Getting up, turning on the computer, cleaning his face, brushing teeth, logging on to MSN and QQ (on-line chatting tools). These are steps 20-year-old Xiao Lin follows every morning.
"I can't imagine a life without the Internet," said Lin, a junior of Southwest University of Finance and Economics of China.
A recent survey, conducted by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily, shows that the Internet has become something indispensable in the daily lives of Chinese urban residents, particularly the younger ones.
Some 19 percent of the 4,032 respondents said the Internet "can take the place of everything."
The Internet has flourished in China since 1995, when the first Internet cafe appeared in Beijing. China now has the second largest number of Internet users in the world.
Statistics from China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) show that by July this year the total number of Internet users in China reached 103 million.
In a recent report on the influence of the Internet on China, Guo Liang, an associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, observes that there is great difference in the usage of the Internet between China and western countries.
Guo, a renowned expert in the comparative study of the Internet, says in his report: "The Internet functions mainly as an 'information expressway' in western countries. People there use Internet mostly to search for information and to send or receive emails."
"But the Chinese people use it (the Internet) mainly for entertainment. That might explain why some Chinese people think it can take the place of everything."
Guo published his report on Internet usage and influence in five cities July this year. The report shows that entertainment-related functions are frequently used, only after reading news and browsing.
About 62.2 percent of the Chinese netizens often play games online, 56.5 percent often download music and 53.5 percent download entertainment information from the Internet, according to Guo's report.
A university student in Beijing also described that he was totally lost during those days when the Internet failed in his university. "I was going crazy," he recalled.
And when the network was restored, he and many of his schoolmates stayed up all night to play Warcraft, a popular on-line game. He admitted that he might be "addicted" to the Internet.
Like the university boy, 90 percent of the Chinese young people play on-line games frequently, according to Guo's report.
Guo defines Internet addiction as the strong reliance on the Internet which can lead to various psychological problems if one is denied access to the Internet for a long time.
Guo said that personal character might be the main reason for Internet addiction, though there are other factors like age, gender and education.
"Internet addiction is very complex. It can only be discussed by taking personal character into consideration," Guo explained.
Research shows that jumpy and passive people are most likely to rely heavily on the Internet. On the contrary, people won't rely on the Internet if they are just and self-reserved.
"It won't work by criticizing young people for getting addicted to the Internet. The key is to help them know the real benefits of the Internet, such as the convenient search for useful information, which are more important than the functions of games and chatting," Guo said.
According to Guo's analysis, entertainment will remain the main function of the Internet for the Chinese people. "This won't change as new netizens are emerging every year. They will be attracted by its entertainment content in the first several years of their on-line experience."
(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2005)