The Internet’s ubiquity makes it an easy place to turn for connections, distractions, and answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. The growing ability for search engines to anticipate our queries and help direct us to helpful material also reinforces the belief that we can turn to the web for any issue that may arise.
Of course it’s not just searching for information. Social media thrives because we also search for connection, for friendship, and for love. As Professor Jessica Hammer from Carnegie Mellon University explains, “people use games to affect their individual emotional state. I was feeling bad, now I’m feeling better. I was feeling bored, now I’m feeling engaged.”
This can be a powerful and therapeutic force. Professor Hammer’s research in part focuses on how “games can give people a sense of strength, of power, or competence that they can then use to go and do other things. That it can actually sort of fill up their metaphorical tank of determination, joy, strength, that gets them through the difficult times of trying to make change in the real world.”
For many this is an incredible positive and beneficial dynamic that allows games to provide that kind of release from work and life stress, or the environment within which to work on the kinds of confidence and life skills that can benefit work and life.
However for others, overuse of video games can have a negative effect. There’s a growing chorus of critics who focus on the destructive tendencies of extreme gamers who target and harass others using abusive and xenophobic language.
Like any medicine or powerful tool, video games and the web in general can have a profoundly positive impact on our sense of self and our relationship with society. However when abused, when over-used, the negative impact can far outweigh the positive.
Thus as a society we need to do a better job of cultivating responsible use of media and technology, including video games. The problem though is that varies by each individual, due to the subjective nature of these media.
How much is too much for you? Are you able to tell? What about your friends and family? Do you notice when they’ve gone too far?