Do you have an Internet Addiction?

Internet Addiction

You’re glued to your smartphone. But you can put it down anytime… right?

You’ve just sat down to have lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in years. You’re raising a glass to toast your friendship when a sudden buzz makes the silverware shimmy. “Sorry,” you say, diving for your phone and jotting a quick text reply in one swift move. “Work stuff.” Minutes later, you sneak a chance to peek at your phone, just making sure you haven’t missed any new messages. And when your friend steps away to the bathroom, you lunge for your phone before she even slides her chair back. Hey, that’s modern life. It’s not like you have an internet addiction, or anything…

According to the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (yes, that’s a thing), 6% of people worldwide do have an internet addiction, though the way it looks in my local Intelligentsia, or heck, even in my house, numbers are higher than that. While experts disagree about whether Internet or tech addiction can be classified as an actual mental disorder, everyone agrees that if your device-checking is at point where it’s getting in the way of your offline life, then you may be in trouble.

Isn’t checking email normal?

Of course it’s normal to want to check email during stolen moments (getting a pedicure… in a doctor’s waiting room… in the carpool line)— between the desire to see what our friends are posting on social media and the pressure to be ever-connected at work, it’s become the new normal. But you might want to look closer if you get a distinct thrill or a rush when you’re online, and tend to feel irritated, depressed or even panicked when you’re away from your devices. Most of all, it’s a problem if you’re impulsively or uncontrollably checking your devices, especially when you know it’s not a good time (say, while you’re watching the baby) or dangerous (while driving). And yes, we’re all online for hours each day, but if you’re so plugged in that you’re starting to isolate yourself from live humans, that is a problem. A European study from 2012 found that out of almost 12,000 adolescents, more than four percent had “pathological Internet use,” meaning their online time got in the way of their offline lives.

Is going online often really that bad?

Psychologist and professor Kimberly S. Young, creator of The Center for Internet Addiction and, explains that checking social media, or the “ding” of a new text message brings on a dopamine high similar to what a drug addict experiences. Take that in for a second. And as with drugs, when addicts aren’t feeding their addiction, they’re obsessing about how to get back there. In extreme cases, addicts can reach a point where they no longer distinguish between virtual reality and real life. “It can create job loss, divorce, or academic failure, as would any addiction,” says Young. Add to that carpal tunnel syndrome and irregular eating habits because the addict is too sucked into the computer to come up for air, and you’d think everyone would see there’s a problem, except for one thing: “It’s a socially acceptable addiction.” 

What to do

If you suspect that someone you love, or even you, might be in danger of tech addiction, there are things you can try. First, “Check your checking of digital devices,” says Young. “Stop—tell yourself to go for a walk, talk to your husband or wife, or play with your child. It should not be automatic to keep checking.” (How many times have you clicked a device without realizing you were doing it? Guilty.) Second, “Set time limits. I challenge everyone to take a 48-hour digital detox.” Can you disconnect for two full days? Finally, “Disconnect to reconnect,” says Young. “Go out to dinner without devices, or spend quality time with your family talking instead of using media.” In other words, walk up to your spouse and ask if he’ll please pick up some eggs… instead of texting him a grocery list.

Do you think you could be addicted to tech? How do you know? Tell me in the comments!

Photo credit: Acidicx Dreams

4 comments on “Do you have an Internet Addiction?”

  1. It is a pity that only the negative aspects of being online often are being discussed. There are many positive factors as well. When only looking at my own case I’m pretty sure that I would not be here today if it wasn’t for my ability to go online. That is not an addiction but a lifeline.
    I have a painful neuro-immune disease that keeps me bed bound and on good days wheelchair bound. With my immune problems I can’t go out where large crowds are, I would give anything to bp visit our local farmers market but alas, it’s not meant to be.
    I’ve lost many friends by becoming ill, the disease is progressive and no medication or cure is available. My iPad and laptop are my lifeline, my window to the world, it connects me daily to friends in the same position, it keeps me informed wrt new research, world news, silly kitten and dog videos when I’m down, I can read a book or if I’m too weak it can be read to me and most important it connects me to my daughter with FaceTime who lives in the Netherlands with my 2 grand children who I haven’t met in person yet but who I have seen being born, thanks to the Internet and FaceTime.
    The leading cause of death in my illness is suicide. Because for many there is no hope left, no improvement in quality of live and isolated and loneliness are too much to carry on. Thanks to support groups and friends around the world, there is always someone awake, I have been able to stay on this side of the balancing rope.

    And I’m not the only case, there are millions of people who are helped by this technology, who could be helped. Wouldn’t it be great if every severely disabled if sick person received an iPad? It would greatly enhance their quality of life. Doctors don’t make house calls anymore but they do make FaceTime calls. My doctor does and it’s such a comfort to know I can talk to him when needed.

    Then there are all the lonely elderly who’s life have become boring. I know of groups of elderly people who have chat groups, play games online and puzzles to give their brains a workout and just like me, are able to see their grandchildren.

    I really find it a shame that Internet use is so often in the news for addiction and much less about all the good and joy it brings to certain groups in society. I wish that you could pay more attention to those with apps etc. not all chronic ill patients are elderly, there are people in their twenties tied to their beds, staring at the same 4 walls every day.

    1. Christine— I love your story. Thanks so much for sharing, and bringing the other side of this issue to light. Because I’m covering Internet addiction today, doesn’t at all mean that I don’t espouse the benefits and positive side of technology… in fact it’s MOSTLY what I do! However, I do speak to lots of moms and spouses, and increasingly they want help determining the signs of tech addiction so I thought it was something I’d take a look at on CarleyK. Battling loneliness, staying connected, and keeping your brain sharp, especially for the elderly, are invaluable uses of technology that I am so excited about. More on those in the future!

  2. I so totally agree with Christine. I am considered a senior citizen even though I feel much younger in body (at times!) and in spirit.
    My grandkids are close but are homeschooled by way, at times, of the internet. All of the kids can communicate by way of their used ipads!
    Christine’s life is being extended by this technology!
    NO I do not feel we have an addiction.
    Thanks Carly for your wonderful updates.

    1. Stephanie— Thanks so much for sharing your story. Yes, homeschool curriculums, staying connected to far away relatives, and feeling “younger” for staying up with trends… those are all great benefits of technology!

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