Are You Addicted to the Internet?

Maybe you’ve experienced this, or something similar, yourself. You have a question that you’ve posted on a discussion forum and you’ve just checked to see if anyone’s responded… for the twentieth time in as many minutes. Or you’ve finished watching the latest offerings on YouTube and you’re ready to call it a night, except that it’s three in the morning and you have to get up in a few hours to get to school or work. Then, of course, there is the possibility that you are losing sleep, forsaking food, and ignoring personal hygiene in order to spend some extra time keeping in touch with your friends on Facebook.

If any of this strikes a chord in you, then you may falling into the deliciously seductive trap of internet addiction. But take heart, you are not alone. The news seems to indicate that this is becoming a growing problem. In fact, a recent survey found that, in addition to the unwillingness to do without the internet for more than a day or two, it has become increasingly common for people to turn to it to escape their problems and then lie about their usage to their friends and family.

On the surface this might not seem to be such a big deal (after all, is it so different than watching TV?), especially in lieu of the fact that the internet can be an amazing resource. In fact, some experts believe that surfing the web at work might actually make us better workers. In a study out of Australia, researchers determined that spending time doing non-work related web browsing, or workplace Internet leisure browsing (WILB) as they call it, resulted in greater worker productivity.

WILB was likened to taking a short break that restored clarity and focus and enabled workers to do their jobs more effectively. The study’s authors went on to say that the money and effort that companies devote to preventing it’s employees from spending time on the internet might in fact be misguided.

Drawing from personal experience, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time surfing the web at work during moments of down time. In fact, I have a friend who went to work for a company that forbade surfing the web and sending personal emails and my first thought was: I would never work for such a draconian place.

And as a SAHD, I’ve found the web to be connection to the outside world. In addition to enabling me to write for Wisebread, the internet is a way to help me get through the day. I can read the news, keep up to date on the latest scores, find answers to almost any question I have, “talk” to people who share my interests or can relate to my suffering, and of course, reconnect with old friends. For the record, after a brief period of gluttony, I now avoid Facebook like the plague because it reminds me too much of being in high school.

The question then becomes one of moderation and determining how much is enough, and clearly once you’ve crossed that line where the time in front of your monitor begins to adversely affects your health, your families, and of course, your job, then maybe it’s time to take a step back.

If you feel you might have a “situation,” here are some suggestions that help you moderate your intake, or at least make some steps to resolving your problem.

1. Keep track of your usage. It’s easy to lose perspective on how much time you spend, and sometimes just being aware of the staggering number of times that click on your browser might be eye opening enough to curb your appetite.

2. Savor the moments. Rather than flooding your system, surf the web more sparingly so that time spent is more of treat rather than a need.

3. Be organized. Set aside certain times to visit Facebook or check on sports scores. Besides the news, most things don’t change that much within the span of a few hours, so give the world a chance to evolve before you check on it… again.

4. Focus on your family. The internet will always be there, but time lost with your family is gone for good.

5. Focus on your health. Being healthy takes some time and effort in terms of getting exercise and preparing healthy meals. The time spent being healthy will cut down on internet time and you’ll feel a lot better than if you’d spent five hours watching YouTube.

6. Talk to people in person or on the phone. Email is a hideously inefficient and impersonal  way to communicate, and personally I don’t get the whole IM thing. The time lost could be better spent connecting with a real person.

7. Shut your computer down when you’re not using it. Just that little bit of inconvenience might make you think twice about opening your MySpace page.

8. Rekindle the romance in your life. Sometimes you just can't beat physical contact, though don’t plan on checking your email afterwards for fear of being too distracted to enjoy the moment and thus offending your partner.

9. Get outside and go for walk. The fresh air will do you good, not to mention the exercise.

10. Seek out professional help.
If you feel the situation has gotten out of hand, then maybe contacting a professional is in order.

In the end, the internet can be incredibly useful for information, entertainment, and employment. It’s just a question of perspective and being aware of when things start to get out of hand. So keep a level head and remember what the really important things in life (your health and family, in case you forgot) really are.

And, of course, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on the matter, or have a story to share, we’d love to hear them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to read the in-depth analysis on the weekends winners and losers of the NFL draft… again.

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Are You Addicted To The Internet?

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Guest's picture

No, I am not addicted...I only like building my blog. Now, I better go check my stats for the 20th time. Who knows, maybe I just made it to the front page of Digg! ;)

Guest's picture

"6. Talk to people in person or on the phone. Email is a hideously inefficient and impersonal way to communicate, and personally I don’t get the whole IM thing. The time lost could be better spent connecting with a real person."

If you don't think email, IM, or other online interactions are with real people, then you shouldn't be using them.

And just in case any of my friends or family ever read this? Don't call me if an email will do. I don't like phone conversations. In-person is nice, of course -- because how else will I be sure you're a real person? ;-)

Guest's picture

I admit, I've succumbed to the addictive properties of the internet-- particularly sites like Facebook and Twitter. But, even while I enjoy them, I never forget the importance of spending real time with family and friends. As this amazing clip on youtube expresses, you just can't underestimate the importance of small talk!

Fred Lee's picture

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. Nate, I can relate. I'm also a poet and I don't even know it. I used to obsess over my site meter but after months of getting zero hits, I finally gave up. At some point I had to move on with my life.

Kenneth, I didn't mean to imply that I don't like online correspondence... actually, that's not true. I don't get the whole IM thing and as you recommend, I don't use it. But to each his or her own.

And Kate, I am with you on this one. Any meaningful relationship in your life requires time together in person, even engaging in small talk, which I abhor. Even talking on the phone falls short of time spent face to face.