Computers, Games and Social Networks: The Thin Line between Leisure and Obsession

There’s a thin line between a harmless hobby and a destructive obsession. If someone crosses this line once, it won’t probably be noticed. But if this happens every single day, then the line will simply disappear. In this article I want to share the story of my twin brother Boyd and also give you some food for thought about what I think may be a correct use of technology in the digital era.

 

The Signs of a Computer “Addiction”

Boyd and I used to hang out together, and to play football together, just like any other teenage twin brothers. A couple of years ago, I was starting to get involved in writing for the local newspaper, while he decided to spend all his savings on a high performance gaming PC. He has always been fond of games, especially the ones that you can play with an online team. At first, it seems like he had found his little corner of paradise.

 

Slowly, things started to change. Boyd, once a very sociable and happy guy, began to decline my invitations to go out. He was worryingly concentrated on his performance while playing online. He was afraid that the completely virtual circle of team mates he had, would have felt let down if he wasn’t available to play. A simple temporary internet failure would result in hysterical rage outbreaks. His academic performance was getting worse and worse.

 

Finally, one day, the whole family sat down and talked about how an uncontrolled computer use was taking its toll on Boyd’s state of mind. At first, it wasn’t easy to convince him to take some breaks from computer games. Fortunately though, we probably addressed the problem soon enough, so that we didn’t have to seek professional advice.

 

Social Networks, Social Isolation

The months in which he stayed in his bedroom almost around the clock, Boyd probably still needed to connect with the outside world. That’s why he joined three different social networks, and I could hear him typing messages up to the early hours of the morning, to his new connections and followers.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am active on a couple of social networks, too. The difference between me and him is that I really do not depend on somebody else’s “like” or “share” to live my life to the fullest. My brother, instead, began to pretend to be someone he wasn’t, just for the sake of being “approved” by the social network’s audience. This behaviour wasn’t healthy and caused a rapid loss of his self-esteem. A bad comment below a picture he posted, would cause him a bad mood all day. Likewise, a sign of appreciation from a complete stranger would make their day. Eventually, he came out of this, and learnt how to use social networks, instead of being used by them.

 

Awareness and Education Are the Keys

We have been catapulted into a completely digitalized world without notice. I am strongly convinced that there is the need to educate the younger generations about the use of technology. I was one of the lucky ones, but what I’ve witnessed with my brother has led me to believe that there is probably not enough information about the possible negative impact that a constant online activity can have on a young mind.

 

Computers and related technology are wonderful tools, they have made our lives certainly easier and more interesting. On the other hand, as with every powerful tool, we have to learn how to handle it. Just to give you an example, I reckon that a balanced and informed approach to social networks is crucial to avoid problems related to bullying and body shaming. There are minds and personalities that are naturally more inclined to be influenced and harmed by the insensitive behavior of serial social haters.

 

The internet lets me travel without having to leave my own room, and has allowed me to understand about politics and science. At the same time, I love to be entertained watching a TV series or a rock concert streaming online. And, why not, I chat with my Facebook and Instagram friends and acquaintances. But, at the same time, I know that there’s a real world  outside that needs to be discovered without the need of an optical fiber or a latest generation HD graphic card.

 

And, by the way, Boyd and I are planing to go back to playing football. We booked the playing field online, paid via PayPal and gathered our friends via a FB group. It will be great fun, indeed.