Do you ever feel guilty about the amount of time you spend at your computer each day? Do you feel bad that you have wasted an hour watching videos on YouTube or tweeting instead of doing something worthwhile? Do you sometimes feel that you are frittering away your life looking at other people’s profiles on Facebook instead of writing your first novel or decorating the bathroom?
It could be that it is time to rethink your lifestyle and your online habits. There are those who fear that our society is becoming reclusive and that we are losing our social skills and our ability to interact normally with the outside world due to overuse of the Internet. These days we are all communicating from different rooms rather than meeting together to talk.
The notion of Internet addiction is nothing new; in fact, it dates back to the 1990’s where it was even given a name – Internet Addiction Disorder. What is interesting reading these studies today is how many of the elements which were considered symptoms of this disorder have now become part and parcel of our daily lives.
Example symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder as described in the 90’s include; the tendency to lose track of time when on the web; making use of online services regularly and checking emails several times each day! Well, it looks like many of us have those problems today!
Let’s not forget that back in the 90’s there was nothing like the same level of social activity on the Internet. Users were considered at risk of depression due to their disconnection from the outside world and their lack of friends, which contributed to elevated stress levels.
The studies concluded that the computer habits of ‘heavy’ users of the Internet resembled behavior symptomatic of other addictions, such as alcoholism or drug use. Withdrawal from society, lying about the time spent on the addiction and the breakdown of relationships with family and friends are just some of the signs of addiction.
How the times have changed!
These days, we are constantly being told that Internet is all about communication with others. Gone are the days of the lonely nerd in front of his computer. Nowadays, the rise of social media means that we have relationships with people all over the world. If you have 500 Facebook friends, then there is nothing to worry about, right!
The experts tell us that online communication is no substitute for the real thing. Asking your child in person what they think of the Nintendo DSi XL is better than typing “best toy 2011 Christmas” into a search box.
What’s more, it has been proven that physical contact with other people is actually beneficial to health. Communicating in person in a face-to-face situation can prevent you from turning into an Internet recluse, racked with anxiety and facing depression.
Critics of online communication warn of the superficial nature of the friendships, which we make online, too. They also fear that society in general is losing the ability to communication naturally and that social skills are being lost.
Is Internet Putting Our Kids in Danger?
All parents worry about their children and many these days are concerned about the amount of time their offspring spend online. It could be that a child who is lacking in self-confidence takes refuge in the relative safety of online relationships, which are easier to conduct. No need to look someone in the eye, no need to worry about what they think of your physical appearance.
It may be a good way for a shy child to socialize, but this kind of withdrawal from society can make it difficult for children to forge real relationships later on in life and can even lead to a lifetime of social isolation. It is important for young people to develop the social skills necessary for interaction in the outside world, too.
Internet and Social Problems
It is not just children who choose the safety of online relationships over real life. Communication is easier online than in person and if you dislike a person you can simply unfriend them. But the Internet is no substitute for a conversation and none of the essential non-verbal signs are present such as facial expression and body language.
It can be easy to be lured into the idea of living one’s social life only through the Internet. After all, there is the freedom to be whomever we want online, and there is complete control over the amount of contact we have with other people. If somebody makes you uncomfortable then it’s easy to avoid contact with them. This kind of luxury is not always available in real life.
The sense of not being in control is a major component in social anxiety, and socializing via the Internet means that you don’t have to confront those fears, but can simply avoid them. At the end of the day, it is so much easier to chat online than look straight in the eyes of someone who makes us feel intimidated.
Finally, many of us are prone to a little laziness and sometimes it is easier to chat with friends online rather than dress up and go out. If there’s a job to be done, then the Internet or a quick hand of Solitaire can be a great way of wasting time while the bills pile up and the dust accumulates.
Out with Computers, in with Communication
It’s time to take control of your use of all the high-tech equipment available today. Don’t be an Internet victim, don’t turn into a high-tech junkie, but learn how to use these tools efficiently without letting them take over your life. There are, after all, so many advantages to our use of computers in modern life.
There is evidence to suggest that making friends via the Internet gives people a far more diverse range of acquaintances than was previously possible. Increased contact with people from different walks of life, different age groups, background, nationality and race can only be beneficial, even if we may never meet most of them in person.
The Internet has also made it so much easier to find answers to questions. Whether it is a health question, a parenting concern, educational worries, there is no shortage of advice out there. We can easily ask people who have experienced similar problems or situations to give us some pointers. There are tons of people out there who are happy to help and to give of their time.
Internet has also been instrumental in reconnecting people suffering from physical or mental illness with others in similar situations and people who used to feel alone now have the support of networks all over the world.
What Can I Do to Change?
In our social lives, it is important to find a balance between an Internet social network and the real life social network of friends and colleagues.
It is time to call a halt to some bad habits, such as checking email every hour and logging on to Twitter and Facebook 20 times a day. It’s unnecessary and it’s time, which could be better spent elsewhere.
If you are not spending all day every day on your computer then you are going to spend it somewhere else. Think back to the days before all the mobile technology we have today. People got by and they had friends and family to help with problems. If you feel that you are using the Internet excessively as an escape from other aspects of your life, then it might be time to start talking rather than typing.
Getting out into the community can bring many rewards. Visiting friends or going out for coffee or a bite to eat, all of these elements can help to bring a positive change to your life. It’s too easy to become engrossed in the world of Internet when there’s a whole world right outside the front door!