29 Aug Is there such a thing as internet addiction?
We all joke that we’re ‘addicted’ to our phones, social feeds and Google. And we’d bet that most young people have been accused of being addicted to screens by their parents at some point. But how much truth is there in what we’re saying? When does our obsession with the internet become something more? Technology has grown exponentially in the last few years and has without a doubt made our lives much easier. Our tiny screens have more power and potential than few could have ever imagined a decade ago. Yet it’s taking time for our knowledge on how this increased exposure to technology is affecting us to catch up. We’ve dug a little deeper to share some answers to commonly asked questions relating to internet addiction to help clear things up.
Does internet addiction exist?
Yes, internet addiction is an impulse control disorder (IAD), also referred to as problematic internet use (PIU) and compulsive internet use (CIU). It refers to compulsive, online behaviour that interferes with day-to-day life and activities, often compared to gambling addictions which do not involve an addictive substance.
Internet addiction affects people differently, but generally internet addicts will register symptoms of compulsive overuse of the internet, lying to hide spending excessive time online, the inability to reduce this time and that their internet use is impacting their relationships and working life or studies. It’s not just about how much time you spend online, it’s about how this time affects your lifestyle that indicates an internet addiction problem.
Are you addicted to the internet? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you ever lie about how much time you spend online?
- Is your internet use prioritised over spending time with friends and family?
- Do you see getting online as a way to regularly improve your mood?
- Are you irritable when you can’t get online?
- Have you ever been late to work or neglected professional duties due to time spent on the internet?
- Does spending a day somewhere with no internet access make you feel anxious and uncomfortable?
Why do we become addicted to the internet?
Our smartphones are designed to hook us, acting like small slot machines in our pockets. They draw us in with the lure of a dopamine release on receiving a new email ‘reward’ or notification. Does the internet in general work in the same way? Why is it so addictive to spend time online? And what rewards are we reaping?
Jumping into the virtual world is often seen as an escape mechanism. A place where we feel that we have more control than in the ‘real’ world. What exactly does this mean? It means becoming emotionally hooked on new relationships with people met online through addictive games and social networks. These virtual social spaces have the ability to meet emotional needs that are potentially unfulfilled offline. While this probably sounds abstract to most, in simpler terms, the internet creates an illusion of intimacy. It allows you to open up to an online community where you feel you ‘fit in’ or relish ‘likes’ from strangers on Instagram photos because it gives you a confidence boost.
So, yes, internet addiction is real. Although without involving a substance, many find it hard to understand how this type of addiction affects the brain in a similar way. As we learn more about how our screen time impacts us and discussions on mental health become more open, we hope it’s something that won’t be taken so lightly. At Time To Log Off, we focus on promoting a life of balance. That means knowing when our technology, and in this case internet use, is no longer benefiting us. If you need a little more help with stepping back from the internet, we’ve also written a helpful guide on how to overcome internet addiction.