new life fellowship

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A 21st Century Addiction

(by Jonny McCollum)

Sometimes you think you’ve heard it all, and then the news manages to shock you further.

A South Korean couple were arrested last week by police investigating the death of their 3-month-old daughter. This helpless girl died of malnutrition due to being neglected by her parents who are part of a growing number of “gaming addicts”. They fed their daughter only once a day, in between marathon gaming sessions at an internet cafe. In a tragic irony their time was taken up nurturing a virtual girl on an online role playing game.

Surely this is just an isolated incident? Sadly not. Recently two men died after playing online practically non-stop for 50 and 86 hours respectively. It's hard to comprehend how something as harmless as a computer game could have such devastating consequences.

Here's a worrying thought – could we turn on the news in the future and hear of such a death in Donegal? Admittedly those three cases were extreme, but increasingly young Irish people are struggling to deal with this particular obsession.

I've read first hand accounts of the dramatic impact these games have had on people's lives. Self-confessed addicts explain how every minute of every day can be taken up with these games, with time spent meeting friends, studying and even washing or eating being pushed to the side to make way.

I've read of “gaming widows”, whose relationships have been ripped apart as they tried and failed to compete with a computer screen.

What drives someone to devote hour after hour to something so obviously unproductive? One theme keeps raising its head – escapism. In the virtual world we can be outrageously talented and stunningly beautiful. It's a place without dead end jobs and unfulfilling relationships. It's not hard to see the attraction.

We are surrounded by hurt and suffering. For some, their very existence is characterised by hopelessness. We may not have an interest in computer games, but we do like to divert our attention. This may involve gazing at the TV, playing sport or retail therapy. We have our different ways of getting away from it all.

Surely there's a better solution. Is being distracted from the bad stuff the best we can hope for? Instead of running away from the hopelessness of this broken world, perhaps we should turn to the one who sacrificed everything to give us hope.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus