Overcoming Internet Addiction
I recently took a four-day vacation that didn't include any Internet access at all. It was the first offline vacation I had taken since ... well, since I bought my first laptop computer too many years ago. While I was preparing for this trip, I had a moment of panic. I wondered if I was actually going to be able to know what to do with myself if I didn't have my computer. After all, being online is how I "be" most of the time. And this made me wonder: do I have an Internet addiction?
Internet addiction is an interesting thing. If you think it's not real, you might want to talk to the people over at The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery. This very real place (that most people find by searching online) deals daily with people who have developed an addiction to the Internet. In doing some research, I discovered that I didn't have an Internet addiction. For one thing, I passed their online test about the problem. More importantly, I learned what an Internet addiction really is.
Just like with any other addiction, it's not something that's a problem until it is. Using the Internet, even excessively, doesn't mean that you're addicted. However, if you're unable to stop using the Internet, you have a problem. When this begins affecting other areas of your life, including your ability to make friends with people and your relationships with family, you have an addiction. If you don't get it under control, you might being to feel that you need help with it.
So how do you overcome and Internet addiction once you've determined that you have one? Here are some tips and steps that you can take to get out in the real world again:
o Turn off the computer. It sounds obvious but if you have a real addiction, it's not going to be easy. This is basically the equivalent of quitting a drug cold turkey. And the thing is, that works for some people. Some drug addicts can decide one day that enough is enough and stop their use on their own. You might find that you can do the same with your Internet addiction.
o Set some computer use guidelines. You might not actually need to kick the habit completely. Instead, you might need to set some guidelines. Think about what areas of your life are being affected by your Internet addiction and make rules around your use that will improve those areas of life. For example, if you don't have family time anymore because you're always online, make dinnertime and the hour after an offline-only time period. Make sure that you actually eliminate this online time rather than replacing it with additional use later in the night.
o Join a group. No, not the kind of group that you go to Yahoo or Google to find. Join an actual group out there in the real world. Often what happens with Internet addiction is that you start to get isolated from real life. The more time you're online, the less you're involved with people and the more you want to be online. The cycle perpetuates itself. Join a weekly group in your city revolving around something you enjoy; it's a safe way to meet new people and break the cycle.
o Assess and understand the source of your addiction. You might actually find that the addiction you have isn't to the Internet at all. For example, perhaps you're online all time because you're on gambling sites. Maybe you're seeking out online satisfaction for your sexual cravings. Although the Internet may be a part of the problem, you might learn that you have something else going on that should be dealt with as well. Getting to the root of the problem is the real key to resolving it.
o Get professional help. If you have an Internet addiction that you can't resolve on your own, you might want to seek out professional assistance.
As for me, I discovered that I didn't have an Internet addiction at all. I went on my laptop-free vacation and didn't think about my online activities once. Okay, okay, maybe once. But the thought quickly went away and I was content to be living my real life. In fact, I decided I'm taking some offline days on a regular basis from now on.