4. Contexts

Dr Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, wrote an article for Addiction Research magazine in which he said that it was time to take addiction seriously – but even then he added the corollary that ‘many of these excessive users are not internet addicts but just using the internet excessively as a medium to fuel other addictions’. (Griffiths, 2000) He has revisited this theme on many occasions.

He has said that it is important to have a definition of what we are investigating, and we need to look not at the internet but what we do on it. We must be careful to draw distinctions between those who are using the PC for reasons of anonymity and perhaps also accessibility – those who could not replicate the activity elsewhere – and those who would use the technology to carry out that same activity in some other way if the internet was not available. These users may be people who use chat rooms and games, and for them ‘the medium of the internet may provide a feeling of alternative reality’. (Griffiths, 2010)

Technology is a generic term that may relate to the internet, to mobile technology, or social networking. It is interesting to note in an article about TV addiction  (Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi, 2002) that the subject matter was treated in a very similar way, likening it to habit forming drugs. It seems that within the medium of  TV it is possible to become addicted to certain content, such as soaps  – just as with the internet it may be possible to be addicted to games. In other words, it is the use of the medium that is the relevant issue, and it seems very likely that someone addicted to gambling will fuel this need on or off the internet.

Bringing this up to date, Dr Richard Graham, consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock clinic in London and speaking for the BBC in Caught in the Web, (2011) has said that abnormal use of the internet may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, and that he will always look at the vulnerability factors in a number of patients. He investigates the platforms they use and their internet habits – and believes that this may put into context any mental condition relative to habit and lifestyle choices.