Internet addiction is slowly but surely becoming a growing problem throughout the world. Recent studies have identified how apparent this addiction is with an estimated 420 million people – 6% of the world’s population – suffering from Internet addiction.
Safer Internet Day, taking place on 6th February, is an annual event which promotes the safety and positive use of digital technology. The day is celebrated in over a hundred countries with the vision to inspire conversations about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.
With the rise of social media and advances in addictive gaming technology and other platforms designed to keep people on screen, it is no surprise this trend in continuing to grow. However, compulsively engaging in online behaviours is different than simply using the Internet. For some, the inability to go online causes withdrawal symptoms like irritability, mood swings, including rage, and obsessive thoughts. People may also use the Internet to cope with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. This then forms a negative pattern that thwarts emotional development.
Social media addiction
Interestingly, while social media has been identified as being more intensely addictive than alcohol or cigarettes, there is still no formal clinical diagnosis that can label a person as being a social media addict.
However, there are ways to identify highly addicted people:
• You may log in very often, wasting time with unproductive browsing.
• You constantly check your notifications and update your status.
• Social media functions as an escape from the real world
• If you can’t get on social media, you become very agitated.
• You plan your social media posts in advance.
• You get upset when your posts online aren’t appreciated.
• Social media gets in the way of your real-life connections.
Individuals addicted to social media get a rush of dopamine when they post, share or ‘like’ something online. This is the same thing that happens when someone uses addictive drugs, as the limbic brain is flooded with dopamine with each hit. Although chemical hooks are a real component to drug addiction, other behavioural or process addiction, such as internet addiction are no less real despite being chemical free.
There are a few warning signs for people who spend a lot of time online. Emotional symptoms of online addiction include:
• Avoiding responsibilities
• Euphoric feelings when using the Internet
• Feeling guilty
• Losing sense of time
There are also multiple types of Internet addiction, including compulsive web surfing Addiction, informational addiction, and cybersex or cyber relationship addiction.
Internet addiction can affect various aspects of your life, including your studies and work. Short-term effects of Internet addiction include neglecting your responsibilities and noncompletion of tasks while long-term effects are more obvious and can impact your physical health and relationships.
More information on coping with Internet addiction and how you can overcome it can be found at The Dawn.