Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Web Junkie: In the Real World Everybody is Fake

by Drew Martin
A distraught Chinese teenager who has been locked up in a military hospital for a boot camp-style rehab program is asked why he is there. He sobs, "I used the Internet." Web Junkie is an eye-opening documentary about one of China's (roughly) 400 rehab centers that have been established to make certain youth go cold turkey on "electronic heroin." The term is used when describing the addiction to (primarily) online video games. [The expression in Chinese for computer is electronic brain] While the prison-like atmosphere seems extreme, especially the ten-day solitary confinement used to punish a boy featured in the documentary who escaped and then was returned, the young junkies pushed their desperate parents over the edge by skipping school, spending nights and days in the arcade/call center-like internet cafés, and losing touch with reality. One of the youths in the center brags about playing Warcraft for 300 continuous hours, pausing briefly to take cat naps. Some kids even wear diapers made for incontinent adults because they worry that taking a bathroom break will affect their performance. A father of one of the rehab kids claims his colleague's son died in one of the cafés at night. The boys are typically tricked into the stay, which is a minimum four months. One of the boys says his parents told him they were taking him for a ski trip to Russia. Some kids are even drugged in their sleep by their parents. The parents, however, often seem to be the root of the problem. They are demanding about their schoolwork and not loving. One father explains that he beats his son, and wants the people running the center to do the same. He adds that he once tried to stab his son with a knife. The Chinese government classifies Internet addiction as a clinical disorder and reports to have more than 20 million Internet addicts. One of the adults in the documentary muses that this is related to their one-child policy, and most of the kids in the program question the reality of their life in China compared to the fantastical world of their video games.