I am hearing more frequently that the first thing people do when they get up in the morning is turn on their computers. I've even heard of people keeping their laptops on their bedside tables. I must admit that I spend more time than I ever have online. This is mainly because I started a blog, which requires a large investment of time and an online presence. This change has impacted my life in more ways than one. For starters, I have a noticeably shorter attention span. Secondly, my family complains that it's hard to get my attention when I'm online. Thirdly, although I only intend to check my e-mail, I often end up checking my blog and analytics, looking to see who's on Twitter and replying to a few people on Facebook. My intention is to go online for 5 minutes, and it quickly stretches to 30. I'm wondering how much is too much, and what is the fine line between enjoying something and developing an online addiction?
Do you think Internet addictions are widespread?
While doing a little research, I spoke with a psychologist who told me that an increasing number of couples were consulting her because one person was tired of playing second fiddle to a computer. This is one of the eight symptoms of addiction in the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) developed by Dr. Kimberly Young. Internet Addiction is considered a disorder, and there is some talk that it will be included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association which provides diagnostic criteria for mental disorders.
The following are the eight symptoms Young presented in her paper "Internet Addiction: the Emergence of a New Disorder." If you have five or more of these symptoms then you apparently have an addiction. I volunteered to take the questionnaire.
1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous on-line activity or
anticipate next on-line session)?
Yes, I gleefully look forward to my next online session on my way home from work. My employer filters out all the fun stuff.
2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to
No, but I find it's very easy to waste a lot of time on social media.
3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
No, but I've been asked not to get on the computer until after 8:00 pm.
4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop
Internet use? No, I don't need to curtail online time to feel moody, depressed or irritable.
5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended? Yep, busted!
6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or
career opportunity because of the Internet? No. Someone laid down the law before that happened, and BTW, he thinks that it's hilarious that I've chosen to blog about online addiction.
7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of
involvement with the Internet? I don't announce that I'm a fan of twitter because "some people" pass unfair judgment on Twitter users. Rather than lie, I don't disclose...
8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric
mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
Yes, particularly when I don't want to think about something.
If you said yes to less than five then you have a healthy relationship with the Internet.
If you would like to read the research Kimberly Young presented click here.
How did you fare on the questionnaire? Please take my poll in the right sidebar.
Rome Hospital Starts Treating 'Booming' Internet Addiction Disorder (Bloomberg, November 3, 2009)