Internet addiction

It is quite common to hear people being described as “addicted to the internet” or that we are a culture of “internet addicts”. Unfortunately, this impossible. This classification is a category error. ‘The Internet’ is a medium for information. You cannot be addicted to a form of transferring information. You can no more be addicted to the internet that you can be addicted to radio waves. This paper explains it in detail. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot be addicted to specific activities e.g. online gambling etc. But it’s the thing that you are doing that you can be addicted to, not the medium through which it is presented. Another important distinction that has to be made is explained nicely by Vaughan Bell (of Mindhacks):

“It’s also important to make the distinction between something being compulsive, something that you want to do again (commonly, but confusingly, called ‘addictive’ in everyday language), and a fully-fledged behavioural addiction – a mental disorder where you keep doing the activity even when it has serious damaging effects.
The cinema, reading books, going for walks, chatting to friends and any other enjoyable activity can be compulsive, but it doesn’t make it an addiction, even if it’s a daily time consuming activity and you get pissed off if you can’t do it”.


Bell, V. (2007). Online information, extreme communities and internet therapy: Is the internet good for our mental health? Journal of Mental Health, 16 (4), 445-457.
Bell, V. (2007). Why there’s no such thing as internet addiction. Retrieved from URL:

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