Sandra Giraldo May 5, 2001


The Internet: an Addiction or a distraction?

"We usually know what we can do, but temptation shows us who we are."
Thomas ã Kempis
"I generally avoid temptation unless I can t resist it."
Mae West
"Man is so muddled, so dependent on the things immediately before his eyes, that every day even the most submissive believer can be seen to risk the torments of the after life for the smallest pleasure."
Joseph De Maistre

For the employees that work 35 to 40 hours a week in the Future University office in New York City, have established that the office is their second home. The Internet has become an important factor to these employee s lives today in the year 2001. The Internet is now the largest distraction since the time television was introduced to the general public. The Internet distracts 26 Future University office employees. These office employees are between the ages of 25 and 45 years old. In the Future University office the Internet is used to perform their daily responsibilities and it has become an efficient source to assist the employees with their work. One of the mainly used tools is instant messaging. This is one of the biggest distractions the employees have because it is instant communication between co-workers and friends. The primary purpose of instant messaging is to communicate between co-workers because it is very difficult try to locate one another when there are two locations and too many phone numbers to remember. Since instant messaging has been introduced to these employees what are the negative and/or positive effects on work performances and their personal lives? If the Internet distracts the employees, how can they use it to enhance their work performance and not become addicted to the chatting and the Internet? The Future University employees have established a "home" like atmosphere in which everyone is trusted. The Internet is a complex technology tool that can easily be abused. How can this office maintain its "home" like atmosphere if an employee becomes too distracted by the Internet? (The identities of the employees and of the University are withheld to protect their confidentiality).

I have started this research with the curiosity of discovering if any of these employees have become addicted to the Internet. These office employees use the Internet for work purposes intensively. I have evaluated these employees with a survey and interviews to determine if they are addicted to the Internet. Dr. Kimberly Young (1998) provided a questionnaire called The Internet Addict to determine online addiction in which I used. Nine out of the twenty-seven employees scored between 40 and 60 in which indicates according to Dr. Young s scale that these employees may be in the risk of becoming addicted to the Internet. None of the employees scored higher than 69 in which indicate complete addiction (p. 31). Other than the survey I have also observed these employees on periodic occasions their usage of the Internet.

To better understand my research I will describe the structure of this office. Future University uses the Internet to inform the world what this university has to offer. It is a required tool to maintain the public informed of the important information needed by the current and prospective students. The website provides links to other important websites that students may need. The Internet also provides essential information and sources the employees must use to perform their daily tasks. The Internet has made work more efficient and easier to perform for these employees. It has also provided to the Future University an efficient customer service. Without it this office of 35 employees would not have been able to service its students of over 50,000 as well. Online Addiction comes in various forms. There are addiction to games, gambling, chatting, relationships, mass information and sex on the Internet. People become addicted without even knowing it. Like any substance addiction, Online Addiction is not any different. Before the online addict becomes addicted to the Internet there a psychological problem may already exists. Once addicted to the Internet it is hard to stop using it. In this situation the Internet is the drug used to eliminate real life problems. The Internet is the source of happiness and self-preservation for the addicted. It is a behavioral oriented addiction. It is what the addict does and the feelings they experience while doing it (Young 1998, p 17).

The questionnaire I used to survey the 26 employees was basically to determine online addiction. After analyzing each one and interviewing them I realized that the problem is not online addiction it is distraction from the Internet. I had the employees that scored the highest participate in an experiment so I can determine if addiction is really what is shadowing as a prospective problem. Those seven employees did the following:

    1. Did not go into any website that was personal related.
    2. Looked into personal emails at work and at home.
    3. Did not chat on instant messaging.

This is very basic but the results were very interesting. It was conducted for three days. Four of the seven employees were able to follow the instructions and did not experience any reactions. On the other hand three had reacted strongly to the experiment. Joe said that he could not go more than a day without checking his email. Joe uses the Internet to read the newspaper and learn about what is going on around the world. He admitted that he felt like a part of him was missing while he was not connected to the Internet. He was anxious and uncomfortable while he was avoiding the Internet. He didn t like the fact that he felt so dependent on the Internet but he justified that by stating that "with the way technology is being implemented into people s lives there is going to be a time when humans will be dependent on technology."

Angela admitted outright not even be able to try to stay away from her personal email or from instant messaging with her friends. She said that it was like abandoning an important part of her life. "Being connected with my friends and family through the Internet has made me more complete with my life because I don t have to wait ages for the regular mail to know who they are doing. And it feels like we are all close by if we need each other even if it is only for advice. With out the Internet I will feel violated like if a part of me was taken away by force."

Michael confessed that he had never experienced such anxiety while he was disconnected from the Internet for two days. He said he could not think of anything else except what may be happening online that he is missing. He worried that his online buddies and family would worry about him. After two days he went online and felt relieved. Michael said, "I felt so complete when I went back online that I actually realized how dependent I have become to the Internet."

To avoid Online addiction one has to be careful when distracted by the Internet. The behavioral patterns that I have seen in this office are that employees are working past their normal office hours on the Internet. The use of the Internet during work our for personal purpose gave me the impression that there maybe an abuse of Internet usage. The majority office employees admit to receiving many emails that are work related and personal that they spend additional hours in responding. 10 % of these employees log on from home to continue their work after hours. There is a lot of distraction on the Internet that causes these employees to work extra hours. A couple of the employee admitted to state that they couldn t refuse the temptation to look into a site or ignore an instant message. Instant message is used in this office to communicate instantly with one another since the phones are usually busy with calls from students.

In my interviews I have learned how this has affected the few employees that are in the risk of addiction. Job performance has been affected for one of the employees. Joe admits to get distracted easily by personal emails and chatting. Joe stated that ever since the office has gone web based it has changed the way he works. In its respect he also adds that the volume of work has risen 80% as to when it was not web based. He claims to be constantly falling behind in work but quickly justifies it by stating that the advance technology increases the workload every day. Almost all of these employees have admitted to using the Internet to relief stress, anger, frustration caused by students and/or their families and co-workers.

Over all the office has not encountered a negative effect or has it developed deterioration in job performance. It is known in this office to perform your duties first before spending any leisure time on the Internet. After evaluating my surveys and the interviews I conducted I learned that it has not affected their job performance but it has affected their personal lives in some form.

In the Future University office all agree that one can easily become addicted to the Internet. There are constant changes in this office employees do come and go so there has to be an awareness of this propensity addiction. All employees have full access to the Internet. In the case of an addiction problem it will be difficult to handle but the office will do its best to help that employee. There is no monitoring in this office to determine if anyone is abusing the Internet in an unethical manner. It is understood by common sense by all what is right and wrong. This office if very team oriented. The employees help each other out and will intervene if one sees a problem. The intervention is not to cause reprimand or attention to the employee with the problem but to address the issue and work on resolving it, all in the benefit of the employee and of the office. Of course this will require full cooperation of the employee. I have introduced a statement from Dr. Kimberly Young that may be used to help the current employees as well as the new incoming employees to use as a contract with the office to help maintain proper use of the Internet:

Statement of Purpose

Access to the Internet has been provided to all staff members for the benefit of the organization and its customers. To ensure that all employees are responsible, productive Internet users who protect the company s public image, the following guidelines have been established for using the Internet:

Acceptable uses of the Internet Employees accessing the Internet are representing the company. All communications should be for professional reasons. Employees are responsible for seeing that the Internet is used in an effective, ethical, and lawful manner. Internet Relay chat channel may be used only to conduct official company business, or to gain technical or analytical advice. Databases may be accessed for information as needed. E-mail may be used for business contact.

Unacceptable use of the Internet The Internet should not be used for personal gain or advancement of individual views. Solicitation of noncompany business, or any use of the Internet for personal gain is strictly prohibited. Use of the Internet must not disrupt the operation of the company network or the networks of others. It must not interfere with your productivity.

Communications Each employee is responsible for the content of all text, audio, or images that they place or send over the Internet. Fraudulent, harassing, or obscene messages are prohibited. All messages communicated on the Internet should have your name attached. No message will be transmitted under an assumed name. Users may not attempt to obscure the origin of any message. Information published on the Internet should not violate or infringe upon the rights of others. No abusive, profane, or offensive language is to be transmitted through the system. Employees who wish to express personal opinions on the Internet are encouraged to obtain their own usernames on other Internet systems.

Security All messages created, sent, or retrieved over the Internet are the property of the company and should be considered public information. The company reserves the right to access and monitor all messages and files on the computer screen as deemed necessary and appropriate. Internet messages are public communication and are not private. All communications including text and images can be disclosed to law enforcement or other third party without prior consent of the sender or receiver.

Violations Violations of any guidelines listed her may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination (p 213).

This office does not want to use a monitoring system, which will make the employee feel that he or she is not trusted. If a monitoring system is used this office will lose it home like atmosphere. Employers and employees work together in a familiar way. Teamwork is very essential in this office. It is what provides the home like environment. At home we develop a sense of security and trust with those family members we live with. It is the same factors used in this office. The Internet is used to personalize each employee s computer. This gives the employee the feeling of being home away from home. It is agreed that the sole implication of not being trusted will negatively affect the employees job performance and jeopardize the currently established teamwork structure. The employer agreed to assist any employee if an addiction problem arises. It will be obtained confidentially and in good faith. The employer is aware of the distraction that the Internet provides his employees and agrees that it does distract him as well. He is satisfied with the fact that a problem has not surfaced yet but has made it very clear to his employees that he is willing to help any one that feels that the Internet has "possessed their lives" with out any reprimand or punishment. The Future University office are very content with the workplace and love their second home because they feel that their employers and co-workers are more than that they are Family.


Beauprez, Jennifer. "Many Companies Monitor Workers Web-Surfing Habits."

Denver Post 13 Mar. 2000: C1.


Brody, Jane E. "First Step Is Recognizing the Signs of Internet Abuse." New York Times 16 May 2000: F7."Center for Online Addiction" 23 March 2001, Mark. "Swallowed Up By the Net." Christian Science Monitor

11 July 2000: 11.


Donn, Jeff. "Online and in a Fix: 6 of Internet users addicted, Study says." Houston Chronicle 23 Aug. 1999: 2.Ferris, Jennifer R. "Internet Addiction Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Consequences." Psychology, Virginia Tech. 23 march 2001, David. Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and those who love them.Griggs, Susan. Welcome to My Internet Addiction Page. 23 Mar. 2001 http://www.seanet.comGose, Ben. "A Dangerous Bet on Campus." The Chronicle of Higher Education; Washington; 7 April 2000: A49-A51.Gunther, Marc. "The Newest Addiction." Fortune 2 Aug. 1999: 122-124.Hamilton, Anita. "Net Addictions." Time 26, Mar. 2001: 76.Holliday, Heather. "Hooked on the Net." Psychology Today Jul/Aug 2000: 10."Internet Addiction." Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at Proctor Hospital"Internet Addiction Survey." http://www.stresscure.comJabs, Carolyn. "Addicted to the Net." FamilyPC. March 2001: 72-78.Parrott III, Les. Helping The Struggling Adolescent. Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.Kutais, B.G. Internet Policies and Issues. Commack, NY: Nova SciencePublishers, Inc., 1999.Lipschultz, Jeremy Harris. Free Expression in the Age of the Internet. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000Marcus, Clare Cooper. House as a Mirror of Self. Berkele, CA.: Conari Press, 1997.Randall, Neil. The Soul of the Internet Netgods, Netizens and the Wiring of the world. Boston, MA: International Thomson Computer Press, 1997.Reisberg, Leo. "10% of Students may spend too much time online." The Chronicle of Higher Education; 16 June 2000: A43.Rybczynski, Witold. Home A Short History of an Idea. New York, NY: penguin Books USA, Inc., 1987.Schuman, Evan. "It s Official: Net Abusers Are Pathological."

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Shields, Rob. Culture of Internet Virtual Spaces, Real Histories, Living Bodies. London, SAGE Publications Ltd., 1996.Suler, John. "Computer and Cyberspace Addiction""Symptoms of Internet Addiction.", Maia. "Can We Become Caught in the Web?" Newsweek 6 Dec. 1999: 11Wen, Patricia. "Researchers worrying as teens grow up online." Boston Globe 21 April 2000: A1.Weise, Elizabeth. "A Circle Unbroken by Survey Despite what the experts say, the Net does fast Community." USA Today 22 Feb. 2000: O3DYoung, Kimberly S. Caught in the Net. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998.Interviews26 employees from the Future University office in New York City. Survey : QuestionnaireSee attached March 29, 2001Dear Colleague, I want to thank you for participating in my research paper. Please fill out the attached questionnaire and return to me. I want to inform you that this is confidential. No one will review these questionnaires but me. I also want to inform you that no real names will be used on my paper. Honesty if very important in this questionnaire to provide the proper information for my research. I want to emphasize that there are no wrong answers and that I am willing to provide any information if you have any concerns. After answering the questions please take note that you do not have to write your name on the questionnaire. I would like to conduct an interview as well. If you do wish to be interviewed simply answer the questions and return the questionnaire without your name on it. If you don t mind being interviewed just simply check the box and write your name on the space provided that way I can arrange an interview with you. Again, I really appreciate you assistance and time in participating. Thank you,QUESTIONNAIREAnswer the questions using the following scale:1 = Not at all2 = Rarely3 = Occasionally4 = Often5 = Always
  • How often do you find that you stay on-line longer than you intended?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you neglect other priorities of work to play a game or surf for information on the Internet?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you prefer the excitement of the Internet to socializing with friends in person?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you chat about personal issue instead of business?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you become defensive or secretive when anyone asks you what you are doing on-line?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you become so involved in the Internet that you lose track of time and is surprised to have spend a lot more time than you should have?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often does your job performance or productivity suffer because of the amount of time you spend on the Internet?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • When checking your email at work do you spend more time on personal emails than business emails?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you find yourself saying "just a few more minutes" when you are online (not business related)?
  • 1 2 3 4 5


  • How often do you try to cut down the amount of time you spend on-line and fail?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

    The following questions are in a personal level:

  • How often do you choose to spend more time on-line over going out with others?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you feel preoccupied with the Internet when off-line, or fantasize about being on-line?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you snap, yell, or act annoyed if someone bothers you while you re on-line?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the Internet?
  • 1 2 3 4 5


  • How often do you lose sleep due to late-night log-ins?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you feel depressed, moody, or nervous when you are off-line, which goes away once you are back on-line?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you neglect household chores or home priorities to spend more time on-line?
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you form new relationships with fellow on-line users? (Chat rooms, etc)
  • 1 2 3 4 5

  • How often do you find yourself immersed on-line do get away from real life problems?
  • 1 2 3 4 5


  • How often do you prefer the excitement of the Internet to intimacy with your partner?
  • 1 2 3 4 5




  • Yes, I don t mind being interviewed.
  • My name is _____________________________________.
  • No, I don t want to be interviewed.
  • Comments: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________