Imagine sitting in the same chair, doing the same activity for 2,190 days in a row.
One Chinese man has spent the past 6 years at an online cafe, only occasionally leaving for food, and for a random shower. He sleeps at the cafe during the day, if he gets tired, but otherwise he is generally engaging in online activity. This man, Li Meng, even pays the cafe a monthly rent as you would for an apartment.
6 years at one place, doing the same activity over and over every day. Based on news reports, Li has clearly not had a haircut during his time at the cafe, but he makes enough money from at least some of the online activity to support his life.
According to reports, Li finished college, but instead of going on to find a job like the rest of his peers, as is expected of young men his age, Li chose to start frequenting the internet cafe and engaging in online activity for money.
Internet addiction, as we diagnose it in United States at least, is an alarming problem in China.
China has tried putting a stop to the high levels of online gaming that have occupied the time of way too many young people throughout their country. Camps were set up to discontinue Internet addiction one individual at a time. Allegedly parents take their kids to these camps where violence is used to “cure” the young person of an Internet or online gaming addiction. In a country that sees about 80% of its young population suffering from a desire to constantly be online, and that has a total population of 450 million people, online gaming is without a doubt a growing problem in China.
So is there harm in kids spending a lot of time online? What about Li Meng’s lifestyle choice? Is he hurting anyone? Is he hurting himself?
Behavioral addictions seem much harder to define than substance addictions, don’t they? If someone is drinking to the point of intoxication every night, and has been arrested for drunk driving, and has been abusive to family members while drunk, that addiction to alcohol is clearly harmful to the person who is drinking, and to those around the alcoholic. But what about someone like Li Meng, or the millions of young people in China, and around the world, who are involved in various online activities a majority of their lives? The consequences and ramifications of an Internet or gaming addiction are not as clear.
No one who has been interviewed at the online cafe has really heard Li speak much, so it is not known what Li’s relationship is like with his family. It can be assumed that if Li is basically living at the cafe, and people do not see his family with him, then his relationship with family members must be at least somewhat estranged.
Internet and online gaming addiction diagnosis can follow the general umbrella criteria that are used to identify a drug addiction.
- Has the individual experienced a loss of control over use of a substance or over a behavior?
- Is the person obsessed with use of a substance, or with engagement in a behavior?
- Does the individual continue to use even after experiencing negative consequences directly, or indirectly, from the use of a substance, or the involvement in a behavior?
- Even when the problem is evident, is the person still in denial?
- Is a powerful tendency to relapse his or her reality? Has the person tried to stop or slow down use of a substance or frequency of a behavior, but the use also returns?
Help is available for online Internet addiction. The intensive outpatient treatment program at The Control Center helps clients learn and practice tools for recovery in real time, while continuing their daily schedule. Find out how you can participate and change your behaviors.
photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc