Electronic addictions

by Emily Huntington
HORIZON Reporter

The acronym of a very popular computer game – World of Warcraft – is W.o.W. It’s probably for good reason. When people discover the lengths people go to beat the game, their mouths gape open, eyebrows go up, and they say, either aloud or to themselves, wow… then hesitate, struggling to think of what to say next. Or at least that is my typical reaction.

A classmate of mine, Reed Klein, recalled a time in high school when one of his good friends disappeared because of the game.
“I didn’t see him for like three weeks,” Klein said.
Klein’s friend ended up dropping out of high school in order to play and eventually beat the game. There have also been instances of people going into rehab to cut their computer addictions.

Some people may argue that the time spent on computer games, cell phones, video games and social networking sites is just a hobby. Margaret Vlahos, a counselor at Whatcom, says that something becomes an addiction when it starts interfering with life. She recalled a few years ago when a student in her class would skip a week of school to level up on World of Warcraft. Another student admitted to taking a week off work to try to beat the game.

I can remember when I was younger, my priorities weren’t to check my cell phone every 10 minutes to see if anyone text messaged me. They were to hang out with my family, spend time with my pets and listen to music. Now, things have changed. I believe that as technology improves, so does our attachment to it.

A few weeks ago, my friend introduced me to an application on Facebook called PetVille. The gist is, you create a virtual pet, give it a name, a house, furniture, and you have to make sure it gets fed before it runs out of food, otherwise it will end up in the pound and you have to pay a fine to get it out. To earn coins, you help your “neighbors” by cleaning up their house. This awards you experience and helps you level up.

Before PetVille, I was introduced to FarmVille, which is a game in which you can create a virtual farm, complete with animals, and fruit trees, and you have to harvest your crops before they wither. There is a time constraint. For most vegetables, it usually takes a couple of days. Fruit can take anywhere from two hours to about ten hours, depending on the fruit. Just like PetVille, your neighbors in FarmVille can fertilize your crops and now feed your chickens. The only thing they can’t do is harvest your crops for you.

It got so time consuming that I actually deleted the applications, not because I couldn’t manage my time, but because I found myself thinking about it when I needed to focus on other things. An article in the New York Times about FarmVille featured a man who made his pregnant, hungry wife wait in the car because he had to harvest his virtual raspberries. I just didn’t want to end up like that, because it takes the fun out of the game.

When it comes to electronics, such as computer games, video games, or even cell phones, I have definitely noticed an increase in their use, especially within the last few years, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as we know how to balance it. For example, I just got a cell phone that has full Internet access, powered by Google. I never use a computer for keeping up on the news, I just go to my phone. I rarely use a computer to check my e-mail, because I have my phone set up to alert me when a new one arrives. The only real time I use a computer is to type assignments or do research if I need to.

Whatcom student Katie Titus, 20, doesn’t feel as attached to her electronics as most her age do. Although she admits she has to have her cell phone and iPod on her at all times, she is more interested in other things.

“The day I got my new computer, I also got new paintbrushes. I forgot I got a computer because I was so excited about my new brushes,” Titus said.

Kristi Lydon, 22, a nursing student at Whatcom, admits that she spends “FAR too much time on Facebook!” She also said that her average cell phone bill has about 5,000 texts, both incoming and outgoing.

“Technology is a pretty large part of my life,” Lydon said.