Caught in the Web of the Internet
IN THIS ARTICLE: Getting hooked on the Internet isn't confined to a few computer nerds. It's on the rise everywhere--and women are the most likely addicts. Ingrid Parker, once a slave to Internet chatrooms, found her experiences so devastating that she wrote a book to help other addicts break the habit. --Editor
It's the equivalent of inviting sex addicts to a brothel or holding an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting at the pub. Internet addicts tired of their square-eyed, keyboard tapping ways need look no further than the Web for counselling. There is now an online counselling service at www.relate.org.nz for Internet obsessives. Just e-mail the details of your Internet-induced crisis and help comes direct to your inbox. The new breed of cybertherapists see nothing strange about offering help through the very medium that is swallowing their clients' free time and splitting their marriages.
Sue Hine, of Relationship Services, says: "Internet obsession has become a more noticeable problem over the last 18 months. At least this is an area addicts are familiar with and they'll be able to use it as a tool to overcome their obsession." Nor do experts worry that the Relate Website might become a favourite--a place to spend hours online in the name of Internet therapy. Dependency is always a risk with any form of counselling. There are various strategies we can adopt to keep that in perspective, says Hine.
Though some may regard Internet addiction as another dubious ailment dreamed up to keep therapists in work, Relationship Services says the problem is real.
Internet usage is up to four-and-a-half hours on the Web each week, compared to three-and-a-half hours a year ago. Therapist Robin Paul says there tend to be two scenarios. Some people meet through chatrooms and fall in love. It's like having an affair, then they meet and it's like a whirlwind honeymoon. It's devastating for the person left behind and quite often it has no real foundation.
I saw one couple who were still together but it was very rocky. He met someone on the Net and went overseas to meet the woman. Then he left his wife and children to be with her. In another case I saw recently, a man left his three children to be with a woman (who was) leaving her four children. It's terribly hard on the kids when this happens.