Digital Addiction Detection ~ Are You Afflicted?**

March 2, 2010

What else are you doing while reading this? Shopping on Zappos? Checking your email? Tweeting? The World Wide Web is both a blessing and a curse. It has revolutionized countless aspects of our lives and makes working from anywhere in the world both intriguing and possible. The Internet can be a fun, interactive, community-building, and fascinating cosmos. It can also eat up more of your time than you realize as you ‘quickly’ surf the Internet for something, only to bounce errantly from one Web site to the next. I am guilty of it. You might be, too. We are entangled in the Web like rose tendrils on a lattice.

Love it. Hate it. It’s here to stay.

According to a recent social media addiction study by Retrevo, almost one third of those surveyed under age 35 admitted to checking their social media pages such as Twitter and Facebook more than ten times a day. Thirty-six percent of the 35 and under group stated they update their status right after having sex. It may be healthier than having a cigarette, but is it normal? Forty percent in this same age group admitted to updating their profiles while driving (which definitely isn’t safe). This isn’t to say that older generations aren’t fallen victim to Facebook syndrome. In 2009, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook was no other than the 55 and over crowd!

Post-coital tweets and obsessive Facebook checking are only the tip of the iceberg, however. As more and more adults go online (it is 80% of the US adult population at present), Internet addiction has become a more prevalent issue. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a proper diagnosis of Internet Addiction Disorder requires that three or more of the following symptoms must be present over any given twelve month period.

1. Your tolerance level increases while the level of satisfaction diminishes. You need more and more time on the Internet to get the same kick.

2.  You experience two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days to one month after reducing or stopping your online time. These symptoms then cause distress or impair your ability to interact socially.

3.  The only way to alleviate these symptoms is to use the Internet.

4.  You use the Internet more often, and for longer, than you intended.

5.  You spend a big chunk of your day or night on Internet-related activities.

6.  You give up important social, occupational, or recreational activities to be online instead.

7.  You risk the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your excessive Internet usage.

Like television, the Internet has a way of drawing you in and holding your attention. Other signs of a true digital addiction include severe weight loss or gain from hours of Internet surfing, nervousness, irritability and insomnia. What can we do about our digital dilemma? Certainly instant communication can alleviate our workload, but it can contribute greatly to it as well. Here are a few strategies to balance online and offline time.

  1. Insert a digital-free day (DFD) into the least busy day of your week. If you’re a busy business executive, for instance, it may be best to make your DFD on a Saturday. Make use of your auto-responder or voicemail to let people know you are unavailable. If you’re a mother, perhaps your DFD day should be on a Sunday, or whichever day you do a lot of other chores such as driving the kids to practice, doing the laundry and paying bills anyway.
  2. Take a cell phone sabbatical for an afternoon. Lock it in your trunk or give it to a friend for a specified time.
  3. Plug into the tangible world around you every day. Do at least one daily unplugged activity such as going to the gym, socializing with friends face to face or attending a cultural event.
  4. Make an effort to have face-to-face contact with people every day. Give someone a real-live hug. In fact, hugs are most certainly one of the best kinds of contact you can have.
  5. If you find you have symptoms such as the ones listed above, get professional help. The first net addiction recovery program in Seattle opened its doors recently. Visit (http://www.netaddictionrecovery.com) for more.

The Internet offers infinite possibilities for us all. Be sure, however, that your virtual world is only an augmentation to the real one in which we live.

**This article was originally published on WowOwow.com under the title ’7 Signs You’re an Internet Addict’.

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