In 1994, the worldwide Internet user count was 25 million. That number rose to 910 million after 10 years. By 2014, it grew to 3 billion. Daily leisure online usage averaged two hours and 10 minutes in 2007. It leapt to six hours after two years. For 2013, cyberuse soared to 11 hours on average. Now, information superhighway activities are double that of the weekly television-watching time. And generally, average individuals check their smartphones 150 times every day.
Internet addiction (IA) involves inadequate impulse control when your inability to restrain Web use creates adverse effects on your everyday life and health. It incorporates any Internet activities that you prioritize ahead of your family, job, and friends. IA includes excessive online shopping, gaming, gambling, social networking, surfing, and pornography viewing. Other addictive signs include compulsive texting, e-mailing, and checking your smartphone or tablet. Experts explain the consequences of so much Internet and technology use.
Surveying Web Users
Scientists conducted a meta-analysis of 89,281 survey respondents, representing 31 countries and seven regions. Questions examined uncontrollable online activities and withdrawal symptoms from limited Web time. Just 39 percent of the worldwide population has Internet access, yet 6 percent suffer from IA. Statistically, that’s a deceptively high number. According to a United Nations’ World Drug Report, just 3.5 to 7 percent of 15- to 64-year-olds used illicit drugs once or more during 2013. And pathological gambling had a grip on only 0.2 to 2.1 percent of global residents.
The researchers were surprised to discover that they couldn’t link greater online obsession to Internet access or dense cyberareas. IA correlates fell in line with traditional addictions instead. The Middle East had the highest with a 10.9-percent rate. Despite relatively high Web-use proportions, Northern and Western European regions had the lowest IA rate of 2.6 percent.
Countries with these characteristics had tendencies toward higher IA prevalence:
Lesser perceived overall life satisfaction
Greater pollution that’s mostly smog
Extended traffic commuting times
Lower nationwide income
These cumulative results indicate that disappointments, environmental stressors, and low wages are keeping people at home, using the Net to fill voids in their lives. Escaping into virtual worlds to find emotional comfort that everyday reality doesn’t provide increases IA odds.
Cyberjunkies turn to the Web as they would drugs to gratify their needs. They feel euphoric when they’re online and then panicky when they stop. The researchers note that better environmental conditions might encourage citizens to pursue outdoor endeavors rather than depending on home-based, Internet-connected devices for stress relief.
Exploring Brain Impacts
Experts regard Internet addiction as a concerning disorder because research links it to neural abnormalities and significant brain changes. Typically, alterations occur in connections that regulate emotion processing, attention, and executive management. Diminished memory and other cognitive dysfunctions can occur. All of these deviations also happen in people with heroin, cocaine, and other substance addictions.
IA often coexists with mental conditions like depression. Studies reveal that Web junkies experience transformations in how their brains’ dopamine systems operate. Dopamine receptors may decline while some functions might experience impairments. Order Effexor online to raise your dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels. Treatment decreases depression and anxiety symptoms while improving your mood.
Internet addiction also may cause social avoidance, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, financial losses, and divorce. Dr. Kimberly Young developed eight questions so clinicians can determine if patients have this disorder and could benefit from therapeutic interventions. At least five “Yes” responses indicate an IA diagnosis.
Is the Internet preoccupying your thoughts so much that you reflect on previous online experiences or anticipate upcoming encounters frequently?
To attain satisfaction, do you need to be on the Web for increasing periods?
Have your repeated efforts to reduce or stop your Internet use been unsuccessful?
Do your attempts to decrease or eliminate your cybertime cause depression, restlessness, moodiness, or irritability?
Are your online sessions lasting longer than you intended originally?
Has your Internet usage risked you losing significant relationships, educational opportunities, career advancements, or new jobs?
Have you told lies to family, therapists, or other people to hide your virtual fixation?
Do you rely on the Web to escape problems or relieve depressed, helpless, guilty, or anxious moods?
Controlling Your Obsession
Young equates IA to food addiction. She recommends putting yourself on a digital diet that limits your online hours as you would restrict your daily calories (see video below). Digital nutrition, another effective method, helps you pick smarter options similar to choosing vegetables over French fries. Regulate your Web usage by abstaining from activities like virtual-reality games that are jeopardizing your relationships or job, but continue using positive and practical ones like checking your work email and making hotel reservations.
To manage your daily technology usage, she advises that you:
Limit the number of times you check your devices.
Set Internet time boundaries. Take a two-day digital detox to renew your energy and free up productive time.
Disconnect so you can reconnect with your family every night. For example, ban devices at dinner and encourage in-person conversations.