Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Internet Addiction Urban Legend

This post aims at addressing the concept of Internet addiction. As a psychiatrist, I'm baffled to read articles written by fellow psychiatrists (usually the ones that have never used a computer in their entire life) emphasizing the dangers of Internet addiction.

To me, they just don't get it. The Internet is a medium. There is no such thing as being addicted to it. You can certainly be addicted to some online games or say, online porn. But, to me, talking about Internet addiction is, simply put, the proof that the person talking don't know what they're talking about. Many psychiatrists have applied the DSM-IV ("Psychiatry Bible") addiction criteria to the Internet to give birth to the concept of "Internet addiction". To me, it is as stupid as writing about breathing addiction (aren't we all addicted to breathing air? We can't spend a single day without doing it) or feeding addiction (we all feel the urge to eat whenever we've been deprived of food for a few hours...). The same could apply to "reading addiction".

Once again, the Internet is a medium. You can do thousands of different things online. Spending hours in front of a computer doesn't mean that you're addicted to doing the same thing as you can do so many different things on the Internet. People, specially mental health professionals, need to understand this paradigm shift.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Qantas Of Solace

Yesterday, I thought about this geeky thing that happened to me 6 months ago.

It was a rather cold morning in Sydney, Australia last August. I happened to be riding on a hop-on hop-off, double decker open top city-tour bus when when my iPhone received a push email that was sent in the middle of the night just seconds ago in France. That email came from a patient of mine who was facing a personal crisis. It was long but I was able to read it entirely on my iPhone while riding on the open upper deck of this city tour bus.

I couldn't help but experience a rather awkward and disturbing feeling. The contrast between this email sent by someone desperate on the other side of the planet, in the middle of a summer night, and me receiving it, during a happy moment as far as I could be from home, in the morning in winter. This was rather unsettling and reminded me of the new technology-enhanced world we are all living in.

I was hopefully able to answer this email within minutes with a few comforting words that brought solace to this patient who still has no clue where I was at the moment I answered!

This can only lead to one question:

1) What kind of crazy world are we living in?

2) What kind of crazy/geeky shrink am I in this world?