Internet addiction? Temporality and life online in the networked society

Nicola F. Johnson, Helen Keane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Recent literature has explored the processes of global change associated with the social relations, technologies, and economies of time, as well as the move from clock time to event time and network time. Others have focused on the ‘presence bleed’ evident in technologically-mediated work. A harried pace of life is exacerbated in what Judy Wajcman calls an ‘acceleration society'. She points to how technologies can change the nature of current practices as well as create new ones. This article critically examines discourses of ‘internet addiction’, by considering the phenomenon of internet use in the context of societal shifts in temporal relations. Drawing on a recent qualitative study of four adult heavy internet users, the analysis employs Bourdieu’s theory of practice and notions of flow to explain the understandings and performance of temporality in the lives of so-called ‘internet addicts’. The data illustrate complex multiple realities and multifaceted behaviours that comprise current social use of the internet and subsequent ‘digital pathologies’. The article argues that the individual pathology model of internet addiction is not useful given the dramatic changes in temporality produced by digital technology. It suggests that the assumptions about the correct use of time embedded in notions of addiction reproduce binary distinctions between the real and the virtual, production and consumption and work and play which no longer reflect social practice. While it is certainly the case that users can be troubled by their inability to control their online activities, these experiences need to be understood within the specific social contexts of users’ lives rather than being interpreted through a universal and medicalised model of addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-285
Number of pages19
JournalTime and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • flow
  • internet addiction
  • Networked time
  • practice

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