Internet Addiction: Does the web have you trapped?

The Internet is a fascinating paradox – the world wide web connects the world and isolates people simultaneously. Someone in the USA can chat online with a stranger in Australia while never getting past a nod to their next door neighbors. Many people spend hours staring into their computer screens without even contemplating moving for any other reason than a trip to the restroom. For some, the Internet is a compelling siren calling them to a world with an immediate release from their own reality. If you are someone who basks in the glow of your computer screen a bit too often, you might be an Internet addict.

Can you remember your life before Google? Does your heart start beating faster when you are on a plane and must turn off your electronic devices? Can you make it through a movie without checking your PDA for messages, e-mails or calls? How far out of the theater are you before you tweet, blog or text about what you just saw? Do you find yourself using terms like “LOL” or “OMG” when IRL (in real life)? How many apps do you have on your iPhone? Are your thumbs calloused from punching away at your Crackberry, ahem, Blackberry?

If you’ve answered yes to the majority of the questions listed above, you may want to step away from your computer – not NOW of course, you’re reading a very important blog entry! Please read on.

The Internet has changed the world forever. While some of us long for the days before technology “disrupted” our lives and others lament the days before someone finally managed to invent this magical information highway, the Internet remains a fact. The Internet can be a useful tool and enjoyable pastime when used judiciously. It is an excellent source of information, a platform to express yourself, a means to communicate, a convenient way to conduct commerce, a necessity for business and so many other things. The world is literally at your fingertips. The Internet and other related technology is destructive only when it is misused or abused. Our rapidly evolving modern world provides many new avenues for addictions including the Internet, texting, e-mails, social networking websites, blogging, micro-blogging, virtual message boards, chat rooms, online gaming, auction websites and more.

The term “Internet addiction” is gaining traction and garnering serious attention among professionals in the field. Online addiction can be detrimental to your health – both mentally and physically. An Internet addiction can hurt work or school performance, affect relationships and cause you to neglect your physical health. Internet addicts may be chronically exhausted or sleep deprived due to long hours logged online. Those addicted to the Internet may develop carpal tunnel syndrome from too much time spent on a keyboard. Some online gamers play for such long periods sitting in front of their computers that they develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a potentially deadly condition brought on by being sedentary for too long.

If you are worried that you or a loved one might be addicted to the Internet, answer the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself drawn in more and more by the Internet?
  • Do you use the Internet to escape reality?
  • Can you successfully limit the amount of time you spend on the Internet or with other related technology?
  • When you are not on the Internet, are you irritable, restless, angry, bored or anxious?
  • Do you spend time participating in activities that do not include the Internet? Has your participation in those activities decreased due to Internet use?
  • Do you lie about the amount of time you spend online to family members, co-workers, classmates, teachers or friends?
  • Is the Internet or your use of other technology interfering with your relationships, responsibilities, school or work?
  • Does your time on the Internet interfere with your sleep patterns or physical health?
  • Has anyone ever told you that you might have a problem with spending too much time online or engaged with technology?

The signs of Internet addiction are not unlike the signs for other addictions: addicts pull away from loved ones, become more solitary, demonstrate a lack of interest in anything other than their addiction and get angry when the addictive element is taken away from them. When the Internet causes someone to neglect daily responsibilities, pull away from loved ones and affects their performance at school or work negatively, it’s time to seek professional help for Internet addiction treatment.

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