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.”
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]