There is no question that the internet is truly a wonder. Want to know something...almost anything? Search the internet and you'll find the answer. It is also an indispensable tool for work, education, and communication. But it can be so seductive that it can become an addiction and interfere with daily life, work and relationships.
When you feel more comfortable with your online friends than your real ones, or you can't stop yourself from playing games, gambling, or compulsively surfing, then you may be using the Internet too much.
The Internet provides a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment. Email, blogs, social networks, and message boards allow for both public and anonymous communication about any topic. But how much is too much Internet usage?
Spending a lot of time online only becomes a problem when it absorbs too much of your time, causing you to neglect your relationships, your work, school, or other important things in your life. If you keep repeating compulsive Internet behavior despite the negative consequences in your offline life, then it's time to strike a new balance.
Many people turn to the Internet in order to manage unpleasant feelings such as stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. When you are looking for a way to escape your problems, the Internet can be an easily accessible outlet. Losing yourself online can temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air.
Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction vary from person to person. There are no set hours per day or number of messages sent that indicate Internet addiction. But here are some general warning signs that your Internet use may have become a problem:
Losing track of time online, having trouble completing tasks at work or home, isolation from family and friends, feeling guilty or defensive about your Internet use, feeling a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities.
Another problem is that about 50% of people online lie about their age, weight, job, marital status, or gender. When online friends meet and the real-life person fails to match the online persona, it can create profound emotional disappointment.
As much comfort as the Internet can provide, though, it's important to remember that there are healthier (and more effective) ways to keep difficult feelings in check. These can include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.
An important aspect of overcoming Internet and computer addiction is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings. It's worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally have you logging on.
Here are some tips for dealing with Internet addiction:
Ask yourself, "What am I missing out on when I spend so much time on the 'Net?'" Write these activities down and decrease your Internet time to do some of these activities.
Set reasonable Internet use goals and stick to them. Take frequent breaks, at least 5 minutes each hour, and do some other activity.
Alter your routine to break your usage patterns. If you spend evenings on the Internet, start limiting your use to mornings.
Seek out friends and acquaintances who "couldn't care less" about the Internet. Take time to appreciate the fact that all life is not yet online.
Stay connected to the offline world. Visit newsstands, book and music stores, and participate in entertainment such as museums, music, and live theater. Novels and poetry readings are hard to experience online.
Treat the Internet as a tool. Stay focused on the fact that the Internet is a means to an end. Plan your strategy-whether you're looking for information or entertainment-with the end in mind and you'll save valuable time.