Are you an Internet Addict?

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Are You Addicted to the Internet?

I hate being offline. I’m not sure if anyone else feels like this as well but when I’m offline for more than a few days I start to get anxious; not so much that it becomes a problem, but I always know there are emails in my inbox, things I want to do online… it nags at me and then when I do go online, there’s so much to catch up on that it makes me want to turn off the screen again.

I call the feeling iGuilt and I’ve had a really bad case of it lately. I’ve been a little distracted and haven’t been able to do more than just check my email and I even let that slip for a day. And when I came back on, I had over 30 emails to reply to. Well, they can wait; another day’s not going to hurt them. What I’ve actually missed more has been blogging. Answering comments, catching up on other blogs… it’s funny how much it becomes a part of your life. I’m looking forward to catching up later.

Being offline never happens at a good time, though, does it? I’d just got some ideas for new posts and of course that’s when it happens, not when I have blogger’s block! I’ll get to them over the next few days but I thought I’d just post a quick quiz today to go with the update; this seemed like a good one to go along with the iGuilt. 😉

Apparently I’m a pretty normal internet user. I guess I’d agree with that; I’ve never had too many problems online. But I’ve often wondered about internet addiction. We treat it sceptically but in South Korea and Japan there are entire centres for internet addiction. I’m not sure why we dismiss it so easily here but it’s simple to see how it could have a major impact on someone’s life… more people are spending longer and longer online and the impact that can have on our health and relationships shouldn’t be underestimated.

One thing I wonder, though, is whether it’s a true addiction or merely a symptom of other disorders? Many internet addicts suffer from depression and emotional problems and for others it can hide impulse disorders and gambling addictions. Using one term to cover everything seems to give the wrong idea. And unlike other addictions, aren’t most forms of internet addiction self-inflicted? Obviously it’s not as simple as just stopping, but no one forces someone online to begin with, so aren’t they responsible in some way?

I’m not sure myself. Most experts think that the problem can correct itself, suggesting it’s more that someone has to unlearn a behaviour… but then that can’t be true for everyone. If someone has an addictive personality, their brains are wired differently; once they start, they lose all control and they can’t stop even if they try. You only need to look at some of the people who died playing video games to see that.

Perhaps what we’re really talking about is the difference between an obsessive personality and an addictive one. For some people it becomes an obsession; spending too many hours online, losing track of time… it builds up over time, but it’s something they can change if they try. But for others it really is an addiction, something they have no control over. It takes over their lives until they can think of nothing else… it’s only going to become a bigger problem in the future as well, so hopefully it’s taken more seriously.

I know I don’t have a problem online but I try to be careful. Often I’m online for most of the day; part of it’s work and the rest of the time I’m doing research. Because I’m on a lot there’s always the risk I’ll come to depend on it, and in a way I have; that’s what I found with being offline for a few days, I missed it. But I think that’s natural as well. The net has changed; the content is better and there are reasons to want to be online, not least of which is the community. Like anything it’s making sure that you stay in control and can enjoy what the net has to offer. At the moment I think I’ve got a good balance… even if it comes with iGuilt every now and then. 🙂

So what about you? Are you addicted to the internet? How do you balance real life with virtual life? If you have any tips, I could use them at the moment. 😉