Published in Ewha Voice. April, 2001
To say that Hong Yoo-jung lives on the Internet is an understatement. When she’s not taking classes, sleeping, or moving, Hong is on the Internet, clicking away at her mouse, surfing from one site to another. She has more than 15 email accounts, all of which she checks several times each day, and is a member of 34 community sites, six of which she made herself. List the URLs of the sites she has visited and you can trace the way her mind works.
Hong is one of the many Ewhaians that spend too much time on the Internet. They are victims of Internet Addictive Disorder, more commonly known as cyber addiction. Like all other addictions, it is a disease that affects oneself as well as others.
Symptoms of computer addiction start with physical problems such as back aches, eating irregularities, and migraine headaches, and run down a long list of psychological symptoms as well ¡©including depression, lying to friends and family, and irritation.
“As soon as I go home, I start chatting until five or six in the morning. When I go to school, I can’t help dozing in class because of lack of sleep,” says Lee So-young, a sophomore. “I play Starcraft even in my dreams,” says Kwon Hye-lin. “My ranking bothers me because sometimes people refuse to team up with players who have low scores,” she adds.
Korea University’s Internet Addiction Center groups cyber addiction into three large categories: network, game, and pornography. Ewha students mostly fit into the first category, which includes chatting, mud games, surfing, cyber trading, and shopping, a pattern which differs from other co-ed universities, where game addiction or pornography addiction is more prominent.
The reason more Ewha students are becoming Internet addicts, is not only because of the universal trend of increasing computer use, but also because they are students and are female. Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, founder and coordinator of Computer Addiction Services, says in a written interview with the Ewha Voice that women are more likely to get addicted than men. Professor Kimberly Young (Psychology, Univ. of Pittsburgh) says that students easily become cyber addicts because they have spare time and are isolated from society.
Although Internet addiction is not a new topic, the characteristics are changing at a fast pace. Updated features of cell phones and PDAs are enabling students to log on to the Internet anytime, anywhere, and online gambling is crawling into the offline world.
“While playing online Korean poker, I sell my cyber money to other people,” says Hahn Ju-young (not her real name). As seen in Hahn’s case, cyber money is being traded for real cash by those who are obsessed in raising their ranks.
Although many people do not take net addiction seriously, it can destroy lives in the same way alcoholism or drugs can and needs immediate treatment. Professor Young’s book Caught in the Net, which almost serves as the Bible on Internet addiction, has a questionnaire one can take to find out if one is an addict, then offers practical advice for recovery based on case studies. There are also several centers in Korea such as the Internet Addiction Clinic at Korea University that deal with cyber addiction.
Internet addiction is something we should be careful about because there is no knowing to what extent it may go. Dr. Orzack says, “We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Our society is becoming more and more computer dependent and this trend is a potential problem for all of us.”