How many hours do you spend online each day?
I came across this article today while browsing nytimes.com, about an Internet Boot Camp in South Korea designed to break young South Koreans of their Internet addictions. One of the kids interviewed thought it completely normal to be online for as many as 17 hours a day! The article says that South Korea has been one of the "leaders" in making the Internet readily accessible; most of its citizens connect to cheap, high-speed broadband and, therefore, have easy-access to the virtual world. It also says that Internet addiction is being diagnosed on a regular basis as a mental condition, and not just in South Korea. American psychiatrists are seeing some of the same symptoms in American youth and adults.
While not surprising - human beings in every culture struggle with addictions of various kinds - it is somewhat sobering. Even the Internet, a vast resource of information, connection and communication, is no substitute for the real thing. A virtual life, to the extent it excludes "real" or tangible life, is just that: virtual. Close to the real thing, but missing something.