Hi, my name is Galen and I’m an addict … a web-addict.
The Internet is not only one of the most significant inventions in human history but is also one of the fastest developing industries in the world. It has permeated so many aspects of society in such a short period of time that psychologists are struggling to keep up with the effects that it is having on frequent Internet users.
The Internet is now wearable, is built into our cars, homes and appliances, is depended upon by many businesses, is essential for modern day communication, and is estimated to be valued somewhere in the trillions of dollars US. “Internet Addiction Disorder” (IAD) is now something very real indeed.
The Internet of Things Ecosystem
Online banking, participating in social networks, watching Internet videos, email, general surfing, online gaming, online dating, buying and selling goods online, deciding how to decorate our homes and even ordering our food via the web may all sound like common activities. The question to ask is perhaps not how often you make use of the Internet for such things, but rather to ask how your Internet use may be affecting your everyday life and if you could honestly live without it. There is a 20 question web addiction test you can take to assess how much your Internet-use may be affecting you psychologically. Deprive a teenager of their smartphone and you’ll likely get a first-hand account.
One might think that our growing dependence on the Internet only affects those with constant connectivity, yet the growth of the Internet is so tightly bound up with globalisation that it is almost inescapable. South African journalist, Toby Shapshak, illustrates how Africa is developing useful SMS-based solutions to everyday needs using the most basic cellphones with Internet access.
Toby Shapshak: You Don’t Need An App For That
I have admiration for those who choose not to participate in the prevailing online trends, but honestly can’t imagine myself closing my Google account or deleting my Facebook profile. Everything in moderation I suppose. What might be useful is knowing what web addiction signs to look out for.
Web Addiction or Escapism?
Psychiatrist John M. Grohol has suggested that the Internet is merely another form of escapism for those with other problems:
“What most people online who think they are addicted are probably suffering from is the desire to not want to deal with other problems in their lives. Those problems may be a mental disorder (depression, anxiety, etc.), a serious health problem or disability, or a relationship problem. It is no different than turning on the TV so you won’t have to talk to your spouse, or going “out with the boys” for a few drinks so you don’t have to spend time at home. Nothing is different except the modality” – John M. Grohol, Internet Addiction Guide (2012).
With that thought, I think I might just go for a stroll in the park.