Several years ago I remember some buzz in the media about the concept of internet addiction. Being a relatively new medium and technology back then, and arguably still the case in some aspects today, attention was being drawn to the number of hours people were spending online, and consequently, the potential dangers and societal impact of the internet.

Fast forward to today, and the situation is drastically different. Some issues still remain, such as gaming addiction for which there are rehabilitation centres sprouting up across the globe. However, the current reality is that we literally cannot escape the internet anywhere we go, especially in a place like Singapore. The very air is filled with it, and I’m not just referring to the ubiquitous Wi-Fi signals. From students to professionals to senior citizens, we have grown increasingly used to, and dependent, on the internet in all aspects of our lives – emails, Facebook, YouTube… even electronic alternatives to traditional materials such as road maps and business listings.

For us as public relations professionals, so much of our work revolves around communications and the media. The internet has become quite indispensable in our daily workflow, from communicating with clients and transmitting information via email, to online research and media monitoring. It’s hard for me to imagine how much of a regression it would be if the internet should one day cease to exist.

With all this in mind, where does the old concept of internet addiction fit in? It used to be suggested that spending 20-30 hours a week online was an indication that there might be a problem (or it at least presents a financial problem, if you cast your memory back to your bills during the dial-up days). However, with always-on broadband connections at home and work, coupled with 3G and Wi-Fi on the go, all those dogmatic measurements of yesteryear could probably be thrown out the window. But where does this leave us? Is it fair to say that all of us are, to varying extents, addicted to the internet? How many of us can honestly say that we could go without the internet for any extended period of time? How many of us could easily transition back to a completely paper-based, snail mail universe? And, at the end of it all, do the signs point to a huge underlying problem that needs to be addressed?