The verdict came as a shock to courtroom observers who, unlike the jury, had access to the uncensored, and highly titillating, e-mail exchanges between Jovanovic and his accuser, 57 pages of exchanges that took place both before and after the alleged torture incident that marked their only off-line date.By ignoring 'Net dynamics and accepting his e-mail postings as pure representations of truth rather than admixtures of fantasy, the verdict exposed the failure of many traditional institutions to grasp the psychological upheaval wrought by cyberculture.He or she may spend the time bingeing on non-essential information, playing games on specialised sites, seeking out pornographic images and stories, or conducting virtual relationships with other users in chat rooms - often without sleep, food or any personal engagement with family and friends.“Internet addiction is very much a condition of the new age,” says Dr Gordon Isaacs, honorary professor of clinical social work at the University of Cape Town and a practising psychotherapist. But it may well come to that - in the same way that it took some years for post-traumatic stress disorder to achieve that status.”According to Peter Powis, clinical director of Stepping Stones, a private addiction clinic in Cape Town: “Society is in denial about a lot of addictions, but certainly about this one, which tends to involve some pretty high-functioning people.”Denial is most pronounced when it comes to people obsessed with sex on the Internet.A cybersex addict typically feels habitually compelled to view pornography, to conduct “cyber affairs” or to engage in virtual sex with other Internet users in an Internet chat room or multi-user dungeon (known as a “MUD”).In the wee small hours of the morning, they do not sit alone in a bar weeping into their beers.Typing away on their computer keyboards, sending and receiving messages on their screens, they are in a place beyond meditation.South Africa may have as many as 20 000 Internet addicts, writes Howard Barrell Any South African company whose employees are linked to the Internet probably has at least one middle or senior manager suffering from some form of Internet addiction.
Cases are beginning to reach South African doctors’ and therapists’ consulting rooms in which an individual may spend up to 36 hours at a stretch surfing the Internet.
However, there is as yet no reliable measurement of the extent of the problem either here or abroad.
American psychologists dealing with Internet addiction currently work on the assumption that a far higher proportion of Internet users - between 5% and 10% - are highly susceptible to addiction.
Unlike conventional therapy patients, these cyberchat addicts don't need to waste hours of time and thousands of dollars trying to overcome their "resistance." Pressured to produce a shocking, witty, outrageous or perverse persona lest they become cyberwallflowers, they regress on line instantaneously and seemingly universally.
As one participant explained: "You have to keep a person interested.
Otherwise they move on." Out of this often-kinky culture arose the celebrated cybersex trial, New York's first Internet-related sexual assault case.