Virtual Reality Addiction is REAL

VR Addiction? I probably have it… As great as Virtual Reality is, there i one thing that can be concerning… VR Addiction.

Yes Virtual Reality is a great medium, and it is almost certainly going to revolutionize the entertainment industry. However is not all good news, as with any other thing we have to be responsible about VR, or we might find ourselves victims of VR Addiction.

VR Addiction

So what is VR Addiction? Can we really get addicted to Virtual Reality?

The answer is yes, and you might have doubts about it and you would not be wrong to doubt anything at this point. After all VR is such a new tech that there really hasn’t really been enough time to do serious studies. However VR Addiction is not really a condition on it’s own, but rather a form of Internet Addiction.

Michael Rich is a Harvard Pediatrician who studies Internet Addiction and now VR Addiction. He explains that he doesn’t see VR as a new gateway into Internet Addiction because to him there are already plenty of other ways for people to be exposed to it.

“If they’re susceptible, there are just too many other ways to be exposed.”

On the other hand he does believe that VR Addiction is a “more intense ‘high,’ if you will, rather than something that will recruit more people into this problem”

In the same way Dr Gonzalez Franco agrees that VR will not mean more VR Addiction. “I don’t think there’s anything inherent about VR that makes it more addictive, People are already spending a lot of time in front of a computer.”

Internet Addiction

Now that we know that VR Addiction is just a form of Internet Addiction, we have to ask. What is Internet Addiction? The name is very self explanatory, people who suffer from it are simply addicted to some form of Internet based interaction. Whether it be a simple social media, or a more complex simulation like Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMO’s).

And why do people get addicted to these? Well Dr Gonzalez Franco explains that it’s called “the compensatory internet use hypothesis”.

The idea is that people develop two selves, one is our real world self and the other is our virtual image. People who get addicted are usually those who have few achievements in their lives, and they get addicted because their virtual selves allow them to feel fulfilled.

Melissa Meyers who is a PhD. Candidate at University of Cape Town, explained the concept even further.

According to her Internet Addiction “It’s the longing for an alternative reality where reward systems are both short and long term, rewarding the brain and giving a sense of accomplishment, which triggers all kinds of happy emotions and reactions. The player is able to be ‘their best self,’ or a version of themselves they’re not able to be in real life,”

Diagnosing VR Addiction

So how could we tell whether we are suffering from VR Addiction or not? Would you want to know if you had it? Psychologists have been studying Internet addiction for years now, and the results are scary. Is not that being addicted to Internet is particularly harmful on it’s own. It does however tend to lead people to loneliness and eventually to suicide.

To understand whether we suffer from a condition we have to compare our usage to certain parameters.

So the first thing you need to do is ask a set of questions to yourself.

  • Are you preoccupied with using the Internet? Do you think about your previous or future online activity?
  • Do you have the need to be online longer to be satisfied?
  • Have you made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to cut back, stop or control your Internet use?
  • Do you become moody, restless, irritable or depressed when you stop or decrease your Internet use?
  • Is your time spent online longer than what you originally planned?
  • Did your online use negatively affect a significant relationship, education, career or job?
  • Do you conceal the extent of your Internet usage from your therapist, family or others?
  • Does the Internet serve as an escape from problems or relief from a bad mood?

Answering positively to 5 of these 8 questions may indicate Internet Addiction, and if you do then you should consider talking to an specialist.

Image Credit Michael Mandiberg




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