- September 7, 2012
- In technology
- One comment
Yes, it’s been found!
Recent studies from Asia provided the first evidence of molecular basis for internet addiction. Now, researchers from the University of Bonn and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim have gone one step ahead and nailed down the gene responsible for internet addiction. According to the researchers, CHRNA4, the gene that plays a major role in nicotine addiction, has a role in internet addiction too. The finding was arrived at after interviewing a total of 843 people about their internet habits and analyzing their DNA samples.
Well, maybe not.
Here’s what the German scientists found: People who reported heavy dependence on the internet–including feelings of unhappiness when denied access to it–were more likely to have a certain gene than comparable people who weren’t so internet-dependent.
One thing that would be nice to know, before we decide how excited to get about this result, is: How much more likely? Do 90 percent of internet addicts have this gene whereas only 15 percent of non-addicts have it? Or is the difference much less dramatic than that?
The Atlantic story both debunks some inconclusive science and speculates on why we are so eager to find this elusive gene. For anyone who still considers quantitative research to be the scientific holy grail, please consider that there are plenty of opportunities to collect and interpret findings “creatively,” shall we say. Careers hang in the balance with every published paper. And we live in a culture of inflation.
While it’s true that games can be addictive, so can many other things — email, Facebook, cat videos. Perhaps it’s a matter of degrees or function; perhaps it’s how we tend to medicalize of behaviors and attribute them to bad genes or mental deficiencies. While it may be true that some individuals are more susceptible to addiction, not everyone with a biological basis will go on to develop cancer, Alzheimer’s, shingles.
If only there were a pill for much of what ails us. The reality is more complicated, bound up in identity, pride, the need to escape, and a host of other deeply human and vexing tendencies.