The topic may come up most often in jest. Something along the lines of – “Hey man, put your phone down, are you addicted to that game/Facebook/Instagram/random app”? You’ve seen challenges that encourage people to leave their smartphones alone during dinner by putting them in a pile and the first person to cave and check their phone has to pick up the tab. You’ve seen various articles showing that many people feel that addictions to things like their smartphones and social media are real. But is technology addiction a real thing? Can you actually be addicted to the internet in the same way you could be addicted to a drug or alcohol?
The short answer is that the jury is technically still out, but all signs point to yes.
The longer answer is that the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the US doesn’t officially recognize it yet. But there are a growing number of treatment clinics that specialize in treating internet addiction. There are a huge number of these types of clinics in China, which was the first place to open this type of clinic. The first US clinic was opened in late 2013, with others slowly following. More recently, an article was authored that indicated a subject who was addicted to Google Glass.
Develop healthy habits to stop Internet addiction
In a world where devices and information are so easily accessible, and we can slip away from the real world into whatever corner of the internet we please, how do we know where to draw the fine line between spending a lot of time online and real addiction? There’s obviously a huge difference letting a day slip away as you sit in front of your computer getting work done while intermittently checking social media, blogs, and shopping online. At least to some degree, procrastination is normal and it’s ok if it happens online. The problems start when you can’t stop. Some folks will be more naturally predisposed to these addictive behaviors, but we can all do a few things to prevent us from getting too attached to our devices.
You don’t need to be connected every minute of every day. If you need to, schedule non-screen time for each and every day. If you can, try to take a weekend day off from technology or social media altogether.
Engage with real people
The internet may enable us to stay connected with far flung friends and to meet new friends from afar that we might not know otherwise, but don’t forget to engage in real-life. This may mean joining a group to help force you off the couch/chair/desk. Find a group to work out with or a group with a similar hobby (that isn’t online gaming!). Do things with them in person.
Tweak your routine
I once read that your smartphone shouldn’t be the last thing you touch at night and the first thing you reach for in the morning. “But what about my alarm clock?!”, I pathetically wailed to my husband. Get a real alarm clock, and leave your phone somewhere that isn’t right next to your bed. Take a tech-free lunch, or leave your phone behind when you’re walking the dog. There are a number of little tweaks you can make to your routine that will weed out a bit of the unnecessary technology usage.