China was the first country to formally identify “Internet addiction” as a clinical disorder, according to Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam, whose documentary Web Junkie was recently adapted as an NYT short:
The two filmmakers discuss the global pathologies of the Internet:
[Whitney] Mallett: With this film and Love Child, about a couple who neglect their child for a computer game, there are a couple of cautionary tales about the dangers of the Internet premiering at Sundance. But your film really ends up being less about the Internet and more about rebuilding these families’ relationships. Do you think the internet is the problem, or merely a symptom of deeper problems?
Medalia: First of all, these kids are escaping something, that’s for sure. … In our premiere there was a woman who after the screening raised her hand for the Q&A and told us she has a 20-year-old who is addicted to Internet games and has been going in and out of rehab, and every time he will go through a program, when he comes back home, again the problem arises because the Internet is such an integral a part of your life – unlike heroin, where you can and should live without it. Here it’s like, how do you moderate it? And I think the fact the woman shared her story shows it’s such a global issue.
Shlam: The reason why we did it is not to show the story of China. It can be. But we add the point of view that it’s universal. It happens in China, but China is a mirror for other places.
As Medalia notes, the American Psychiatric Association listed Internet Gaming Disorder as “a condition warranting more clinical research” in its latest edition of the DSM; meanwhile, America’s first inpatient treatment center for Internet addiction opened late last year.