The internet can be an incredibly useful and convenient resource. It’s a treasure trove of information, and it enables us to communicate with one another so much more easily than ever before. The number of things we can do online is constantly increasing, with the result that many of us are relying on the internet more and more in our daily lives. For lots of us, the internet has become such a key part of our lives that we can’t imagine getting by without it.

Some people, however, find it too reliable and too easily accessible. While many spend their time online responsibly, some can’t help but spend too much time surfing the web. Internet addiction is a very real problem. With more people around the world coming online, the number of those developing an addiction may well rise, unless steps are taken to ensure the internet is used responsibly.

What Is Internet Addiction?

To put it simply, someone who’s addicted to the internet spends way too much time online. Someone with a genuine addiction devotes so much time to online activities that it starts having a negative effect on other areas of their life. Relationships and work may suffer as well as  finances can be negatively affected by excessive playing in Willy Wonka, also, in some cases, a person’s physical health may suffer from too much time spent online.

a woman smiles while she looks at her phone

Many of us do, of course, spend hours online every day as part of our regular routine. Most people who use the internet a lot are able to switch off from it and not constantly feel the need to be online. Those who have an addiction are unable to do this. They have a sort of compulsion to be online and get a high from it, no matter what they’re online for. The wide web should always be something that’s used responsibly and in moderation. When internet usage starts getting out of hand and having noticeable effects on a person, that’s when a problem’s developing.

Different Types of Internet Addiction

Since the internet enables us to do so many different things, it should come as no surprise that internet addiction has many forms. The focus of the addiction can vary greatly.

Online relationship

Some people invest too much time in online relationships at the expense of real-life ones. Real-life relationships can also be affected by people’s addiction to viewing online pornography.

Unlimited information

For some people, what drives them to spend too much time online is the wealth of information that’s readily available to consume.

Gambling

For some people the focus is gaming, whether it’s playing online video games or gambling for real money at online casinos. Financial problems can occur if someone’s spending too much money on gaming or gambling – or both. With gambling especially, it can be easy to keep placing bets in the hope of eventually landing a win big enough to make a profit. This is known as chasing your losses.

Social media

Millions of us are addicted to social media in the sense that we’re constantly checking for updates and can’t go without for a short while for fear of missing out on something. For some people, social media addiction is a serious problem, and it doesn’t help that there are loads of networks that are all easily accessible on smartphones and tablet, giving people unlimited access to them.

 

These are just some examples. If you or anyone near you suffer from addiction, go ahead, ask for help. A lot of organisations can help you with the problem.

Signs to Look out for

There are a number of signs that a person is developing an addiction to being online. These include a number of changes in a person’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Common examples of addiction signs include:

  • neglecting parts of your life to spend more time online,
  • being prepared to lose major parts of your life so you can be on the internet more,
  • turning to the web to deal with and solve problems,
  • being unable to go without accessing the internet for short periods of time,
  • generally spending an increasing amount of time online, even if it’s for no apparent reason.

Someone who’s got quite a serious problem may show signs such as depression, anxiety, isolation and dishonesty. Other things to look out for include exhaustion, low self-esteem and defensiveness. Those affected by internet addiction will often experience a noticeable change in character.

As well as emotional problems, there are some physical problems that may occur in people who spend too much time online. These include strained vision and headaches from staring at screens a lot, backache from sitting at a computer desk for prolonged periods and even changes in weight.

You don’t just suddenly become addicted right away; addiction of any kind is something that gradually develops over time. The signs will vary, depending on the person who’s developing addictions, their internet consumption habits and the reason they’re spending so much time online. Some of the signs may not be noticeable right away, though if the problem worsens, the signs should become a lot more prevalent. Someone who’s displaying any number of signs of addiction should get treatment.

Common Side-Effects

Addictions can have both short- and long-term side-effects.

  • Short-term: Some of the more common short-term ones to look out for include things like not completing basic tasks, losing track of time, forgetting to do things and having disrupted sleep.
  • Long-term effects tend to be more physical; they include sight problems, back and neck problems, and generally feeling more fatigued and exhausted throughout the day.

Those who spend money online run the risk of getting into financial problems if they can’t keep their spending in check. When money’s involved, problems like debt or even bankruptcy can arise, especially if the addiction isn’t treated early on and is left to get worse over time. Whether someone definitely has an addiction or not, if they’re going to spend money online for whatever reason, they should always stick to a budget. Also, they should never give in to the temptation to keep on spending. Doing so can make someone more likely to overspend and eventually run out of money.

Classification of Internet Addiction

While there’s no denying that many people are addicted to the internet, there’s an ongoing debate about how it should be classified. Some believe internet addiction is very much a mental disorder and should be treated as such. Other believe those who spend too much time online do so because of a separate, pre-existing condition. In other words, internet addiction may be a sign of another problem, not an actual problem itself.

Someone who spends ages shopping online, for example, may actually be addicted to shopping and not necessarily spending time online. Extensive research is being carried out to determine whether addiction to the internet is a disorder of its own or a symptom of another condition – or even if it’s somewhere in between.

Causes of Internet Addiction

With any addiction, there are all sorts of causes. With internet addiction especially, there’s a broad range of possible reasons as to why people may develop problems.

  • Anonymity and self-esteem. The web, by its nature, is something that enables people to be anonymous and create new personas for themselves. Those who feel inadequate or those who have low self-esteem may find the internet attractive as it enables them to flourish as people – something they do not necessarily feel they can do in the real world.
  • Avoiding real-life problems. For many people, the internet offers the chance to forget about the stresses of modern life and unwind. They spend time online instead of thinking about or dealing with whatever problems they may have in their day-to-day lives. They find comfort in being online and not having to focus on their issues, whatever they may be, so they end up spending an increasing amount of time online.
  • Wide possibilities. The internet is extremely convenient – in fact, many would say it’s too convenient. It enables us to do so much in a much quicker and easier way than conventional methods. For example, GPS has taken over looking at paper maps, online casinos let you gamble from home instead of having to visit your nearest land-based casino, and you can communicate with people around the world in an instant. The fact that you can rely on the internet to do so much can be a bad thing, when you start relying on it for practically everything.
  • Propensity for addictions. Many people have particular personalities that make them more likely to become dependant on something. Smoking, vaping and drinking coffee or alcohol are all things that people can become dependant on, partly because of the gratification these things can offer habitual users. Those with addictive personalities may be more likely to gain an internet addiction, especially if going online offers them the same sort of buzz as other things they routinely practise.

The causes listed above are just some of the more common ones linked with internet addiction. There are likely many more that can result in people becoming addicted to spending time online. It’s not just a black and white issue. There’s a whole range of possible causes, some of which may not have been seen in many people just yet.

Treating Internet Addiction

Since addictions are complex, there’s no single solution that’s going to treat everyone. Something that might work for one person might not work at all for another. With internet addiction, treatment isn’t necessarily about quitting the web for good. Instead, it’s about being able to use it responsibly, to stick to any limits and do not let internet usage affect other parts of your life. The internet is an incredible resource that brings us together in so many ways; the best way to use it is to do so sensibly and with moderation. Too much of a good thing, after all, can actually be bad for you.

There are questionnaires you can complete to see if you could be developing some sort of problem. They consist of a number of questions. Usually, the more you answer ‘yes’ to, the more likely you are to have or be developing a problem.

  • If you feel you’re spending too much time on the web, there are simple solutions you can try.
  • You should keep track of how often you go online and how much time you’re spending online per day.
  • Have a think about how the internet benefits you and find other ways to get those same benefits.
  • Dedicate more time to other things in your life and when you’re out and about, resist the urge to go online on your phone all the time.
  • Should you feel your problem is worsening, and you can’t do anything about it yourself, you may want to get professional help. Seeing a doctor, a therapist or someone of a similar capacity can help you cut down on your reliance on the internet.
  • Support groups can be of great help to anyone who thinks they’re spending too much of their time online. No matter how severe your own case is, it can be useful to chat with other people also experiencing the same sort of problem.

You may notice the signs of internet addiction in someone you know, such as a family member or colleague. If you think they have a genuine problem, you should speak to them about it and suggest they first try to reduce their internet usage. If that doesn’t work, and the person’s still clearly addicted, suggest they get professional help.

Though it hasn’t been determined how exactly to classify internet addiction, it’s nonetheless a problem that needs to be taken care of. There are many people around the world who end up spending far too much time online for various reasons, with often serious consequences. Thankfully, help is available, and most who do become addicted are able to get over their problem and use the internet responsibly again.

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