Step away from my screen, Mom. It’s well known that many Israelis are addicted to the Internet, but a new study indicates how much. The Google Internet survey says Israelis are ready to dump family, sex – even their own mothers – in order to keep web surfing.
The study reflects just a portion of Israeli society – the portion that actively uses the Internet on a daily basis. It’s based on a poll of what Google said was a representative sample of 511 Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews who define themselves as secular, traditional, or modern Orthodox. Few of those polled claimed to belong to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and Israeli Arabs were not included in the sample.
As such, the poll covers between 70% and 80% of the Israeli population – and most of them are hyper-connected. Based on the poll results, the average Israeli Internet user is on line 4.5 hours a day, searching for information (an activity 100% of users said they engaged in on a regular basis), checking out news and content sites (98%), engaging with social networks (92%), and playing games, writing blogs, or participating in on-line forums (70%). The poll covered Internet use during both work and leisure time.
The study was conducted by the MarketWatch organization on behalf of Google Israel, with the caveat that the data is based on self-reporting, not objective testing.
That results, Google said, were in line with what goes on in other countries. The average American adult is on line for four hours and 28 minutes a day, a recent study showed. But then Google asked some other pointed questions in an effort to build a psychological profile of the Israeli Internet user.
According to the poll, Israelis are concerned that the Internet is having a major impact on family life. Thirty percent of men said they believed that their kids would prefer to spend time on line than with them. Among those with children 16 and older, nearly double said the same thing. The sample included men and women 18 and over relative to the number of both genders in the Israeli population.
Similarly, 12% of men said that their wives preferred on-line activities to spending time with them. Among women, the figure was 18%. In addition, 38% said that their friends would rather surf than speak to them for a month, given a choice.
A series of questions in which respondents were asked to imagine how they would react in hypothetical situations yielded the most surprising – some would say shocking – results. Participants were asked what they would do if they were required to give up their Internet connection or something else — for a year. Among those “something elses” was their mother – 59% of men and 47% of women said they were willing to give up an active relationship with her if they could keep their connection.
It’s not just mothers that they are willing to give up — 25% of men said they would give up sex for a year if they had to, as did 47% of women. While a year might be a long time to go “without,” most Israelis – men and women – thought they could handle it for a month. If the choice is no sex or no Internet for 30 days, 72% of men and 84% of women would choose the web.
Israelis are so motivated to stay on line that they would be willing to give up – or at least suspend – vital senses in order not to stop surfing. Fully two-thirds of men and women said they would give up speaking, 42% said they would give up hearing, and 20% said they would give up eyesight for a week instead of the Internet, though the poll did not include a question for that latter group of how they would see what was on their device screen without vision.
According to Dr. Pinhas Dannon, an Israeli expert on addiction, there are many more Internet addicts all over the world today than just a few years ago – affecting adults, teens, men and women without distinction. One word of caution, though. He wrote in a recent article in the Israeli scholarly publication HaRefuah that studies on Internet use – especially those indicating Internet addiction – vary significantly in terms of methodology and accuracy, since most of the data is self-reported.
However, he acknowledges that Internet addiction does exist – and that it can cause severe psychological problems, such as depression, isolation, family breakups, and withdrawal from reality – similar to severe addictions in drug users, gamblers, and alcoholics. “It is recommended that professionals develop research tools that will provide information on the prevalence of the disorder, and enable them to test the efficacy of drugs and psychological treatment of this disorder,” Danon wrote. “It is also recommended that physicians and mental health professionals to be aware of this growing phenomenon and the role they should play in cases of excessive Internet surfing.”
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