MUDs and Addiction

Or: Get a real research topic already

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A couple of times a month I receive email from an undergraduate somewhere out there who would like help writing a paper on the psychological effects of too much mudding. I usually delete the messages unanswered. I already have two degrees; the rest of the net will have to get their own. I am increasingly unhappy with the tendency of students to substitute web-site anecdotes for peer-reviewed, sound scholarly reasearch, not to mention AltaVista for real work.

I have mudded as much as anyone, and I can't tell you anything about the psychological effects of too much mudding. First of all, you've failed to define the key term "too much." What's too much mudding? The question reminds me of all the sex education materials that tell you that masturbation is not harmful unless you do it "too much." How do you know if you've masturbated too much? From the blisters?

It is clear that too much mudding is associated with poor grades, difficulties forming real-life relationships, and inattention to practical matters, especially school work. I know people who dropped out of prestigious universities after spending far more time mudding than attending to academics. Did mudding cause these problems? Or did these problems cause mudding? Does watching words scroll by on a screen induce obscure chemical changes in students' brains, making them unfit for learning? Or was mudding more fun than coursework? Or do the students have trouble managing time and priorities? Occam's razor is your friend, folks.

But what about that kid down in Virginia who died because of mudding? Mudding didn't kill him. Falling asleep at the wheel and hitting a tree killed him. But if it weren't for mudding, he wouldn't have fallen asleep at the wheel. Maybe not, but I know people who have fallen asleep at the wheel in the middle of final exams, and I don't see anyone writing papers about exam habits. I know someone who was driving along minding his own business, when a tractor-trailer jumped the median and crushed him to unrecognizable pulp. Anyone studying tractor-trailer habits?

So if you're checking out the MUDdex because you want to write a paper on MUD addiction, be warned that the only confirmed effect of too much mudding is eruptions of bad research.

Now go outside and take a walk until you regain your perspective.