Technology is a useful tool when used in a responsible and common sense way……but for those with little or no self control it can be used in a very irresponsible way by Bullying, Stalking, Lying & Cheating and hurt many people in the process.
According to a recent study, the rate of infidelity within relationships stands at 20%, which hasn’t changed particularly much over the last few decades—however, what we’re seeing now is the prevalence of the Internet and other new technologies (like disposable cell phones) in cheating scenarios. Modern conveniences like these allow people to covertly arrange hook-ups outside the bounds of their committed relationships; and can help in either concealing them or end up in them getting caught that much easier (depending on how good they are with their chat logs, browser histories and cell phone call records).
In a recent study, Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, reported that the rate of infidelity has held steady at about 20 percent.
What has changed radically in the past 20 years, however, is technology.
Whether a person is likely to have an affair largely depends on two factors, says marriage counselor and therapist Kim Ploussard: opportunity and convenience.
Thanks to the Internet and the availability of disposable cellphones, people now have the opportunity to meet and connect with many potential partners discreetly and from the comfort of home.
What do you think—how has the Internet changed the modern landscape? Has it helped bring people closer together (as in the case of Internet dating, meet-ups and Facebook connections) or has it ended up shortening people’s relationship attention spans and led them to constantly seek new stimulation elsewhere?
The article relates a few even more stunning figures:
— 20 percent of divorces today involve Facebook.
— The Internet is involved in the initiation of a relationship 70 percent of the time.
— About half the people online lie.
How can we overcome both our new addiction to technology and also the endless jealousy that can result from spying on our partners’ electronic records and public social media accounts to see who they might be talking to?
INTRODUCTION INTERNET ADDICTION DISORDER
The growing body of research in the area of addiction suggests that Internet Addiction Disorder, a psychophysiological disorder involving tolerance; withdrawal symptoms; affective disturbances; and interruption of social relationships, is a presenting problem that is becoming more common in society as on-line usage increases by the day. With the growing importance of the Internet in everyday life, more and more people are accessing various on-line resources each day. The World Wide Web is informative, convenient, resourceful, and fun. For some people though–the addicted–these benefits are becoming detriments. There are varying opinions on the subject, especially among those who utilize the Internet. Some say that the Internet can be addicting, to the point that it disturbs one’s life and the lives of those around him. Others say that there is no such thing as Internet Addiction Disorder– getting pleasure out of a computer is not the same as getting pleasure from cocaine or any other drug. Whether there is or is not a bona fide disorder, the Internet is disrupting many people’s lives. Who is to blame for this disorder? Is it the WWW companies or is it the individual? Whichever (if either), the solution is not to outlaw the Internet, as with psychoactive drugs. Simple methods of prevention do exist that can reduce the negative effects of Internet use.
DEFINING INTERNET ADDICTION DISORDER
To be diagnosed as having Internet Addiction Disorder, a person must meet certain criteria as prescribed by the American Psychiatric Association. Three or more of these criteria must be present at any time during a twelve month period: 1. Tolerance: This refers to the need for increasing amounts of time on the Internet to achieve satisfaction and/or significantly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of time on the Internet. 2. Two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days to one month after reduction of Internet use or cessation of Internet use (i.e., quitting cold turkey) , and these must cause distress or impair social, personal or occupational functioning. These include: psychomotor agitation, i.e. trembling, tremors; anxiety; obsessive thinking about what is happening on the Internet; fantasies or dreams about the Internet; voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers. 3. Use of the Internet is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. 4. The Internet is often accessed more often, or for longer periods of time than was intended. 5. A significant amount of time is spent in activities related to Internet use ( e.g., Internet books, trying out new World Wide Web browsers, researching Internet vendors, etc.). 6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of Internet use. 7. The individual risks the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of excessive use of the Internet. In recent research, other characteristics have been identified. The first is feelings of restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use. The second is that the Internet is used as a way of escaping problems or relieving feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression. The third characteristic is that the user lies to family members or friends to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet. And, finally, the user returns repeatedly despite excessive fees (Egger & Rauterberg, 1996).
“ADDICTION” AND INTERNET ADDICTION DISORDER
Bratter and Forest (1985; in Freeman, 1992) define addiction as “a behavior pattern of compulsive drug use characterized by overwhelming involvement…with the use of a drug and the securing of the supply, as well as the tendency to relapse after completion of withdrawal.” Like all other addictions, Internet addiction is a psychophysiological disorder involving tolerance (the same amount of usage elicits less response; increased amounts become necessary to evoke the same amount of pleasure), withdrawal symptoms (especially, tremors, anxiety, and moodiness), affective disturbances (depression, irritability), and interruption of social relationships (a decline or loss, either in quality or quantity). Due to the nature of Internet Addiction Disorder (failed impulse control without involving an intoxicant), of all other addictions, IAD is said to be closest to pathological gambling. However, the effects that the addiction can have on every aspect of the person’s life are just as devastating as those of alcoholism. Kimberly S. Young, Psy.D., conducted a study involving nearly 500 heavy Internet users. Their behavior was compared to the clinical criteria used to classify pathological gambling as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Using this criteria, eighty percent of the participants in the Young’s study were classified as dependent Internet users. They “exhibited significant addictive behavior patterns.” She concludes that, “the use of the internet can definitely disrupt one’s academic, social, financial, and occupational life the same way other well-documented addictions like pathological gambling, eating disorders, and alcoholism can” (Young, 1996). There have been many attempts by medical doctors and psychologists to explain addiction disorders. These theories include psychodynamic and personality explanations, sociocultural explanations, behavioral explanations, and biomedical explanations. Not all explain any addiction perfectly, and some are better than others at explaining Internet addiction.
Psychodynamics and Personality
Psychodynamic and personality views account for addiction through early childhood traumas, correlations with other certain personality traits or other disorders, and inherited psychological dispositions (Sue, 1994). A dispositional model or diathesis-stress model of addiction might help in understanding IAD. Certain people, due to a variety of factors, may be predisposed (diathesis) to developing an addiction to something, be it alcohol, heroin, gambling, sex, shopping, or on-line computer services. They could go through their entire lives never developing any kind of addiction. On the other hand, if the right stressor, or combination of stressors, affects the person at a critical time, the person may be more inclined to develop an addiction. If the person begins drinking alcohol even occasionally, but continues to increase consumption, he may develop a dependency on alcohol. The same premise holds for Internet addiction. If it is the right combination of time, person, and event, then addiction may take place. The idea is that it is not the activity or subject that is important. It is the person that is most crucial to the equation.
Addictions vary according to sex, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, and country. Some addictions are more common among persons of different categories. For example, alcoholism is most common in the middle socioeconomic classes, in Native and Irish Americans, and in Catholics. Whites are more likely to use PCP and hallucinogens, but less likely than Blacks or Latinos to use heroin(Sue, 1994). Not enough data is available yet about those persons addicted to the Internet to determine if a particular class is most predominant. In addition, at this point there is not enough diversity among Internet users to make any definitive statements. As the diversity among users increases, and as the amount of research on the problem increases, hopefully we will know more about this interesting aspect of addiction with regard to the Internet.
These explanations are based on B.F. Skinner’s studies on operant conditioning (Sue, 1994). The person performs a behavior and gets either rewarded or punished for the behavior. To illustrate, there might be a child who is painfully shy and fears meeting new people. Whenever it is time for recess, he goes off on his own, and does not play with the other children. Thus, he avoids having to talk to anyone new, and consequently avoids the anxiety associated with new encounters. This avoidance of anxiety is rewarding and reinforces his behavior. This means that he is likely to engage in this behavior (escaping from the problem) the next recess, or the next time he must meet new people. This relates to addiction, and specifically Internet addiction in the following way: Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, the Internet, and shopping offer many rewards. They offer love, excitement, physical, emotional, and material comfort, and the means to escape from reality. These can all be rewards. If an individual wants these rewards and learns that the Internet will allow him to escape, or receive love, or have a lot of fun, he will probably turn to the Internet the next time he feels these needs. This becomes reinforcing, and the cycle continues.
Does Bad Behavior On the Internet Count as Infidelity?
The Internet is a portal into many different cultures, people, and experiences. The excitement and intrigue in meeting someone online whom you might otherwise never have met has led to many different types of dating sites. While these may have initially been created for single people, sometimes committed partners stray to these sites in search of entertainment. Presenting yourself as available, emotionally or physically, while in a committed relationship is false advertising. If you take the online interaction to the next level, such as cybersex, the question arises: Are you actually cheating?
A Few Good Rules of Thumb
Generally speaking, there are a few codes of conduct in a relationship that may clarify some morally questionable behavior, such as what constitutes cheating. It’s always best to avoid deliberately doing something behind your mate’s back. In general, if you’re feeling guilty about whatever it was that you did or are thinking of doing, it is probably a bad choice.
Is It the Act or the Intention?
This has been a common question connected to many of the discussions and philosophies on the subject of cheating. If someone thinks about being with someone else, is that technically cheating? Many people say no. But what if the person is engaging in sexual communication with another? Would phone sex, or cybersex, be crossing the line? There are many who say yes. Whether it’s through words or physical action, you are choosing to engage in a sexual act with another person outside of your relationship, and probably without your partner’s knowledge.
It’s Up to the Other Partner to Decide
In the end, it may come down to whether or not the other partner feels cheated on. Every relationship is unique, and only the two people involved can ultimately decide what does and doesn’t work in their partnership. Be honest with each other. If there’s any question as to whether or not one partner may be disrespecting the other, it’s up to the other partner to decide.
In our tech-friendly age, it has become increasingly easier to blur the lines of “appropriate communication” with others while maintaining a committed relationship. Texting and the Internet offer a buffer between the physical world and the ether world of technology, allowing some to rationalize away these behaviors with so much potential for infidelity. As a general rule, when looking to others outside of your relationship to fulfill a need, you should always take some time to evaluate your partnership before doing so. Perhaps there is someone out there better suited to you and your needs. If you choose to indulge in cybersex while in a committed relationship, you must respect your partner enough to give them a head’s up, and their say in the matter—even if it’s an ultimatum.
Psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg, MD is the doctor who coined the term Internet Addiction Disorder. Goldberg and Young offer some ways people who believe they are addicted, or may be heading toward addiction, can help themselves. First, Goldberg says, people must recognize patterns of overuse. An awareness of the basic symptoms is important. A key signal to this would be time spent at the computer, but also time spent thinking about the Internet or in activities related to the Internet. The next step, according to Young, is to identify underlying problems. Similar to other kinds of addicts, Internet addicts should ask themselves what is causing them to want to escape from everyday life? The third step is to devise and act out a plan to work through the problem, rather than escape it. Escaping from the problem through the Internet, and effectively ignoring it, does not make the problem go away. It usually only intensifies the problem. Finally, the addict needs to take steps to resolve the addiction itself. Young advises a gradually decline in use, until finally a “sensible” amount of time is reached (Murray, 1996).
The Internet is not the enemy just because people become dependent on it. It has many important and necessary benefits. It is fast, ecologically sound, convenient, and informative. In many ways it makes our lives much simpler. In many ways it makes our lives more complex. The Internet provides an escape from reality and everyday problems just like alcohol or drugs. Some argue that the interaction with other people on the Internet fills a social void. People can assume new identities; others interact with that identity and the person may assume these on-line relationships are the same as the real thing. It becomes a problem when people become so engrossed and enmeshed in on-line activities, and their “other” lives to the point of neglecting their health, relationships, jobs, and other responsibilities. As with many of life’s pleasures, moderation is the key.