The Significance of Studying Internet Addiction

By Ashley Poland

Some users become addicted to the Internet to escape their "real life."
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Frequent Internet use affects human physiology and socialization; researching Internet addiction explores how these changes affect the person and society as a whole. Not all researchers agree that there is such a thing as Internet addiction, and others think "addiction" is an inappropriate term to describe the disordered behaviors associated with excessive Internet use. While the condition is characterized more by the addictive behaviors, such as replacing friends with social networks, addicted individuals might spend an average of 38 hours a week online for personal use.

Changes to the Brain

Frequent Internet use changes how humans use their brains. This isn't necessarily a cause for panic; every regular activity you engage in changes how you use your brain. Studying Internet addiction helps researchers look into what parts of the brain are changed and how that affects daily life. For instance, checking social media sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, triggers oxytocin release in the brain. While oxytocin is primarily associated with childbirth, it is also released during orgasm or while bonding emotionally with another person.

Social Concerns

Internet addiction may account for several social problems. In a check sheet from the Texas State University's Counseling Center, the social indicators for Internet addiction included jeopardizing relationships and losing employment over excessive Internet use. Some users can come to disengage from "real life" friendships, instead meeting this social need with online communities.

Physical Concerns

Internet addiction may cause neurological disorders. Prolonged computer use, even if there isn't the component of addiction involved, has physical side effects. Studying Internet addiction helps people understand these medical concerns, which include disrupted sleep schedules, headaches and disordered eating.


Research of both sides of the issue helps us better understand Internet use and the potential risks involved. Some researchers believe that Internet addiction may be a expression of depression or indicative of other impulse control problems, rather than its own disorder. The results of Internet addiction studies also vary, sometimes dramatically. When Robert Kraut and a group of researchers studied Internet use in 1998, they indicated that it could be associated with increases in depression; when the study was revisited in 2002, the researchers concluded that these effects were no longer present.