Signs of Overdependence on the Internet and Social Media
The Internet provides a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment. It is accessible from most smartphones, tablets, laptops, many gaming systems and desktop computers. Email, blogs, social networks, instant messaging, and message boards allow for both public and anonymous communication about any topic. Young children to senior citizens now connect to each other thru the Internet, but unfortunately, when habitual use gets out of control it results in symptoms similar to forms of addiction.
So, how much use is too much? You might need to use the Internet extensively for your work, for example, or you might rely heavily on social networking sites to keep in touch with faraway family and friends. Spending a lot of time online only becomes a problem when it causes you to neglect your relationships, work, school, or other important things in your life.
Warning signs that social media and Internet use may have become a problem:
- You socialize more online with friends than in person. If you regularly spend more time online with friends than you do socializing in person, you may have an Internet dependency problem. When used responsibly, the Internet can be a great place to interact socially, meet new people and find old friends. However, chat room friends or other online relationships can often feel more intense than those in real life. Our fantasies are given free rein and the idea of being online and making real friends can exceed all realistic expectations. Since few real-life relationships can compete with these wild, fantasy relationships, the Internet addict will prefer to spend more and more time with their online friends.
- You gamble using the Internet. The availability of Internet gambling makes gambling far more accessible to all, and makes it harder for recovering gambling addicts to avoid relapse. Online or virtual casinos are open all day, every day for anyone with Internet access. Those who do not live within close proximity of a traditional casino or betting track, for example, or even those who are too young to gain access, now find it much easier to gamble online. Before you realize it, you can find yourself in serious financial trouble. Similarly, compulsive stock trading or online auction shopping can be just as damaging as online gambling, with the same addictive behaviors.
- You play computer games or virtual world games for hours. Compulsive online gamers can isolate themselves for many hours or days at a time, participating in virtual reality or online fantasy games, neglecting other aspects of their lives such as work and family. These games, while fun for many people, become a distraction from the real world when someone is continually playing them. Losing yourself online can temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate. However, when you no longer eat properly, shower, work, or show up for real-life relationships because you don’t want to interfere with your game, that’s a problem.
- You have felt guilty or defensive about your Internet use. Perhaps you have hidden your Internet use or lied to your boss or family about the amount of time you spend on the computer or mobile devices. The very first and last thing you do every day is check all your email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, messages and all other accounts; you sleep with your phone; you panic when you cannot get any service. These are all unhealthy habits. You may feel bad or upset if you miss a text while at the dinner table, but you are sick of your family or friends nagging you to put your smartphone down. All these examples indicated a growing dependence on internet use and an inability to stop and shut down.
The Internet is a tool to connect human beings to one another. It stores information and can be a form of entertainment. But in the presence of others, put the mobile device down. Chat. Smile. Eat. Enjoy one another’s company. Nothing on the Internet can ever be better than time with a loved one.