The Internet provides a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment. E-mail, blogs, and Facebook and Twitter Accounts allow for both public and private communication about any topic. But how much is too much?
The degree of Internet use is specific to the individual. You may need to use the Internet extensively for your work, or you might rely heavily on social networking sites to keep in touch with faraway family and friends. Spending a lot of time online only becomes a problem 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. If your compulsive Internet use continues despite the negative consequences in your offline life, then it’s time to strike a new balance.
There is a hot debate in the medical community about the validity of “computer addiction.” Many psychological experts believe over-use of the computer is a compulsive behavior linked to an underlying condition, and not something that should be classified as an “addiction.” No matter what we call it, computer obsessions are problematic to marriage, family and career, and need to be taken seriously. (I sometimes wonder if it’s an Intimacy problem; not an Internet problem.)
CLICK THE RE-START BUTTON
S ~ SHIFT
T ~ TIME
A ~ ABSTAIN
R ~ REMIND
T ~ TALK
S: SHIFT: Be willing to shift around and disrupt your normal routine. For instance, if you’re always checking e-mail first thing in the morning, shift things around by taking a shower first, stat breakfast, sit down with the kids, get ready for the day and THEN check your e-mail.
T: TIME: Time yourself. Using an alarm clock or egg timer, preset an alarm near the computer and when the bell sounds, immediately log off.
A: ABSTAIN: Certain applications are triggers for Internet obsessions. Chat rooms, interactive games, news groups or the World Wide Web are often the most problematic. It is not unusual for me to meet someone who needs to give up their Facebook account because it is deteriorating their in-person relationships. However, they continue to use the Internet for far less interesting activities, like ordering airline tickets or shopping for a used car.
R: REMINDER: Consider using reminder cards by your computer regarding the losses caused by your on-line obsession versus the benefits gained by controlling them. Some common losses are time spent with spouse and family, arguments at home, problems at work, or failing grades. Some of the gains acquired by monitoring and controlling Internet usage might be spending more time with family and friends, improving productivity at work, and advancing in career or school.
T: TALK “THERAPY”: Some clients have been driven towards addictive use of the Internet due to a lack of real life social support, especially among those who are homemakers, singles, disabled, or retired. Talk therapy may include one-one-one cognitive behavioral therapy with a qualified clinician; or joining a 12-step support group; or, socializing with an interpersonal support group such as a singles group, bowling league, ceramics class, or church group.
Building real-life relationships is the answer when it comes to addressing maladaptive cognitions that lead to computer-use obsessions. Releasing social inhibitions and the need for pseudo-companionship sets you free to live an authentic, free and intimate life.