Lying and Deceit in the Cyber World

This is a guest blog written by Alex, a participant in my cyber recovery groups, and the subject of several pages of my book (159-163). In the piece that follows, Alex gets to the heart of his problem. Alex will also be posting tomorrow.

At about ten years of age, I reached a tipping point when the responsibilities and rigors of reality became an inconvenient interruption to my fantasy life.  I preferred the control and communion afforded to me by Ultima Online, not to mention the social networking aspect of the game.  I didn’t have to share or care about anyone else.  If a magic potion could have allowed me to become part of the game, I would have drunk it down without question.

My only problem was my mother.  For some reason, she saw a problem with my 6-8 hours-a-day habit.  She annoyingly persisted in reminding me about homework, chores and eating a balanced meal.  As to this latter point, I didn’t need much food because the game gave a whole lot of sustenance.  I had no intention of doing what she wanted, so I started to lie.

At first, I started with simple lies, telling her I had no homework.  But since taught at the school I attended, this became impossible.  So, I used to stay after school, spending most of that time in the computer lab playing Age of Empires.  I told her, of course, that I was in there doing my homework.  It would all eventually catch up to me, but then I would lie about the lies, and so and so forth.  Lying became automatic.  My mother, on the other hand, started to automatically nag at me.  We both needed help.

Kevin Roberts, author of Cyber Junkie, had taught at the school and at that point in time had become an ADHD Coach (I have ADHD).  My mother asked for his help.  He quickly became my nemesis, the probing force that filtered through all my lies.  He, too, had excessive gaming issues, so hehad an easier time seeing through my deception.  I had to take my lying to a new level.

Early in 9th grade, he called me.  “Alex,” he said, “did you do pages 19-21 in your Biology workbook?”  By this time, I had been honing a new and improved method of deceit.  I replied, “Yes, I did.  But, page 20 was really hard so I think I am going to have to go in tomorrow to talk to the teacher.”  I admitted that I didn’t finish all of it, and hoped this would throw off the trail.  I did not know, however, that Kevin was in my neighborhood.  Out of the blue, he decided to stop by.  When he asked to see the homework, I made up another lie:  “Oh, uh, Brian didn’t have his work book, and he just came by to borrow mine.”  I knew he didn’t buy this line and he knew that I knew that, but I would not admit to the lie.

My energies went into two pursuits: staying totally plugged into cyber world and lying to anyone who tried to pull me away.  I am now almost 24, have been homeless, have no job training, no college degree and am pretty lost.  I am trying to climb out of a hole I have been digging for the last 14 years.   It is not an easy task.  In my next guest blog, I will get into some of the details of what I have been going through.

  • Please join Kevin at the Border’s in Birmingham, MI on October 29 at 7PM. He will be giving a short talk, answering questions, and signing his book.

Violent Video Games: A Broad Perspective

I am not a scientist.  The trouble with giving information to people like me, who comprise the overwhelming majority, is that we often confuse causation with correlation.  The latter term means that some relationship between two factors exists, but does not mean one causes the other.  Here is a classic example:  As ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning deaths increases sharply.  Therefore, ice cream causes drowning.  This assumption fails to take into account that ice cream sales and swimming both increase during the summer months.  Increased deaths by drowning are simply caused by greater exposure to water-oriented activities in the hotter months.

Increasing youth violence is often attributed, in part, to increasing exposure  to violent video games. Proponents of this linkage point to extreme cases like the violent-video-game orientation of Columbine perpetrators Dillon Klebold and Eric Harris.  Faced with a seeming increase in such horrific events, people want to be able to do something about it.  They want to believe that they have some control.  No one wants to spend years researching the massive social, economic and cultural shifts that probably underlie recent trends.  It is much easier to put that energy into an easy and glaring target: violent video games.  Yet, scientific studies provide, at best, a very weak relationship for predicting violent behavior from exposure to violent video games.

Several studies in the last few years, on the other hand, should still give us reason for pause.  While the vast majority of children will not end up hurting others because of exposure to violent video games, there are some children for whom these games represent a very severe danger, one that can exacerbate a personality profile already trending toward antisocial and hurtful behavior.  Returning to Klebold and Harris, these two showed serious maladaptive characteristics: extreme anger, depression, spitefulness, aggression, and even some psychotic traits.  These were clearly apparent long before they went on the school shooting spree.

Teachers, therapists and parents need to be on the lookout for maladaptive traits and keep those children away from violence of any kind as much as possible.  A recent research article specifies personality characteristics that, combined, should sound the alarm:

  • Low  conscientiousness– NOT well-organized and responsible; NOT performing tasks, projects and assignments in an efficient, diligent, and self-controlled way.
  • Low agreeableness- LACKING in altruism, trust, compliance and concern for others.
  • High neuroticism– Negative emotionality, including vulnerability to stress, anxiety, depression and other negative emotional states.

Children who exhibit these three trait sets should be steered away from violent video games.  For the overwhelming majority, however, violent video games may well be a healthy outlet for built-up emotions, stress, and unexpressed aggression.

I know I have written frequently on this topic.  I have done so out of a deep passion that we focus our energies in the right direction.

  • What’s your opinion on this issue?  Is your opinion rooted in scientific evidence?  Gut instinct?  Things you’ve heard from others?
  • Please weigh in on this very important debate.