Gackenbach, J., Ed. Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998.

This book focuses on research reviews of Internet use and how it affects individuals' sense of self and relationships forged as a result of online experiences. Later chapters also discuss the philosophical ramifications of Internet use and definitions of reality and consciousness. The overall work is well balanced, noting interesting potential positive and negative effects resulting from different types of Internet use and exposure.

Throughout the early chapters, the phenomenon of disinhibition, the tendency for Internet users to lose social inhibitions normally experienced in the physical world due to factors such as anonymity and lack of sanctions, is explored. While early Internet researchers stressed the positive, liberating aspects of this disinhibition and the resulting ability to explore various and multiple conceptions of self, the authors concentrate more on the negative aspects of this phenomenon, particularly as it relates to the success of online communities. While potentially liberating for the individual, relationships formed under such circumstances can "potentiate confusion and misunderstanding; online communities can be sites of betrayal, violence, and –ultimately- disintegration."

The authors also suggest that this disinhibition may have negative effects on the self. The authors suggest that it is possible for some users to see themselves differently following periods of disinhibited Internet activities and that this disinhibited mindset could carry over to activities in the real world. The author does stress this as a theory, however, suggesting that further research needs to be done. The author also suggests that in this absorbed, disinhibited state, individuals may be more susceptible to persuasive messages because they would rely heavily on the heuristic cues to determine argument validity.

Another chapter explores the issue of "Internet addiction." In order to evaluate claims about the growth of "Internet addiction", the author outlines a list of six core components needed to evaluate addictive behavior. They are:

  1. Salience – the degree to which an activity dominates a person's thinking and life
  2. Mood modification – the subjective experiences (i.e. buzz, high, escape, numbing) resulting from the behavior,
  3. Tolerance – where increasing amount of an activity are needed to achieve the former effects
  4. Withdrawal symptoms — unpleasant feelings or physical effects that occur when an activity is drastically reduced or discontinued
  5. Conflict – conflicts between the addict and those around them, other activities, or within themselves that result from the activity
  6. Relapse – the tendency to revert to earlier patterns of behavior, even after long periods of abstinence or control

The author goes on to survey a number of studies that related to Internet addiction, indicating that most of them have problematic methodologies, particularly the fact that so many of the research subjects were self-selected. Only in a tiny minority of cases involving excessive Internet use should the Internet even be potentially regarded as addictive. In many cases, such excessive may actually be beneficial and adaptive, in that such use may help compensate for social deficiencies in the real world. The author stresses that further research is desperately needed. If "Internet addiction" does exist, to what are people actually addicted? Typing? The medium? The information that can be attained? Types of activities available? Internet use is composed of a wide variety of activities (emailing, chatting, web surfing, etc.) and it may be the case that some activities are more addictive than others. The author speculates that part of the link between addiction and the Internet may lie in the ready availability of resources to feed other addictions (i.e. sexual addictions, gambling addictions, etc.).

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