DIGITAL ADDICTION by Adedoyin Mayowa
Digital addiction! These words stand side-by-side like antonyms you might imagine? How can something so beautiful be so destructive at the same time? And yes, addiction is destructive. You would know if you have been through one.
Until recently you could only hear of the word ‘addiction’ juxtaposed with substance abuse for example drugs, alcohol. Today, numerous studies have reported high incidence in other activities such as internet surfing, video gaming, sex, gambling, love-relationship, exercise, shopping and television.
The internet as a neutral tool has provided infinite resources for research from personal to corporate purposes. Today, its presence has been felt in no small way from the way we do business to the way we connect to friends and family. Internet is still one of the biggest revolutions in history.
Since the transfer of internet (originally for military and academic environment) to personal and commercial use, some of the activities we surf the ‘Net’ for include
- Exchanging emails;
- Keeping up with current news feed on subjects like politics, entertainment
- Engagement in online chat groups for personal and business networking
- Engaging in online games and other entertainment channels
- Endless surfing of web pages on any topic that catches their eye.
The internet can also be seen as a repertoire of information that has improved the quality of our lives. Despite its perks, similar to any activity we indulge, in the quest to make life easier to cope with, the ‘Net’ is also subject to abuse.
Internet Addiction is a term broadly used to describe a wide variety of behaviours and impulse control problems in cyberspace.
Remember we are not trying to belittle the immense benefits of the internet. Yet as curious minds, we can critique its impact in our lives.
So frankly, how does one define internet addiction? Time?
Some researchers think that addicted users are likely to use the internet anywhere from 40 – 80 hours per week with single session could last up to 20 hrs.
In order to accommodate such excessive use, sleep pattern may often be disrupted due to late night log-ins. In extreme cases, caffeine pills are used to facilitate longer internet sessions.
Such sleep deprivation further causes excessive fatigue often making the core aspects of peoples’ lives suffer.
Inadequate sleep has also been known to decrease one’s immune system leaving the patient vulnerable to diseases. This is in addition to the sedentary act of prolonged computer use may result in a lack of proper exercise leading to carpel tunnel syndrome, back strain or eyestrain.
Numerous individual encounters have revealed that people often use the internet to fill their time, avoid other life responsibilities or neglect normal social interactions as they become increasingly dependent on being ‘logged-on’.
According to a psychology research, internet addiction may be categorized into five groups including:
- Cyber-sexual addiction to adult chat rooms or cyberporn.
- Cyber-relationship Addiction: social media networks. For instance in chat rooms or newsgroups that “replace” real-life friends and family. This may also include cyber-affairs.
- Net Compulsions: such as online gambling or auction addiction or obsessive online trading.
- Information Overload: compulsive web surfing or database searches.
- Computer Addiction: obsessive computer game playing or programming.
So how do you know I’m getting addicted to the internet?
– You have used the Internet as a way of relieving feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt or helplessness.
– You have jeopardized, lost or reduced your investment in a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of Internet overuse.
– If you feel restless, moody, depressed or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use.
– You stay online longer than originally intended or lie about your usage time/content.
Of course, it goes way beyond these indicators. Addiction to the internet can lead to detrimental consequences in specific areas namely the academic, occupational and family lives.
With academics; reports from surveys show that the integrated internet services in educational institutions do not cause significant improvement in students’ academic performance. These studies also argued that information on the internet are largely disorganized or unrelated to school curriculum.
With professional life; internet misuse among employees is fast becoming a huge concern amongst managers and business owners. Recently, internet monitoring tools in varieties confirmed possible fears, when it was revealed that only less than 30 % of internet traffic was actually related to academic research.
With family life; it is no more news that we are increasing spending less time with people in their lives in exchange for solitary time in front of a computer. Matrimonial lawyers have reported seeing a rise in divorce cases due to formation of cyber-affairs.
Can internet addiction be managed?
Yep! In fact, a number of psychology research departments around the globe have recommended several management strategies including:
- Keeping weekly log of the actual time you spend online. This makes it hard to deny your online involvement.
- Recognize what you’re missing – family, friends, sleep, exercise, hobbies and social events?
- You may employ some time management techniques. For instance; cultivating alternative activities, finding external stoppers such as things you need to do or places you need to go, that remind you when to log off.
Note here: recovery from internet addiction does not mean total cessation of its use. You could try reducing the usual duration by half; say from 40 hours a week to 20 hours.
- Find support in the real world. Be intentional about reconnecting with friends and family. You can also seek out a social/support group to provide some of that missed support.
- Be ‘real’ about your addictive triggers. How you feel when you head towards the computer. For example you may feel bored, lonely, depressed, anxious, angry or stressed?
How you feel before you go online and while you are online, allow you to see the gap you hope to fill?
- It may help to list the main problems caused by your addiction and the main benefits of cutting down your Internet use.
- Take pro-active steps to manage the problem and address the voices of denial.
Sources: Student Counseling Centre, Edith Cowan University, Australia; Wikipedia.
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