With the spread and popularity of computers man has been faced with the paradoxical dilemma: on the one hand, the computer is an indispensable tool for resolution of certain problems, reliable and fast source of information, a good partner for joint entertainment, but on the other hand, the computer is the source of all kinds of troubles and misfortunes, from viruses and hackers to dependence on it and destructive psycho-physical influence on the organism of the user (Chuck & Finholt 47). Opinions of people interested in the issue have split into two camps: some glorify the importance of computer, others are looking at its frequent use with some caution, but both of them use it quite often, and the computer indiscriminately affects both the first and second.
A friend of mine spends all days long in the virtual space. Besides, if we consider the modern way of life, it is obvious that computer accompanies the life of every civilized individual in every possible way. Some of my friends are addicted to games and the Internet to such extent that they forget about food, work and the rest of the world. They are aware of all the new products and games and know the differences between various game genres and possess extensive computer jargon.
Dependence on computer can be regarded as a psychological dependence, which is a very serious issue. Psychological dependence is a pathological desire to constantly or periodically take a particular substance to experience certain feelings or remove mental discomfort, forget about some painful experiences, etc (Chuck & Finholt 35).
The question is whether a computer can cause psychological dependence? Psychologists and psychiatrists are still arguing who can be considered dependent, and who are regarded as such with no actual manifestation of dependences. If we take the criterion of time spent at the computer, then all programmers, with few exceptions, have to be defined as dependent one. However, this is not the case. Unlike the actually addicted people, programmers do not have pathological desire to constantly work on the computer. They have to do it because of their work duties. Therefore, psychologists have found that people who can be considered as those who are dependent on the computer are especially those one who spend too much time on the computer apart from their job, and thus consciously (or unconsciously) harm their health.
Psychologists identify the following symptoms of psychological dependence on the computer:
- Well-being or euphoria at the computer and the feeling of melancholy far from the computer;
- Unwillingness to distract from work or play at the computer;
- Irritation of a forced diversion;
- Spending a lot of money for constant updating of software (including games) and upgrading the computer;
- Forgetting about home affairs, employment, education, meetings and arrangements during work or play on the computer;
- Neglecting health, hygiene and sleep in favor of spending more time at the computer;
- Preference of eating in front of the monitor;
- Discussion of topics related to the computer issues (Johnson 37).
Excessive enthusiasm on computer may have negative consequences for both physical and mental health. Many hours of continuous presence in front of the monitor can cause blurred vision, low immunity, headaches, fatigue and even insomnia. Moreover, a long stay in a sitting position has a strong load on the spine, which causes frequent back pain and postural problems. Another disease of modern PC users is tunnel syndrome. This disorder is manifested by pain in the wrist and results from the uncomfortable working conditions with the keyboard and mouse.
In turn, psychological dependence is less visible for the individual. For instance, the person does not notice how much time is spent on the computer, or he or she begins to distance himself from his or her friends and forget to eat on time. According to psychologists, people who are not confident in themselves (people who have difficulties in communication, low self-esteem, complexes or who are shy by nature) are especially prone to computer addiction. Computer (especially games and the Internet) allows them to escape from reality, realize their desires, feel important, powerful and experience some new emotions. In the virtual world, they can easily change age, gender, name, appearance and biography. Exacerbating their situation, they begin to spend more and more time at the computer, talking in chat rooms or playing games. In rare cases, a person can mix reality and virtuality. An individual may begin to act and think in new ways, become aggressive or even violent (Johnson 20).
The reason for cultivation of aggression seems quite easy to comprehend. Images, which are translated and stocked in the Internet and exposed in many computer games, are full of aggression, which does not only lead to discharge of the body, but to its mental exhaustion. Aggression needs to have some exit, but in such a way it is suppressed and it negatively influences the whole mental state.
Aggression still finds a way out in some cases. However, mind of children and adolescents is not fully formed and they do not have the social experience that has been accumulated by elder people. Hence there are age’s restrictions on viewing certain films, programs, etc. Nevertheless, in the computer industry, there are no such limitations.
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to psychological dependence. After all, they quickly adapt to the world and the world of computers as well. It is noted that the children who spend a lot of time on the computer stop fantasizing, become unable to create their own visual images, have emotional immaturity, demonstrate such trait as irresponsibility, and the effectiveness of some types of their memory decrease (Johnson 15).
Physicians, and their closest colleagues – psychologists are drawing attention to the hazards and serious risks of using computer by children and teenagers. In particular, according to research conducted at the Institute of Psychology, there are significant delays in some capacity among students, who often use computer technology for their studies. For example, some students have difficulties in verbal creativity (a very poor representation of their own repertoire of ideas and knowledge), an oral account in solving various problems of complexity, etc.
Of course, it cannot be assumed with 100 percent probability that phenomenon, which has been observed in children is directly related to the computer. Such factors as IQ of children, their social status in the family and among peers, additionally, their emotional state at the time of the study are also important. At the same time we cannot exclude the simple pattern that everyone, and especially student, follows the path of least resistance. Why should a student bother verbally count when he has computer? Why should he invent something if it is simpler to reproduce something mechanically or, in extreme cases, to resort to plagiarism?
On the one hand, with the help of computer the child develops some useful skills, widens his horizons, simulate self-behavior in different situations, but from another perspective, the child receives ready solution to the problem (most games and programs are linear, and are limited in scope); in this case, the children are not capable of making their own strategy of accomplishment of particular task, an element of their work in the development of their task. Consequently, the limited thinking takes place and there is no freedom for abstract art (Shotton 25). As a result, the continuity of connections between past and present generations are lost and interest to the works of the classics decreases, because the main attention is drawn to the technology of the future. This is probably justified as if we want to plan the future which is ahead of us, why should we concentrate on the past?
The fact that computer addiction exists is a fact. Another thing is whether something should be done to fight it. Psychologists tend to believe that any computer addiction is a temporary phenomenon. Sooner or later a person will become fed up with games and Internet, and takes up his former hobby, turn into a profession, or the computer will just lose its attractiveness. Generally, computer addicted person (even temporarily) drops out of society, from real life, and begin to experience problems with school or work. Besides, this motivates people to stop their computer dependence. Addiction can be coped in the situation when the person realizes that the real world is much more interesting than virtual. After all, no computer game can be compared to the beauty of reality (Shotton 56).
All in all, no matter how we regard to this issue, life without computer (in terms of its full development) is virtually impossible nowadays. We can recognize that the computer penetrate in almost every part of our life, became a building block in the foundation of the world history of human development. The human kind entered a new information era when surveillance and high technology changed our interaction with the world. Will this new age bring benefit for the humanity? Perhaps, yes. However, the question whether the individual will adapt to it and overcomes the strong dependents on these technologies is still an open question.