probably not this cool

while i do always tout that we are living in the digital age, there is a line that can be drawn between “web enthusiast” and addiction.  a web enthusiast may be bored without his or her collection of gadgetry and digital accessories, but it’s not the end of the world.  it’s not going to reduce them to a slumped neanderthal that can barely function in the world.  an addict, on the other hand, is willing to stay online at all hours of the day, forsaking work, school, and personal relationships for what they find online.  sometimes it’s gambling, maybe illicit online affairs, or topping all else, games.

internet addiction may sound strange, but i have seen it happen on a number of occasions.  the first time i did was when i was a sophomore in college, where a few of us on our floor shared an 11am physics class (so it’s not like it was even early)  that you generally wouldn’t want to skip.  one morning as i’m preparing to make the trek to the lecture hall, we noticed one of our classmates, in the same clothes he’s wore for days of course, on his computer.  “you not going to physics today man?”

“no dude i can’t.  i have a guild meeting.”

i don’t care how good the game is or the intensity of your god damn raid schedule – someone with a normal thought pattern would recognize that while you’re talking strategy so you can get some experience points and gear upgrades, your school is draining your real life account by anywhere between $400-$600 per credit.  unfortunately for him, this became a pretty standard practice.  he pretty much fell off the face of the earth after that.

the case above isn’t even an extreme one.  people can spend upwards of 15 hours online gaming or, well, doing whatever it is they do.  as i mentioned before, online affairs and gambling have become pretty popular pastimes – probably because the internet and network services as a whole, in my opinion anyway, facilitate these addictions in many cases, and almost act like an extension to an existing personal problem.  it’s become so widespread that treatment centers are offering programs for internet addiction, right alongside alcohol and gambling.

this seems to be an even more crippling affliction in china, where estimates put the number of “internet addicted” citizens above the 20 million mark, by the china youth association for network development.  and to remedy the situation, their treatment facilities are run like military centers. officially treatment involves chinese calligraphy, philosophy, and a strict military regimen.  not surprisingly, there have been widespread reports of abuse in these centers from beatings to other forms of torture.  in august 2009, a 15 year old, well, inmate, for lack of a better term, was beaten to death by two guards who were sentenced to 10 years in prison last month.

so what do you expect when you take one of these facilities, 14 young men in jiangsu province, some of them addicted gamers (whose primary goal is always to down a boss), a steady stream of work-camp-like conditions, military grade physical training, and possibly abusive guards?  quiet acceptance?  adherence to disciplinary rules?  hell no.  without anyone giving you more details you know this all clearly spells shawshank style escape and revolution.

i imagine it was something like this

the crew of motley nerds found an opening, jumped their commander (yes, commander) and bound him to his bed, then made a break for it.  once outside, they hopped a couple of taxis in the hopes of making it back to taste sweet freedom and online logons.  but as all great escapes go, be it steve mcqueen on a stolen bike or chinese kids packed in a taxi like a clown car, their plan was foiled.  you see, the problem was that they were broke.  and the cab driver was less than understanding.  the cops were called to the scene, and all 14 youths were taken to the local 5-0 station.

but it doesn’t look like this shook the parents’ faith in the treatment centers and their methods, and thus the people’s republic (not to mention the equivalent of a few grand they shelled out).  after picking them up from the police, out of the 14 renegades, all were shipped directly back to the huai’an center.

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About Tushar

Author and creator of Technical Fowl. IT/Tech hero. Jiu Jitsu purple belt. Enjoying the venn diagram intersection of tech, gaming, business, and politics.

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