We often equate the word “addiction” to substances like drugs and alcohol. However, in the digital age, more and more people struggle with Internet addiction.
Simply defined, addiction means “the inability to be without a substance or an object.”As our attachment to IPhones, IPads and smartphones grow, the boundary between healthy and unhealthy usage is blurry.
After all, the Internet has replaced the old fashioned yellow pages as the place to find all sorts of information. We use the World Wide Web to shop, make restaurant reservations and book our vacations. And now that we have apps, it’s easy to hop onto our favorite websites and swipe right or left to order pizza, schedule our grocery delivery from Safeway and set-up a date for Saturday night on Tinder.
How much Internet usage is too much?
To help you determine if your digital consumption is within a healthy range, we found the following questionnaire.
The Internet Addiction Test (IAT) is the first valid measure of Internet addiction. Some sample questions from the questionnaire are below. Answers are rated on a 5-point Likert scale.
0 = Not applicable
1 = Rarely
2 = Occasionally
3 = Frequently
5 = Always
As you answer the questions below, choose the response that best matches your behavior.
- How often do you find that you stay online longer than you intended to?
- How often do you prefer the Internet do spending time with your partner, friends or family members?
- How often do you form relationships with fellow online users?
- How often does your Internet usage negatively affect your performance at work or school?
- How often do you look forward to when you go online again?
After you’ve answered these questions, add up your score. A higher score indicates that you responded to the questions in a way that’s similar to people who have an Internet Addiction. If you want to take the full questionnaire, you can find it here.
The Impact of Internet Addiction
Even though Internet Addiction is not a recognized mental health diagnosis, the latest research suggests that almost 10% of people are addicted to the Internet. If you have ADD, anxiety or depression, you’re at a higher risk of becoming addicted to cyberspace.
Just like drugs and alcohol, too much Internet usage affects how our brains work by impacting our cognitive abilities. People who are addicted to the Internet tend to use it as a way to escape from painful feelings like grief, anger, and sadness. It’s the ultimate distraction when reality is painful, and it might feel like a way to leave our troubles behind.
Unlike substances, the Internet is always available, which makes monitoring our usage difficult. Spending time online is a cultural norm so it might be confusing to discern if your online habits are becoming problematic.
Tips for Coping with Internet Addiction
Have friends or family members expressed concern about the time you spend online? Do you become agitated if someone interrupts you while you are browsing the web?
If you answered, “yes” to either of these questions, you might consider setting some healthy boundaries around the time you spend online by doing the following:
Go on a digital detox
Similar to a food cleanse, a digital detox prohibits any Internet usage that’s not mandatory for work or school. This is a great litmus test to discover how you feel when you step away from your devices.
Shut-down the Internet
If logging onto Facebook, checking your email, and reading the latest Tweets distracts you from doing your work, you can use one of these apps to shut off the Internet for a certain amount of time.
Prohibit Your Smartphone from the Bedroom
It’s been proven that bringing your smartphone into the bedroom disrupts healthy sleep habits. Some people wake up in the middle of the night and turn to their devices to check their emails, shop online and read the latest news as a way to help them fall back asleep.
Do yourself a favor, when you go to bed, put your phone to sleep so that you can get a full nights rest.
Even if you’re not misusing the Internet, you might still choose one day a week when you take a break from social media, texting and surfing the web. Try calling your friends or family members to make plans and talk about your day.
When you do this, pay attention to how it feels when a piece of technology doesn’t interfere with human connection.