Addiction of any sort is perhaps as old as civilisation. China’s history is incomplete without mention of the Opium Wars, which wiped off its economy for nearly a century. Afghanistan’s tryst with the cultivation of contraband fuelled much of the violence the country has witnessed. Addiction has since morphed into something that’s not just physically consumed to enable psychedelic escapism—it’s now something you engage in visually, through moving images on the internet, accessed via your phone or other devices.
Two recent cases, coming close on the heels of each other, should serve as a wake-up call. Happening at two ends of the socio-economic spectrum, these could be signs of a deeper, wide-spread disorder. In one, a 25-year-old academic washout brutally hacked and beheaded his own father for coming in the way of his addictive engagement with an online multiplayer game called PUBG—PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The horrific nature of the crime has left even hardened cops shaken in Belagavi, Karnataka.
A white-collar crime by a business school graduate, one who had climbed the ladders of Goldman Sachs, is no less stunning. Debt-ridden due to an addiction to online poker, a top executive of the prime brokerage firm siphoned off `38 crore from the company, manipulating the login of young interns. iDisorder is not an entirely new phenomenon; it was identified way back in 1995. What’s a matter of concern is that it’s yet to be recognised as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which means the extent of the problem remains unaddressed.
There have been some studies suggesting nearly 38% of the population with access to the internet is afflicted. At a time when cases of sociogenetic mental disorder seem to be on the rise, even commonplace, perhaps it’s time everyone starts reckoning with something strange coursing through society’s veins before it morphs into a full-blown crisis.