Does the internet change folks into assholes? Or do assholes just naturally gravitate to using the internet?
While the question may never truly be answered by modern science, new research suggests the asshole-to-user ratio isn't just in your imagination.
In a study of 9,405 Taiwanese teenagers, a team of researchers at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan claim those with signs of "internet addiction" were more likely to say they've hit, shoved, or threatened someone in the past year. The findings were published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The boffins labeled about 25 per cent of the boys and 13 per cent of the girls as internet addicts, based on questioners about their online and offline behavior. According to the team, signs of addiction include a preoccupation with online activities, "withdrawal" symptoms like irritability if unable to access the internet, and skipping real-world endeavors in favor of the warming glow of a monitor.
While 13 per cent of all the female students and 32 per cent of the males reported aggressive behavior in the past year, 37 per cent of those profiled as addicted reported a toss-up.
That doesn't seem like a huge jump for males, but the researchers say the bump could be the result of activities like online video games and sexually-oriented web sites positively enforcing aggressive behavior.
Or, of course, it could be that jerks just love the 'net.
Whether internet addiction itself deserves our skeptical "quotation marks" on first reference is a subject of debate amongst brain dysfunction connoisseurs.
Some believe being hooked on cyberspace is an actual clinical disorder suffered largely by "highly educated, socially awkward men" and making serious headway with middle-aged women spending hours on their computers.
China's ministry of health defines a 'net addict as someone who spends at least six hours a day on the web and suffers sleeplessness, lack of concentration, and yearnings to get back online.
Others — as I'm told on internet message boards — believe 'net addicts are a bunch of pansies that need to walk it off or get smacked right in the mouth. Then again, it's probably not a good idea to consult the assholes. ®