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Karina Meza

Assignment 14, Internet Obsession


June 12, 2015

College students are most susceptible to online obsession, experts say


A few years ago, Stacie Kawaguchi started tinkering with the Internet. She clicked her mouse,
surfed around and delved into an international pen-pal site. At the time, a Kansas University
graduate student in botany, Kawaguchi met folks from Canada, France, Japan and Brazil.
Through the Internet, she even met her eventual fianc, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering at
Virginia Tech University.

When you first start, you get really into it, said Kawaguchi, 26. You get stuck on it for long
periods of time.

Jonathan Kandell, assistant director of the counseling center at the University of Maryland, has
found that college students, especially those in the 17 to 22-age range, are quite susceptible to an
Internet obsession. Kandell, an assistant professor of psychology at Maryland, recently published
his theories in the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior.

In one class he visited, between 70 percent and 80 percent of the students raised their hands
when asked whether the Internet was their chief obstacle to concentrating on projects and papers.

People are staying up all night, not going to class, not doing their homework ultimately
flunking out of school, Kandell said. Its more pervasive than people think. Theres something
inherently tempting about the Internet.

The underlying problem may be that the Internets many facets are still new and somewhat
unfamiliar. I think were just kind of scratching the surface, Kandell said. I think its be a
good five or 10 years before people have a good understanding of everything thats going on
right now.

In addition to academic problems, jobs and relationships can be affected as social isolation
grows. The Internet can provide an arena for people to simulate personal contact without actually
having to meet face to face.

Kandells studies on college campuses have shown between 6 percent and 12 percent of students
may be spending too much time online, thanks in part to the ease of campus Internet access.

For example, administrators at New Yorks Alfred University have found a correlation between
high Internet use and a dropout rate that more than doubles. And the University of Washington
has limited the amount of Internet time available to students to cut down on overuse. Several
other colleges have set up support groups for Internet addiction.

However, Kendall noted that addiction was probably not the most accurate term in these cases.
He compared overuse of the Internet to compulsive behaviors such as pathological gambling.

I do see it as a psychological dependency. Kandell said. Kandells evidence is mostly


anecdotal, culled from student clients and classrooms filled with students who say theyre
downloading to the point of distraction.

The search for identity, the need for intimate relationships and the need for control often play a
significant role in this potentially unhealthy behavior, Kandell said. Logging on, whether in chat
rooms or through websites, can help students ranging academically from the inept to the astute
cope with lifes hardships. If its fulfilling a need, its hard to give it up, Kandell said.

Kawaguchi saw the obsessive side of the Internet and managed to escape it. Others arent as
lucky.

Kawaguchi was online and overwhelmed. You stay up late instead of going to sleep, she said.
It sucked up a lot of time.

In a few months, the novelty began to wear off. After a while, it was like, geez, this is soon
enough, Kawaguchi said, adding that many of her chatmates were there night after night, even
when she was gone for weeks at a time. Basically, their whole world revolved around being
there.

Kawaguchi sees both the good and bad in the Internet. The native of Oahu, Hawaii, considers it
an effective communication tool but not a surrogate for human relationships. She calls it luck
that she met her Iowa-born husband-to-be online. They traded photos and talked on the phone for

a long time before taking the big step of meeting in person. The couple plans to wed in June in
Lawrence. Personally, I wouldnt recommend someone going out to look for someone on the
Internet, she said. I completely lucked out.

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Middle School reading level, 677 words