Is there such a thing as internet addiction? Sounds made up, doesn’t it? When I first heard the rumblings of this new condition, I admit, I was skeptical.
It sounded like the latest scapegoat for poor choices.
Now, I’m not so sure. In the past ten years, all of us have experienced a shift in the world around us. Where there were once stricter boundaries between the different parts of our lives – such as meals, sleep, work, and so on – they’ve become mashed together.
We’re connected 24/7 to absolutely everything. The line in the sand grows hazier by the day.
- Work doesn’t end when you leave the office because you have it with you in the form of your phone or your laptop.
- Sleep is delayed or interrupted by the electronics sitting by your bed.
- Dinner with friends and family is paused when your phone vibrates.
- Vacations are no longer when you unplug and forget about the “real world” because you carry it around in your pocket.
Every year, more and more people are “plugged in” with the latest technology. It hasn’t reduced our stress. In fact, most studies show that constant engagement is making us sicker. Overall, we’re less satisfied than we’ve ever been.
Facts about Internet Addiction
Experts estimate that 1-in-8 people in the United States and Europe have an issue with internet addiction disorder (IAD). It’s also referred to as problematic computer use. Other experts argue that this number is conservative.
One survey by Common Sense Media found that 72% of teens check their phones every hour and 48% of parents did so as well.
Per the actual survey participants:
- 50% of teenagers believe they are addicted to the internet
- 27% of parents believe they are addicted to the internet
When 50% of teenagers admit to anything, it’s high time someone takes it seriously. If their parents also have trouble letting go of their devices…who’s supposed to help these teens?
The genie can’t go back in the lamp now and there’s no denying the spectacular benefits of technology in daily life.
The Cost for Convenience
However, we also can’t ignore the epic repercussions of what we’ve created. In the past couple of years, more studies are being done to determine what we’re facing in the future. A few of the problems already identified are…
- Texting and driving
- Vision problems
- Brain exhaustion and information overload
- Sleep deprivation
- Cartilage and joint problems
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Damage to posture
- Negative impact to relationships
- Poor social skills
- Lack of empathy
- Addiction and/or compulsion
- Engaging in high risk behavior
- Higher rate of mental health problems
The inability to deal with regular life cut off from the internet is a growing problem. Serious lapses due to excessive internet use are filtering into our schools, jobs, and public spaces.
When 94% of teenage drivers know that texting and driving is dangerous but 35% do it anyway (and so do many of the adults who drive them), that’s the sign of an addiction. Every day, 11 teenagers die as a result of texting and driving because something just couldn’t wait.
Internet Addiction – More than “Being a Slacker”
Certain repetitive behaviors on the internet cause a release of “happy” chemicals in the brain – much like drugs and alcohol. Scoring points in a social media game, gambling online, or even engaging in dating apps gives your brain a high it loves. Eventually, like every addiction, it takes a lot more to feed the need for more.
Over time, it may even feel “impossible” to step away from your screen to live your life.
Researchers with Canada’s McMaster University tested internet addicts for other mental and emotional conditions. The team determined that those with a positive score on internet addiction had trouble coping with daily life, increased risk of depression and anxiety, poor time management, insufficient planning skills, impulsive behaviors, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre professor, Jan Buitelaar, explained. “Excessive use of the internet is an understudied phenomenon that may disguise mild or severe psychopathology.”
There are many studies that have classified internet addiction as grossly underreported and untreated.
Are You an Addict?
There are many tests out there to determine internet addiction and most of them will answer your concerns competently.
However, Dr. Kimberly S. Young developed a questionnaire that doesn’t require tallying scores or spending 30 minutes taking a survey. I like the simplicity and completeness of her questions so I’ve copied them here, courtesy of PsychGuides.com for your convenience.
Simply answer the questions honestly and if you answer yes to five or more, you should talk to your family, friends, spiritual guide, or mental health professional about steps you can take to break the habit.
- Are you preoccupied with using the Internet? Do you think about your previous or future online activity?
- Do you have the need to be online longer to be satisfied?
- Have you made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to cut back, stop, or control your Internet use?
- Do you become moody, restless, irritable, or depressed when you stop or decrease your Internet use?
- Is your time spent online longer than what you originally planned?
- Did your online use negatively affect a significant relationship, education, career, or job?
- Do you conceal the extent of your Internet usage from your therapist, family, or others?
- Does the Internet serve as an escape from problems or relief from a bad mood?
You can take steps to curb your internet dependence. I won’t profess to know the severity of your reliance on the internet. Only you can know that and therefore, only you can determine what does or does not help you break it.
- Keep your tech time within places and hours of the day.
- Acknowledge the types of sites you visit and if they are unhealthy, unproductive, or even unethical.
- Fill more of your time with healthy offline pursuits.
The world isn’t going anywhere and despite what the vibe of the online world says, you’re not going to miss anything. Take a break.
The internet and all the fancy devices and applications are fantastic and useful tools. They don’t have to control your life.
You can beat internet addiction and take back the hours of wasted time. Imagine what you can accomplish?