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China vs. The Internet

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“Technocentricity” is our newest category, tackling today’s hyper-connected culture of technology. There’s Wii, iPhone, Netflix. There’s Twitter, Facebook, GMail. There’s no escape. WE ARE ALL PART OF THE MACHINE.

kid-addictAmericans love the Internet. The Germans hate it. Most everyone else is sort of ambivalent. The Chinese? They love it so much they want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant. Case in point: a February 19th Time article, “Postcard from Beijing“, examining the obsessive Internet usage of China’s young people… but more importantly, the lengths to which some parents are going to curb this kind of behavior. Time out? Increased chores? Such Western remedies. Your son just “beat and bit [you] again this morning after [you] wouldn’t let him touch the computer.” Forget a spanking – no, Rongshu, you’re going to F*CKING BOOT CAMP.

I mean, sort of. At a military compound in Beijing, Internet-crazy youths are deprived of their phones and computers (but MOOOOMM!!) and retrained in the art of human interaction. Through sports, therapy, and drill sessions aplenty, patients are effectively brought back into a world from which they had so long been MIA. Like Pinocchio, they’re learning to be real children.

Baby Addict

Internet addiction is and isn’t a joke. It IS considering the number of more tangible addictions that exist, from alcohol (three days sober!) to nicotine to sex. Lumping things like the Web and “eating” (usually coupled with “not running”) into this list is almost offensive to those who might really have no control. On the other hand, THIS SITE. THIS GAME. THIS BLOG. We’d all be lying if we didn’t cop to spending more time per day online than we know we should. China may be almost entirely batsh*t crazy in their approach to societal issues (more on that in today’s New York Times), but sending kids to boot camp to reestablish them as functioning human beings… isn’t the worst idea ever. Tell me this isn’t a problem:

Despite the progress he’s made, like eating a diet other than the instant noodles he used to live on while playing online games, [Yang Xudong] admits he still gets upset too easily and is “afraid of people.”

Well, society, we had a good run!

This is hardly exclusive to China, either. Young people worldwide are growing up in a world viewed through a computer screen, interacting via keyboard and mouse clicks. Don’t get me wrong, we NEED the Internet. Besides its role as  a fantastic research and communication tool (and arguably one of the most important innovations of the 20th century), it is now completely essential in keeping things – big things – running smoothly. But there are things called “sidewalks” that miss your shoes… “coffee shops” wondering why no one is “talking”. And of course “newsstand pornography” that’s quietly becoming extinct. WE HAVE TO STOP THIS.

Turn off your computer! I mean, comment first, but then turn off your computer!

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2 Responses to “China vs. The Internet”

  1. Tian Xie Says:

    One summer, I actually worked for a video game company in Shanghai and learned a lot about the gaming/internet culture there. For instance, they take internet and gaming addiction very seriously.

    In China, by law all MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Games for all the un-hip) must reduce experience points gained with consecutive hours of play. In other words, the more consecutive hours you spend playing an MMORPG such as WoW (World of Warcraft fot he uncool) the fewer experience points you get. For example, say killing a druid gets you 1000exp when you start playing, killing another druid will get you less than 1000exp after 8 hours of consecutive play.

    Although it sounds silly that this feature is mandatory by state decree, it is actually a really clever and effective way of curbing internet gaming addiction due to the diminishing marginal returns per action.

  2. Henning Says:

    I believe you – Lord knows my brother could have used a similar deterrent a few years ago when he was WoWing like woah – but that type of law, appropriate as it may be, just serves to highlight the fucked-up-edness of Internet gaming and subsequent addiction.

    I love videogames. I always have and imagine at least a part of me always will. I’d like to think, though, that I have some level of control when I sit down to play Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart. Reading stories about kids (in China, the US, wherever) who are “scared of people” or “unable to cope with the realities of daily life” is downright depressing, and leaves me seriously concerned for the future. Melodramatic? Probably. And like I mentioned in the post, I’m not doing much to help the problem (I am typing at a computer right now). IS THERE ANY HOPE?

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