheat and steal, they is simply they way the operate all behind a massive Public Relations campaign managed by the total control of corporate mass media.

  • Noah Way

    Me? No, I’m not crazy. I have internet on the PC, internet on the phone and internet on the TV.  Or is it TV on the internet?

    • Autoconnect on startup

       I used to be internet crazy, but I’m all better now……did-it, did-it, did-it, did-it, did-it, did-it, did-it

  • batshitcrazy

    get out of my head

  • M.

    You know what drives me crazy? Seeing Christians claim that Dinosaur fossils are a Jewish conspiracy.

    • Calypso_1

      Seeing that xtians themselves are largely evolutionary fossils such a notion actually shows remarkable self insight into the general manipulation of their apocalyptic worldview by Israel to suit its own geopolitical goals.

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      I’ve never heard that one.

      It’s Awesome though.

      What’s the details on that, if you care to share them?

      • M.

        To be honest, I could probably good it and find it. Unfortunately, I’m not. I’ll get a headache and my day will be ruined.

    • jesus

      You want a Jewish conspiracy? How about the new DSM, Larry Rosen, and Newsweek?

  • Little green chicken

    The way in which the internet is changing our brains isn’t that insidious actually….apparently our brains are working more and more like search engines, rather than the traditional way of trying to retain vast quantities of information…which is beautifully indicative of the human brains’ amazing adaptability!

    As to the depression link, I think that before conclusions are reached it would be important to find out how much of that ‘link’ is to do with depressed people using the internet more due to their isolation and lack of ability to focus and concentrate, rather than the internet simply ‘causing depression’.

    There is also a question of whether the bountiful access to information on the net actually creates a lot of (previously non existent) stress on our brains. There is so much information to process and cross reference in our minds, that conditions such as anxiety and depression become more prevalent as a result of not being able to cope with this change as well as some others. I also think there could be a link between increases in the use of drugs (pharma and illegal) and trying to assimilate and process the information the brain is exposed to on the internet.

    As to the addiction question, I believe personally that one can get addicted to just about anything, even something that seems innocuous and harmless to most others. With regards to addiction, the important elements of researching it seem to lie with genetics (pre disposition to be unable to delay gratification), nurture (parental examples and teaching) and ultimately widely accepted definition (what we label as addiction). Finally, I think the ability and nature of human beings to become obsessed with things is also something work looking into.

  • Monkey See Monkey Do

    Its clear that next generation our brains will have completely changed into something else as a result of computers.

  • MoralDrift

    Whenever my internet is cut off for one reason or another, i certainly go into a sort of withdrawal like state..complete with feelings of agony and misplaced rage

  • http://onggg.wordpress.com/ Occult Nazi Go-Go Girls

    Internet can be a useful networking tool…the trick to limit one’s use of it to a modest time each day, and be active in the real world.

  • BrianApocalypse

     As someone who has been using the net for a long time, I think I have a different perspective on it than most of my friends. I remember when some of my friends started getting iPhones for the first time, and sitting in a room trying to talk with two of them as they both just sat staring at the screens. I just stood up and left the room, leaving them both sitting there, together in silence, for about 20 minutes before either of them spoke again.

    Both of them were doing things which they already had the ability to do on their computers, things which were essentially trivial like looking at pointless chat on twitter or facebook, but which I observed seemed to have some extra allure simply because it was mobile. Maybe the touch-screen added an extra dimension of immersion to the experience, but all of this came at a time when I was interested in breaking away from the net and actually talking to people properly again.

    The ironic thing is, despite being an net user for far longer than most people I know, I have much stronger desire to do ‘un-plugged’ activities than they do. Maybe it’s because my initiatory experiences with the internet occurred at a time when people still used the word ‘cyberspace’, like it was a different space you could enter that was distinctive from the physical world. I think that is why it attracted so many ‘freaks’ and fringe-culture people in the early days (I consider Disinfo to be part of that whole movement too), because it was a place you could shift to or escape to and connect with other people like you. Now it’s no longer a place you can escape to, it is all-pervasive, integrated with the social reality, and something which more people desire to escape *from*.

  • Okarin

    probably from the withdrawal of lack of good memes

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