Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996

I'm Online, You're Online

by Steve Jones

Internet addiction seems to be catching on as the latest version of public fear of technology. Given the numerous --warnings throughout the twentieth century about computers, television, and movies, it seems a medium cannot achieve widespread use without sowing fear among various groups that it will be addictive.

I interpret these warnings as ultimately not about technology at all, but about the choices we seem to make concerning the form of our interactions. This leads to the question: should we hop up and down in a panic?

Maybe our needs are difficult to meet, and maybe we have "designed" human interaction to be difficult. To some extent, human interaction is dangerous, sometimes to our physical well-being, and other times it is emotionally challenging.

The Internet is, in its way, socializing. But what is causing some to question Internet use is that, for some people, mediated interaction is used extensively for nearly all communication, while human interaction is no longer ubiquitous. But, if human interaction is, in fact, a need, I find it difficult to believe that we would so easily give it up for a substitute. If we are to play fast and loose with terms like "addiction" and "dependency," we might say that we are addicted to human interaction. If so, then breaking us of that habit will be an awfully difficult task, and I have yet to see a Humans Anonymous spring to life to assist us with that endeavor, nor do I ever think one will form.

Steve Jones ( is editor of Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995).

Copyright © 1996 by Steve Jones. All Rights Reserved.

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