If you use the Internet more often than you'd like, you may benefit from learning how to overcome Internet addiction.
I'm sure we can agree that the Internet is an excellent resource to learn, connect with old friends, and even launch your business. However, there's a fine line between using it for personal growth and using it excessively. Excessive Internet use can be detrimental to you and those you love.
Here's a closer look at what Internet addiction is and how you can work to overcome it.
In This Guide
What is Internet Addiction?
Internet addiction is when you become dependent on using the Internet, whether it's for constant working, texting, or checking social media. This distortion in priorities is comparable to an addictive drug. It can impact your work performance, your health, the ways you engage with others, your sleeping patterns, and how you manage stress.
Throughout 2014, 420 million people around the world were addicted to the Internet. In the U.S., over 43 million people spend over 20 hours a week on the Internet, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
The American Psychiatric Association also states that nearly a quarter of kids ages 13-17 are online almost constantly. It's apparent that Internet addiction is real, and it certainly needs to be addressed. Check out our guide on cell phone safety tips for kids to kid your kids safe on their smartphones.
Types of Internet Addiction
There are various types of Internet/Computer addictions out there. Here are the most prevalent.
Cyber-Relationship Addiction is when your online social connections become more important to you than real-life connections. If you find yourself excessively involved in relationships with Internet users you've never met in person, you may have an addiction.
You may have a gaming addiction if you constantly play and/or can't stop thinking about playing video games. Many online games and offline games can cause a gaming addiction. For example, if you find yourself playing video games until you've lost track of what time or day it is, you may have a gaming addiction. Additionally, if you find that you cannot think about anything other than your video games and it seems to be affecting your life, you probably have a gaming addiction.
Online compulsions include all compulsive Internet use. Online gambling, online stock trading, online shopping, and social media are all online compulsions. If you constantly feel the need to check for your feeds, emails, sales, stock changes, or gamble your money away online, you may need help. This can also include things like checking your website/blog traffic and any online account you have.
If you are a substance abuser of drugs and/or alcohol, keep in mind that your addiction may amplify your compulsive Internet use. You should seek help from a therapist if you are a substance abuser of any kind with an online compulsion.
Informational Addiction is when you are constantly searching the web for information and answers throughout the day. Contrary to what you may believe, it's not always necessary to look online for the answer to your problems or questions. If you believe the Internet is your only option for this and if you feel you can't control your compulsion, you may be addicted.
Cybersexual addiction is when you're addicted to pornographic material or sexual chatting with strangers you've met online. If you feel the Internet is the only outlet to express yourself and be accepted sexually, you definitely have an addiction.
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
Internet addiction can be a health threat, especially for teenagers, according to the New York Times. It's easy to become addicted, as the Internet supplies ample entertainment choices from social media to viral videos.
With this being said, if using it becomes the bane of your existence it can signify you have an unhealthy dependence on the Internet. Behaviors illustrating this addiction include:
- Checking your social media pages compulsively when you should be doing work or
- Ignoring the dangers of texting and driving
- An unwillingness to interact with others outside of social media, instant messaging, and video/Internet games
- Using the Internet to avoid awkward social situations and everyday life situations
- Even when you are not using the Internet you are thinking about what you will check or do online next to overcome boredom or get out of whatever task you're doing
- Your length of use is longer than you intended
- You have tried to cut back excessive Internet use and have been unsuccessful
- You turn to alcohol addiction, drug cravings or other addictions to stay away from the Internet
- You play many online games that you can't stop thinking about throughout the day
In addition, UnityPoint Health states a sign you are too dependent on the Internet concerns using it to overcome boredom, depression, guilt, and hopelessness. If you have any of these signs indicating computer addiction, there are coping mechanisms to help you.
How Internet Addiction Happens
Internet addiction can be caused by a number of things. Here are several such culprits.
The Partial Reinforcement Effect
The partial reinforcement effect is one reason it's so easy for us to become addicted to the Internet. The positive reinforcement effect is the way social media, video games, and the Internet hook people. It happens when we are reinforced or rewarded for certain behaviors only some of the time.
This means we cannot tell when we're going to be rewarded or not, which leads to us trying and trying until we are rewarded. The partial reinforcement effect is how addictions like gambling and even social media have come about.
Think about it. When you check social media, you may have received a like, comment or friend request, but you're never able to tell when it will happen. Furthermore, it doesn't happen every time you check your phone. This leads you to come back every couple minutes to see if anyone has interacted with you(the reward).
Emotional or Behavioral Disorders
Internet addiction may also be a symptom of something larger. If you have an emotional disorder like depression or a behavioral disorder like Attention Deficit Disorder, you may look to the Internet to fill the void being created by your disorder.
With depression, for example, the partial reinforcement from social media and online relationships can be just what your brain needs to transform your disorder into an Internet addiction. Partial reinforcement from the Internet produces the feel-good chemical called dopamine (along with other neurochemicals) in your brain, according to Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice. The feel good chemical may soothe your emotional woes momentarily, but it will not fix the main problem; it will, however, keep you coming back for more if you're not careful.
If you have a behavioral disorder like Attention Deficit Disorder, it's easy to get addicted to the Internet. ADD can be loosely defined as the inability to either focus, sit still, or both: especially for long periods of time.
When you aren't able to focus on the tasks at hand or sit still for them, the Internet becomes a great escape. On the other hand, excessive Internet use may cause people to develop ADD symptoms, according to The State Press.
10 Steps to Internet Addiction Recovery
Learning how to overcome Internet addiction is similar to overcoming an alcohol addiction or a drug craving; in other words, it's a serious task. If left unresolved, it can affect all aspects of your life and in many regards rob you of the life you should have.
If you think you have an Internet addiction, you may need Internet addiction treatment. Here are 10 steps to help you curtail your Internet use and send you into Internet addiction recovery mode.
1. Admit You Have a Problem
It takes courage to admit you have a computer addiction. Although it is not an addictive drug necessarily, Internet addiction comes with the same kind of denial experienced with excessive drug-use. While this is the hardest step, it's also the first step towards solving the problem. By verbalizing you have a problem, you bring clarity to your mind because you are being honest. This honesty can help you realize how unhealthy your Internet behaviors were.
2. Find an Accountability Partner or Seek Therapy
After admitting your technology addiction to yourself, you should find a friend, family member, or a therapist you trust to share your problems with. During this time, communicate in vivid details your emotional triggers for going online often. When you share your addiction with someone else, he or she can help you remain accountable by keeping you on point when setting behavior goals. They can also be a source of comfort so you don't feel like you are going through this alone.
You may need Internet addiction treatment or cognitive behavioral therapy to reverse your associations and get rid of your addictive compulsions. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a step-by-step Internet addiction treatment process in which therapists help patients change their behavior by having them set small goals and by teaching them skills to overcome their compulsive behaviors, according to the New York Times.
Read More: Technology addiction is no laughing matter. If you suspect you're suffering from cell phone addiction, you should take a moment to read our guide on breaking cell phone addiction.
3. Limit Your Computer and Smartphone Use
Next, you need to alter your behaviors. The best way to do this is to take control of your Internet use. To demonstrate, use a kitchen timer and set it for 30 minutes to limit your network session. Once that timer sounds, get up and move away from your computer smartphone or video game.
Setting a timer will help limit your use and free you up for more important endeavors. You can also limit your computer use by setting network session preferences or using parental control software. Though this software is essentially for kids, you can also use the software - especially with the help of a family or friend - to limit your computer usage.
4. Change Communication Patterns
Instead of spending time online messaging your friends and family, set up a time to meet in person--if applicable. If you think you have a gaming addiction, try substituting your offline or Internet games for games you can play outside. As you change your communication patterns, you'll lessen your need to be online.
To dovetail off the previous point, along with shifting communication patterns you should make spending time with friends and loved ones a priority. Take your parents to dinner, set up a regular coffee hour with friends, or join Meet Up groups to find people with similar interests.
Also, make it a point to put down your smartphone and face potential awkward social situations and everyday life situations head on. The more you socialize, the more you develop your interpersonal skills and build stronger relationships with those you care about the most.
6. Prioritize Your Needs
Making your needs the main focus is a great way to alter your behaviors to align with your new direction. To illustrate, if you are a student with homework, instead of spending hours online when you get home, you set a goal to do your homework first.
Not only will this help you tackle the items you have to do the most, it provides you with a sense of satisfaction. This feeling of fulfillment could prompt you to embark on other self-improvement endeavors.
7. Find Outside Interests
There are many activities you can do without the need for a computer or smartphone. Most communities have volunteer opportunities, sports teams, and civic groups you can be a part of. You could also participate in church, start hobbies like making crafts, or join a gym.
What's beneficial about these ideas is that many require you to go outside, meet new people, and make differences, either in your life or the lives of others. This can give you a sense of fulfillment you initially looked for from the Internet.
Related: Kickstart your workout and measure your progress using a Fitness Tracker.
8. Adhere to a Schedule
It's easy to spend ample time online when you don't think of those moments and hours as precious resources. However, if you develop a schedule, where you outline the things you want to accomplish each day, it places importance on spending your time on things that matter the most to you.
9. Keep Devices Inaccessible
If you are struggling to stay off the Internet, then it's a good idea to refrain from having access to those devices as you seek to change your behavior. Have a friend or loved one keep your computers and give them access to your cell phone provider so they can turn off Internet usage on your smartphone.
You may even want to contact your cell phone provider yourself and shut off your service all together while you come up with the best solution. You can even shut off your Internet service by contacting your Internet providers.
Related: How to Check Your Mobile Data Usage
10. Address the Cause
There's a reason why you spent a large amount of time online. By identifying the emotional triggers which prompted this, it can help you understand how you reached this point. Should you struggle to identify the causes, you could seek a reputable therapist, as he or she can provide the fresh perspective you need.
Relapse Prevention Techniques
If you're working on your Internet Addiction and you feel like you're going to relapse, here are some relapse prevention techniques to keep in mind.
Structure your Time Wisely
Your schedule is important, so make sure you don't leave room for error. This doesn't mean you should never allow yourself to use the Internet again. To the contrary, you may want to simply try giving yourself certain time allotments for Internet use. This will stop your craving and make you feel good about yourself for being more in control of your time. Just make sure to follow your schedule.
Call a Friend, Family Member, or Therapist
If you're feeling desperate and you know you're using the Internet in a compulsive manner, call the friend, family member or therapist from earlier. Let them know how you're feeling. Sometimes you'll find that simply talking to someone about your urge to soothe your Internet craving can also soothe your craving. They may also be able to guide you in the right direction.
Keep Yourself Busy
Figure out what you're passionate about and do it every time you feel the urge to check the Internet, play a video game, or send an email. Substituting your negative behavior for a more productive or healthy behavior (such as exercise or art) can help you stay in control of your Internet addiction.
These 10 tips can help you break Internet addiction. When you have reduced your reliance on the Internet, you will find it's a great resource to access when used wisely. Just make sure you don't relapse back into addiction.
Leave me a reply in the comments if you have experience with an Internet addiction or would like to shed some light on the subject. If you're looking for a cheap WiFi connection, check out our guide on how to get cheap Internet service.
Additionally, you may want to consider teaching your children some Internet safety tips if you have them. You can also read more about internet providers in your area here to find the perfect provider.