Who hasn’t interrupted a conversation to answer a text message or update their Facebook status? While this behavior is rude and can be downright insulting to the person left twiddling their thumbs as you scroll through your Twitter feed, does the current obsession with technology qualify as an addiction?
The first hospital-based Internet-addiction rehabilitation program opened at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania over the 2013 Labor Day Weekend. The new program provides individual, group and family counseling services to those considered “addicted.” And while the advances in technology place multiple Internet-connected devices at our fingertips, the phenomenon of Internet addiction is nothing new.
Dr. Kimberly Young began researching the growing rate at which Internet usage started interfering with the lives of users in 1996. Her earliest study investigated the similarities between people addicted to logging on and those addicted to substances such as drugs and alcohol. Some of her later research unearthed the connection between Internet addiction and depression.
You may be ready to chime in with “but the Internet has changed the world!” And it has—in many cases for the better. Decades ago we could never have conversed with people across the country in the blink of an eye.
And with the introduction of social media sites, we can communicate with old school buddies, family and even impress future employers with our Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. So how could Internet technology possibly be a bad thing?
Researchers are not by any means proposing eliminating the use of our precious devices, but are analyzing why people constantly turn to their phones or tablets. In some cases these little “check-ins” are interfering with and even taking precedence over more important responsibilities.
Similar to any addiction, when the behavior becomes compulsive and interferes with daily life, there is a problem. Some find themselves avoiding social interaction with spouses or friends by logging on while others find comfort or value in their lives by updating posts.
Wonder if you’re addicted? Experts recommend analyzing your behaviors. How many devices do you have and are they with you constantly? Ask yourself why you are currently logging on. Is it work-related or merely to pass the time? Pay attention to your patterns. Dr. Young established the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ). Meeting five or more of these may mean you have an internet addiction:
- Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
- Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
- Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
- Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
- Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
- Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
- Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
- Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
- If you find yourself answering “yes” to more than a few of these, there are certain steps you can take:
- Instill time limits on your usage and work to reduce the hours spent logged-on.
- Incorporate “tech-free” zones in your home.
- Track your internet-free progress and try a new hobby to take up the time.
-The Alternative Daily