Web “addiction”, cont’d

Business Week is urging us all to take seriously a lawsuit by IBM employee James Pacenza of East Fishkill, N.Y., sacked for improper internet use at work. Pacenza’s attorney has filed a $5 million wrongful-termination suit and is advancing web-addiction theories/excuses for his client. Business Week quotes various sources who are eager to predict some sort of emergent legal status for internet addiction — maybe as a covered condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act — but it all still seems pretty unlikely to me. (Catherine Holahan, “Virtually Addicted”, Dec. 14). On “BlackBerry addiction”, see Oct. 2, etc.


  • Addiction is repetition of an act to excess, that interferes with function. Functions are biological, social, legal, occupational (money), personal satisfaction, self-control.

    We know addiction to alcohol damages the liver. What biological function could the internet possibly damage?

    Body weight.

    This addiction is even dumber than depicted. The addiction is to the changing screen. Parents report, hungry kids will not eat unless a sandwich is brought to the location of their electronic game. A starving teenager will not pause a video game to eat for 5 minutes in the kitchen.

    As with addictions, the sole remedy is total abstention. Accommodation damages.

    I declare to IBM an addiction to heroin. Should IBM accommodate me by providing me with heroin breaks? That would damage me more. Accommdation would be an intentional tort, leaving aside any illegality. IBM should know providing me with heroin breaks injures me.

    If the presumption is addiction, the remedy is zero tolerance.

    Get treatment, get over it, or get out.

  • after the decision that such an addiction exists, the next step is regulation of internet access by government bodies.
    Something like a mandatory timer on all modems and routers that automatically shuts them down for an hour or so after 2-3 hours (with of course mandatory checks on tampering by law enforcement in your home).

  • I read Business Week sometimes but it really is a joke. I think most of their audience is wannabees and students. The quality of journalism reflects that. The Time magazine of the business world.

  • Supremacy Claus, you are missing the point. He wasn’t asking for “accomodation” but for help. If you were a heroin addict at IBM (or any large corporation) you would be offered resources to overcome your addiction. His claim is no that he should have been allowed to indulge himself during work, but that his employer should have offered help so he could attempt to overcome his addiction and remain a productive employee.

    I’m not saying I agree with that – I’m not sure that responsibility to offer help is greater than the responsibility to seek it out – but that’s the issue here.