Our society has generally praised computers without reservation as an incredible intellectual tool. Only recently have we begun to weed out the hype from the reality and realize that there are unpleasant side-effects to computing as well.
Webster's Concise Dictionary defines addiction as "a habit so strong that one cannot give it up." We are all aware that people form addictions to many things, from cocaine to gambling. References to alcoholism, workaholism, even chocoholism, are commonplace throughout our society. The idea that people can form addictions to computing is a relatively new one, but quickly gaining ground. Perhaps some day the word "netaholism" will be as widely-used as the others; being a "user" may have more connotation than we realize.
Can people really become addicted to computers? The subject is quite complex. "Computers" are a very large field, encompassing many subdomains and programs, each of which tends to reflect or magnify various aspects of reality. Many people seem capable of developing addictive types of computing behavior. They feel the compulsion to spend so much of their time computing that it causes problems with their health, finances, relationships, etc. -- the same kinds of problems caused by other addictions with which we are more familiar. However, whether they are truly "addicted," and what exactly they are addicted to, is not clear. Are they addicted to the computers themselves, the particular programs they are running, or the real-life aspects embodied by those programs?