Your are going to read an article about pastimes and the Internet. Read the texts carefully and complete the tasks.

Almost everyone has a favourite free time activity, whether it’s collecting stamps, following the trials and tribulations of a favourite celebrity, or spending time in an Internet chat room.

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Professor Alex Blaszczynski, a psychologist at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, specialises in impulse control disorders. He says that developing a strong interest in a particular pursuit, especially one where we collect things, is a normal human trait, and that there may even be some biological basis for hoarding behaviours.

‘An obsession, in layman’s terms, is an excessive preoccupation with an interest,’ he says. ‘When you’re talking about an obsession with trainspotting or another hobby, the person has an interest and spends a lot of time pursuing that. It’s not a disorder unless it is characterised by a failure to resist behaviour that causes harm to themselves or others.’

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Take Internet obsessions such as online gaming as an example. Professor Blaszczynski says these are usually more of a problem for the subject’s nearest and dearest. ‘People around online garners may complain or say that they are spending too much time on these things, but that’s a value judgement,’ he says. ‘However, if a person finds that their hobby causes them to constantly neglect their family or work or other obligations, then it becomes more of an impulse control disorder.’

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According to research conducted there, a fifth of all gamers develop a dependency on gaming. Obsession with this seemingly harmless pursuit can even be fatal: a Korean man died of heart failure after playing online battle simulation games almost non-stop for 50 hours.

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Not necessarily. According to Bruce Arnold, director of Internet research consultancy Caslon Analytics, Internet obsessives are often sociable types engaged in rewarding personal exchanges. He points out that there is a long and respectable history of collecting strange objects and meeting other enthusiasts. Joining a community of like-minded people who are interested in the same subject can turn an otherwise solitary pastime into a rewarding, more communal activity.

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Railway enthusiast Trevor McKenna, a member of the Association of Railway Enthusiasts, agrees that the Internet has played a large part in bringing enthusiasts together.

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Questions

Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Choose from the paragraphs (AF) the one which fits each gap (16). For the remaining questions, choose from the paragraphs (A–F); the paragraphs may be chosen more than once.

‘People have been exchanging information about all sorts of obscure interests for years—it’s just that the Internet makes it easier on a global scale for like-minded people to find each other,’ he says.
‘There are dedicated chat rooms, and reputations are made or lost in them. Everyone is always searching out forgotten lines that can only be observed by the devotee.’ In his case, it has also helped him develop a healthy business, in the form of an online shop and forum based in Melbourne. People from all over the world visit the site, buy signs, badges and models, and of course exchange information.
But are we demonising the Internet as a result of such excessive behaviour? Is the Internet really turning normal people into robots, glued to their computer screens all hours of the day and night? And are they losing the ability to communicate with people on a real level?
But for many, a simple hobby can become an obsession, and for an unfortunate few, this can turn into an uncontrollable psychological problem, known as an ‘impulse control disorder’.
Much has been made of ‘Internet addiction’. In 1995, US psychologist Kimberly Young established a clinic to treat addicts, the Centre for Online Addiction. Similar organisations have been set up since then, including one in Amsterdam for those obsessed with computer games.
Therefore, while the line between a hobby, an obsession, and a psychological disorder can be difficult for even the experts to pin down, it would seem to depend on the effect your interest has on the people close to you.

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