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On the last track, we discussed types of emotional attachment to the internet. These types included: friendship; catharsis; and validation.
Have you found, like I... that one of the primary reasons that teen clients become addicted to the internet has to do with escaping from the outside world? Unwilling or unable to face their problems head-on, internet-addicted teen clients immerse themselves in the electronic world.
On this track, we will discuss three aspects of escapism. These aspects include: the three phases of escape; avoidance; and anonymity.
-- Phase 1 - Engagement
-- Phase 2 - Substitution
-- Phase 3 - Escape
Think of your Whitney. Could someone have prevented her from becoming addicted? Where in the three phases do you think the addiction took over? In the second phase? In the third phase?
About 37 percent of teens say they have used such modules as instant messenger to write something that they would not have said in person. Carol, age 16, was homeschooled and had begun to become involved with the internet to fill her day. Soon, she adopted the alias, Missy X, and was known in the chat room for her flirtatious and careless banter. Carol stated, “I never knew I had this side in me! It’s like the safety of the screen allows me to unleash my unconscious desires. I can express whatever impulses I need to repress during the day. It feels liberating!”
I stated to Carol, “One of the reasons you may be engaging so fully in the internet is your feelings of loneliness during the day. Without interactions from people outside of your family, you're feeling closed off from the outside world and from expressing your true identity. Many internet addicts don’t realize how lonely they really are until they experience the surprising joy of meeting their first friend in the online community. What sort of thoughts do you get when you think about giving up the internet completely?”
Carol stated, “Terrified! I don’t know what I would do with myself! There would be no one to talk to, I might go crazy.” As you can see, without a substantial substitute, Carol is afraid to return to her feelings of isolation, especially after having been a part of such a large, vibrant community.
Technique: Concrete Steps
Such concrete steps included: joining a book club; joining a soccer team; join an orchestra; contact a pen pal. Notice that not every one of these concrete steps involved physical human contact, but did absorb Carol in thinking about others and reaching out to them. Think of your Carol and Whitney. Would concrete steps help them to face their problems in the real world and break them of their escapist behaviors?
Also, the flexibility of one’s identity is only limited to one’s imagination. Carol, the home schooled student introduced earlier on in this track, was encouraged by her alias Missy X to be much more flirtatious than she ever would have in real life. Michael, age 17, used private chats to vent his often controversial political and social opinions.
He stated, “Normally, I would never get involved with a political discussion. I have opinions that no one else, I know, would agree with. But when I was online, no one could give me dirty looks and I would never feel the consequences. Until one day, I was chatting with one of my close friends, Darleen, and I said, ‘the black people living in the inner city on welfare is the largest societal problem we have today’ and Darleen said, ‘uh, actually, I’m one of those people.’ I was mortified! I quickly typed out, ‘I’m sorry, for any discriminatory comments, you didn’t sound black’ but I never heard from her again. I guess tact is something you need even on the internet.”
In Michael’s case, he found out the hard way that anonymity does not necessitate immunity from the repercussions of expressing one’s opinion. Think of your Michael. Is he or she using the internet because of the possibility of losing one’s self?
On this track, we discussed three aspects of escapism. These three aspects include: the three phases of escape; avoidance; and anonymity.
On the next track, we will examine the concepts of internet time consumption. These concepts included: unchecked time flow; internet interference; and denial.
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