Attachment, addiction and dependence: tv versus the internet

I had an internet connection at my new apartment for a few hours the other day. Then it broke down again and talking to the help desk it was apparent that they are working on it. Professionally this is of course a setback. This morning the connection had not been repaired, but after the initial disappointment reason resurfaced: I’m not dependent on that connection as I have access to another computer where I can do all I need to.

The mechanic who helped me finally get my computer online (albeit for a short time) told me that the customers who were most adamant about getting their connection back up were the ones who had a subscription with not just internet and telephone, but with TV included. TV apparently was more important emotionally than either telephone or internet. Of course that is partly due to the fact that with mobile phones nobody is all that dependent on wire telephone anymore. It’s not the best option financially, but with a mobile phone at least one can reach family and friends and be reached.

Television is, for many people, the way to get through the evening hours. It gets us through that time for relaxation when duty no longer calls. It prevents boredom. Thinking about this recalls the time, when I was young, when TV was not yet a given. I grew up with parents that limited TV time and what we did was read, card games (whether patience or in a group) and board games. All of those pursuits are better for relaxing the mind than TV is, so psychological research has shown. TV forces the body to be still and occupies the mind to such an extent that it doesn’t get a chance to work through the impressions of the day. TV also doesn’t help in preparing for sleep – and sleep, again, is one of the way nature has devised for us to work through our issues.

But, as my mechanic made clear, people become emotionally dependent on the television. This means that people have lost, or never learned, other ways of relaxing. They have gotten into the habit of using the TV for that, not knowing that this sidetracks some of the systems we have built in for tension relief.

This attachment to the television is clearly not healthy. I think it is comparable to addiction. Just like TV, chocolate, alcohol, drugs and gambling are often used as ways to occupy the mind, so it doesn’t have to focus on the real issues.

Internet is another story. Recent research has made it clear that people like me, who are online a lot, actually use their brains more when searching online. It is brain exercise comparable to puzzles. Of course, the internet is also a tool. I use it professionally as well as for my main hobby: spreading information about spirituality. Nothing wrong with that. However, there is still a dependence on the computer. And, as recent events make very clear, to the internet.

Internet can also be addictive. I’m not sure there is a clear line between healthy use of the tool and obsessive use. Dr Phil might say that when it starts interfering with other aspects of life, it has become a problem that needs to be fixed.

Healthy use of the internet as a way to express and deal with emotions, like blogging and social network activities may outweigh the negative aspects. The internet seems to be a tool with negative and positive aspects based primarily on how it’s used.

One of the themes in Blavatsky’s theosophy is the difference between being psychologically active and passive or receptive. The passive or receptive quality is the one that she called dangerous because people who are like that can easily become subject to negative influences and loose control over their lives. This is the main reason why she warned people against becoming mediums (well, actually she had more nuance than that). The adept however was defined by having an active personality, one who had developed will power. One of the things I appreciate about the law of attraction is that it does stress activity over being passive.

The difference between the internet as a medium and television is perhaps precisely that: television makes the observer passive. The Internet consistently asks us to choose, to interact, to participate. Worries about television as an influence on kids also stresses this issue: it makes kids passive – merely sitting in front of the screen all day. Games, whether played on the computer or on a hand held device, at least consist of constant activity, participation. Of course physically the difference isn’t that big – kids are sitting still either way, which isn’t good for their developing motor skills nor is it likely to help prevent obesity.

Perhaps the focus on attachment isn’t helpful. More useful is the observation of the difference in attitude the different technologies call upon in us. The TV makes us passive. Internet brings out a more active attitude. Either way: the solution seems to be to be observant about the effects of what we do on our inner life. It can’t hurt to turn off the TV every once in a while and turn to a healthy game of solitaire. That’s what Blavatsky did after a full day of writing anyhow. 😉

4 thoughts on “Attachment, addiction and dependence: tv versus the internet”

  1. Hi Katinka,

    I am with you in terms of being bewildered by how people are attached to their TVs. We own one but never watch — we got it out of our system in 2002 and have never wanted one since. We just keep it around for severe weather information only, and even then, we go to internet first.

    That said, internet can be powerfully addictive, too. News, e-mail, forums — some days, I do wonder if I’ll be happier without it.

    Anything can be addictive, as you said, and it can interfere with lives. It’s time to reevaluate when you can’t stop it when you told yourself what’s when you were going to quit and go do something else.


  2. When I moved into my apartment just over a year ago, I was dismayed to find that I could not get a signal with the antenna–and I had cable, but it went out inexplicably, two days after it was installed, and the cable company was giving us the run-around in repairing it, so I decided simply to cancel, and to live without TV. I don’t miss it.

    Just wanted to play devil’s advocate–while sitting in front of the TV doesn’t help developing motor skills, I think playing video games helps with hand-eye coordination at least. 🙂

    But video games are addictive, too-probably more so than TV. They combine the active aspects of the internet with an emphasis on the fantasy and escapism offered by some TV shows–at least on the internet, more often than not, we’re dealing with day-to-day reality on some level.

    I think the addictiveness of any medium is dependent somewhat on a person’s temperament. For example, I don’t miss TV, as I mentioned–but when my internet connection goes out, I feel genuinely deprived. I have grown very accustomed to having information at my fingertips, and to being able to interact with so many different people so quickly and easily. In some ways the internet may keep us connected, but in other ways, it may socially isolate us. I had to really learn how to deal with people face-to-face, having spent much of my childhood interacting with people online instead.

  3. Well, Dan – I agree some motor skills are involved in video games, but they can’t beat old fashioned arts and crafts, in my opinion. One of my nephews did a lot of video games at age 6, but couldn’t tie his shoe laces yet.

    You grew up communicating online? Wow, how young are you? (don’t have to share that info here, obviously)

  4. Katinka,

    I didn’t even see your response until now. I have had a tendency to leave comments on this blog and move on, so if I’ve failed to respond to anything else, it’s because I haven’t seen it.

    To answer your question, I’m 25. I remember getting onto forums when I was 8 or 9–using an online service that had nothing to do with the world wide web. I don’t even know if the web was well established at that point. I actually met my wife, who lived in Norway at the time, online about 8 years ago.

Comments are closed.