Internet Addiction: What it is and Ways to Offset its Effects
The impact that the Internet has had on our lives is unmeasurable. It keeps us connected to
everyone and has improved our overall quality of life in many ways. For many people, their
careers and livelihoods depend on the Internet. However, there is a point where the Internet can
control us and consume too much of our time. This article will take a deeper look into problems
of potential Internet addiction and offer tips on how to be more aware of its impact in our lives.
What is Internet/Smartphone Addiction?
There is really no formal definition for Internet addiction. It cannot be diagnosed easily because
each case depends on the individual and the part of the Internet they are accessing. In Tony
Dokoupil’s article, “Is the Internet Making Us Crazy,” he discusses how easy it is to get addicted
to the Internet. Dokoupil mentions that the Internet has everything to fuel addiction because it
allows for any person to get away from their problems by sinking hours into social media,
videos, online gambling, gaming, or many other things. With the addition of smartphones, we are
now button taps away from the everything the Internet has to offer. When someone is on their
phone for hours every day, it starts to become an unhealthy habit. The simple act of taking out
your phone and browsing becomes compulsive and addictive. Many people stay on their phones
for hours to get that quick dopamine rush of a text message or a like on a photo. A study done in
China in 2012 showed that the brains of Internet “addicts” looked exactly like the brains of drug
and alcohol addicts. The results showed an “abnormal white matter,” which were extra nerve
cells built for speed in the areas of the brain responsible for attention, control, and executive
function. Other areas of the brain that were responsible for emotions, speech, and critical
thinking were showing signs of shrinkage by up to 20 percent.
Larry Rosen, a psychologist form California says that the Internet “foster our obsessions,
dependence, and stress reactions.” People who are addicted to the Internet probably have other
problems in their lives, such as depression or anxiety. These people look to the Internet to try and
help solve the problems, but most of the time it makes the problem worse. Excessive smartphone
use can potentially fuel more anxiety, interfere with sleep, and impede on our critical thinking.
Even just having your phone near you is a constant distraction because the temptation to use it is
Tips to Keep in Mind:
- While there is no concrete definition of Internet addiction, you can still be aware of some symptoms.
- Try being more mindful of compulsive actions like looking at your phone for a few seconds. Try to catch yourself and ask: “Why am I using the Internet right now?” It might be a valid reason, like checking important emails, news or even for brief entertainment.
- If you are on the Internet because you are bored, that is ok. However, try to think of other productive ways to use your time. Consider reading a book or finishing that homework assignment that is looming over your head.
- When being on the Internet too much starts to interfere with school, your job, or your close relationships it may be time to seek help from someone.
Here is a link to a quiz to see if you are possibly addicted to your smartphone:
Effects on Social and Emotional Health
In Stephen Marche’s article, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely,” he uses Facebook as a specific
example to show the potential effects social media could have on our health. On Facebook
people can connect by adding each other as “friends,” but they do not have to know each other at
all. Users can have hundreds or even thousands of friends, but these friendships can be very
shallow. Studies have shown a decrease in quality social connections, also called confidants,
over the past 25 years. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to talk to, and only
15 percent said they had only one good friend. In 2004, 25 percent of the people in the study said
they had no one to talk to, and only 20 percent claimed to have a confidant.
The fewer quality relationships we have, the lonelier we become. This loneliness drives many to
social media, because that is where many people go to try to help the problem. Social media can
potentially make people feel lonelier. They become isolated in their online profiles and feeds,
only caring about things like comments or likes on their posts. They might see people having fun
or enjoying life, and that could make them feel jealous. There is also an added element of stress
and anxiety on the user’s end to uphold their own image on social media so people do not think
that they live boring lives. Excessive social media posting can also result in negative personality
traits such as narcissism. Constant posts about your thoughts and life can make you more self-
centered and can hurt your relationships in real-life. Many users have to constantly post and
update all their friends that they are having great lives, when in reality it might all just be a
projection to hide their loneliness.
How to Express Yourself Better on Social Media:
- For this section, it is important to note about what kind of person you portray yourself as on all your social medias.
- Is the social media version of “you” actually you, or someone you are trying to become? Trying to create a large gap between who you really are and who you want to be on social media might lead to less quality social connections.
- It is important to be authentic so you can build stronger relationships with people you meet in the real world and on social media as well.
- If you are feeling more lonely or depressed, it is better to seek help from someone in person rather than trying to overcome it through the Internet.
Communication Over the Internet
The way you communicate over the Internet and social media can also have different impacts on
your health. There are dozens of social media and dating apps that let people message each other,
but this communication is difficult to build a strong connection. A study at Carnegie Mellon
found that people who used “composed communication,” like direct messaging became less
lonely that people who had more “one-click communication,” which is usually a like on a post or
photo. Naturally, humans build relationships through face-to- face interactions, but virtual
messaging interferes with that. Another study showed that more video chatting helped decrease
loneliness than messaging. This is because a video chat is more natural that messaging, so the
talking is happening in real time. It is harder to build a quality relationship through text alone
because the interaction is not as authentic as having one face-to- face. You do not get to see facial
expressions or body language, which are huge components of communication. Messaging
through text is not bad, but it will only take the social connection to a limited extent.
Tips for Improving Social Connections:
- It is important to understand that social media and dating apps are tools for socializing.
- Try and avoid using social media for only the “one click interactions” and messaging, as these can lead to many shallow connections.
- Your experiences on these platforms will only be as enjoyable as you make them. It is a good idea to use Facebook and other social media to coordinate social events with people in person, as that will create more quality relationships.
- For dating apps, use messaging in a similar way to set up a date so the deeper conversations can happen face-to- face.
Excessive Internet habits can have lasting impacts on social and emotional health. Smartphones
and the Internet have the potential to do great things, but they have also made it very easy to get
distracted and addicted. Too much Internet use can negatively impact productivity in school and
in your job environment. If not used properly, social media and the Internet can impact our
relationships and increase our chances of becoming lonely or depressed. With proper Internet use
in moderation, people can build healthier habits and genuine relationships through more face-to-