The internet is very important in our lives but it can also affect us in other ways considered inappropriate. Our social dimension involves relationships with others and living in the real world so we must interact with people and develop social relationships. Using the internet for this reason can be helpful. However, excessive use will be harmful to our wellbeing. While relationships are strongly affected by our personality and gender, our race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, age, physical appearance, and educational levels may also influence our interactions online in terms of how we use the internet appropriately or detrimentally.
When we use the internet in our lives in such as way that we become addicted to it, experts in Sociology advice us that this is not good for our social prosperity. The Center for Online Addiction (1998) has classified internet addiction in to the following specific types: Cybersexual Addiction, whereby addiction to adult chat rooms is unhealthy for everyone; Cyber-relationship Addiction, which is online friendship made in chat rooms or newsgroups that replace real-life friends and family; Net Complusions that refers to complussive online gambling, online auction addiction and obsessive online trading; Information Overload pertaining to compulsive web surfing or database searches; and Computer Addiction constituting obsessive computer game-playing or to programming aspects of computer science.
Some will correctly argue that each of the above are not necessarily addictive and henceforth harmful to someone. But the essential point here is that excessive indulgence in any or all of the above will be interpreted by Social Behavior and Relationships Experts as harmful to a person or group of persons such as a family. The internet is meant to enhance social lives and not unfortunately affect lives in a negative way.
Specifically, Cyber-relationship Addiction and the primarily focus on attitudes toward and conduct in electronic chat room communication is worth mentioning more here. The addiction is harmful when individual, family and community lives are at a disadvantage. Some professional experts such as Psychologists have categorized internet addiction as Internet Addiction Disorder (IDA). This exists when an individual “experiences ‘decreased occupational, academic, social, work-related, family-related, financial, psychological, or physiological functioning.’ ” See An Exploratory Analysis Of The Social Nature Of Internet Addiction…at http://www.sociology.org.
So internet addiction is antisocial and unhealthy. No one should ever want to reach such a stage in their daily and initially normal use of the internet for personal and professional purposes. But, because humans sometimes make mistakes and significant errors at times, we can look-out for some characteristics in determining internet addiction and seek expert professional social and psychological help for the person or group of persons negatively affected.
Some internet addiction criteria include: feeling preoccupied with the internet, such as, thinking about previous online activities or anticipating the next online session; feeling a need to use the internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction; making repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop internet use; feeling restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet usage; remaining online longer than intended; jeopardizing the loss of a significant personal relationship, job, education, or career opportunity because of excessive internet use; lying to family members, friends, or a therapist to conceal the extent of their involvement with the internet; and using the internet as a means for escaping from problems. These characteristics do not exclude others that are not necessarily mentioned here that an individual can identify in his/her own daily life while using the internet in a social manner. No one really wants to become an internet addict, in the same way a loving parent will want to see his/her child become addicted to gambling or alcoholism.
But there are other attributes of internet communications that can enhance social appeal. Some include that fact that individuals have easy and flexible access to communication 24 hours a day; the internet increases the range of potential social networks, and this diversity is appealing to many individuals; and individual have almost total control of self-presentation and can create and maintain aspects of themselves that would be difficult to present in face-to-face situations.
Following from the last point above, because electronic communications ameliorates significant characteristics of the individual such as gender, ethnicity, age, handicap and others that might adversely affect social relationships in face-to-face encounters, the internet is considered useful in helping to mitigate this. In addition, internet communication also enhance the anonymous identity of individual and makes it possible for them to send and receive communications that they would be reluctant to transmit in conventional face-to-face situations. It also allows individuals to leap over geographical boundaries and expand the ability of people with common interest to share social ideas important to them.
So while there are negative addictive factors to consider when using the internet to socialize, there are positive reasons as to why the use of the internet may be better in some circumstances than in the traditional person-to-person face situations. But the emphasis here is on identifying excessive adverse use of the internet in social situation and the disadvantage this will present for the individual, family and community. The use of the internet in social encounters by itself is not a bad thing. It is when we abuse the situation at hand and become socially and psychologically ill that the use of the internet is interpreted as adversely affecting humans social wellbeing. This is what we must guard against and prevent. But if it still manage to occur, we need to honestly face the problems and rectify them in the interest of our normal and healthy online social life.