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Monday, November 7, 2011

The husband is an Internet junkie

Online all the time:
By Jamilah Khaji
Millions of men prefer to burn the midnight oil with their favourite gadget rather than cuddling up with their wife or partner, a new study revealed. Consequently, many wives are now widowed by a gadget as more than 1 in 4 men admit to avoiding the marital bed, to indulge their craving for games, internet surfing and late night DVDs. Other related research points out that many men put their wives or girlfriends second after their gadgets, with the defence that this form of addiction is safer than infidelity.

Extreme identification with gadgets has been predominantly a male fascination; men see their machines as both extensions of themselves and as animate beings. “Men love their machines big, sophisticated and modern; the bigger the gadgets, the higher the social ranking and the better the chances of attracting female attention,” explains Rudisha Konya, a sales representative at a mobile phone outlet.

Necessary evil
While time spent on the Internet can be hugely productive (for many of us it is also an indispensable tool for work, education and communication), compulsive Internet use can interfere with daily life, work and relationships.
Sarah Peter, who has been married for quite a while, is worried about the tension her husband’s obsession with his mobile phone is placing on their relationship.

“My husband is perpetually on the phone; day and night. Whether he is responding to work related calls or texts from his mates, the habit is annoying. I’m convinced that most of his correspondents are neither married nor have children,” explains the mother of two, “Otherwise what would they be doing up all night, every night?” Sarah’s husband is so faithful to his phone that occasionally he sneaks out of the matrimonial bed to a different room in the house, to avoid being confronted by his wife. “The mobile phone is really intruding on our marriage,” says the 30-year-old.

Sarah’s husband has two mobile phones that never leave his side, “In intense moments of desperation and insecurity, I’ve threatened to throw away these gadgets and I’ve been branded unreasonable,” Sarah says. “I don’t know how to handle this tension but I keep hoping that it is merely an addiction with no strings attached,” she says. Occasionally when the couple goes out, Sarah’s husband may get so engrossed in his mobile phone activities that he forgets his company. “I’m really getting agitated because it seems I’m fighting a losing battle,” explains Sarah.

Addiction to the Internet and other forms of technology is a habit acquired over time. Some couples like Neema and her husband are facing this menace, after enjoying a productive marital life. Seven years, one child and a second on the way is no mean marital achievement. The first three months of her second pregnancy have been problematic and she had to put up at her parents house for a while to get proper care. Since she moved back into her home two months ago, she has been struggling to fit into the life of her Internet addicted husband who pays very little attention to her.

“Clearly, my husband has evolved from a responsible man to an internet clown. He spends very little time with me because he is chatting the night away and barely has time for me or our child. When I come home from work, he doesn’t move an inch away from his laptop; it’s like I’m non-existent,” Neema laments.

“We have dinner together but as soon as he clears his plate, he resumes his hobby,” she adds. Neema explains that for her husband, bedtime is between 3.00 and 5.00am. “Sometimes I get really angry but when I confront him, he overreacts, walks out on me only to turn up later in the night or the following day. He claims there’s more peace out there,” she says.
After enjoying marital bliss for so long, she is awed by what she terms the late night devil. “I’m at a loss of what to do to reclaim my responsible man,” she says.
Addiction to social networks

Several studies across the board link Internet addiction to availability and access to a fulltime Internet connection especially on smart phones. With the advent of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, many people find chatting attractive as they continually overcome geographical boundaries to meet different people across the world. The networks aside, computer games appealing to adults and children are on the upsurge giving men the opportunity to explore worlds they have only fantasised about.


Psychologist Charles Lubago elaborates: “Like other forms of compulsive behaviour, different situations may lead to Internet addiction. Men naturally hate routine, therefore doing the same things and talking to the same people becomes a monotonous experience. In their search for new environments and fresh challenges, there are high chances that they’ll land on computer games or social networks.”


Mr. Lubago also says that some people resort to the Internet merely for entertainment. “Every human mind needs to refresh after being exposed to the daily pressures of work. Additionally, everyone has their own unique style of relaxing.
While some take to listening to music, clubbing or reading books, others turn to their machines or the Internet,” he adds.
According to him, the clinical term for anything done in excess is ‘addiction.’ “Addicts may never realise when they get compulsive or how much their behaviour affects people around them. That’s why we advise those living with them to show understanding,” he explains. “Whereas mild forms of addiction can be managed by showing a little concern, there are some degrees that may call for the attention of a specialist,” the psychologist advises.


Underlying traumatic experience
The complexities of any addiction lie in the fact that, victims don’t know how much their behaviour affects people around them. When fathers get addicted to machines and gadgets, sometimes unknown to them, their children also get affected. Anna Gilbert, 13, is living with her father after her mother passed on a few months ago.


“The death of my mother has greatly affected my father and I think he seeks solace from the Internet,” says the Form One student.


“We rarely get time to catch up or talk about anything. Currently, I prefer discussing my pressing issues with the house girl,” says Anna who admits that being ignored by her father is deeply affecting her. “He often pushes me aside and postpones our meetings. While he provides financially, I feel like I’m losing a father,” laments Anna, the only child in her family.


Also lamenting in this manner is Caroline Francis a mother of one who is convinced that her husband’s change of behaviour has got some mischief behind it. “Believe it or not but my husband has been updating his laptop with new software for the past nine months,” she claims. She is convinced that her husband is up to something sinister.


“Seven to eight hours a day is a long time to stay at one spot, hunched over a computer. He is indoors most weekends and takes only toilet and meal breaks. What’s even more worrying is the fact that he is distancing himself from our child,” she explains.


A sudden change of behaviour as explained by Bahati Laweme, a psychologist based in Dar es Salaam could signify a psychological problem. “People deal with problems differently, but when someone begins to ignore their responsibilities, there is a need for concern. The best way to handle the situation is to try talking these people out of the habit without making them feel under pressure. If the problem persists, seek opinion from mentors, counsellors or relatives you can trust,” she advises.


Addiction responsible for marital problems
A recent study reveals that more than 20 per cent of divorces in America are prompted by interactions on Facebook and other social networks like Twitter and MySpace. Experts have always said that when you feel more comfortable with your online friends than your real ones, or you can’t stop yourself from playing games, gambling, or compulsively surfing, even when it has negative consequences in your life, then you may be using the Internet too much and this is called addiction.


Take Lina Andrew’s boyfriend for instance: he hasn’t married her yet but his phone habits are making his pregnant girlfriend have second thoughts. “I am currently 6-months pregnant with his first child yet he has shown no interest in either of us.


He was not like this initially but lately, he is always on the Internet, playing games and chatting with his friends on Facebook,” she says. On a few occasions Lina has threatened to leave, but she is hanging on to the hope that her boyfriend will change.


“My complaints sometimes reap empty promises for change but after a while he relapses into his old ways. I love him so much but if he can’t break this habit, I may have to move on,” Lina Andrew reveals. “I don’t deserve to be in second place after a computer,” she says.

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