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One of the most important developments in modern society is the Internet.

We use this incredible network information for research, entertainment, and even our day-to-day work, and it is increasingly becoming one of the most critical columns of our lives. However, some people risk developing an addiction to the unrelenting flow of information that the Internet can offer.

Learn more about what Internet addiction is, some common symptoms, and the steps you can take to stop yourself and the people around you from getting addicted to the Internet.

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What is internet addiction?

As with anything that can make you feel good, it is possible to become addicted to using the Internet. This is because, by design, many websites focus on generating the chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. These chemicals include dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone, and oxytocin, which we generate after being involved in social interactions. Websites and companies focus on designs that maximize these chemicals, as these chemicals ensure that users keep coming back to the website as they associate good feelings with the platform.

Internet addiction refers explicitly to a person who has a compulsive need to spend a significant amount of their time on the Internet, with the primary focus on scrolling through websites and social media platforms to the extent that different parts of their lives suffer. Another term for this behavior is Internet Addiction Disorder (or IAD), with some people having more specific addictions, such as people developing an addiction to pornography.

What are the signs of internet addiction?

There are several signs of increasing Internet addiction in a young person or an adult. While not all addicts demonstrate the same signs, showing some of the signs could prompt further investigation from close friends or carers. Some of the symptoms of Internet addiction include:

Lack of engagement in previous hobbies

The first significant sign of Internet addiction is losing interest in previous hobbies. Some of the main signs of this include spending less time on the hobby, researching the hobby less than you did before, or the hobby altogether, leaving the Internet addict’s life. This occurs when an Internet addict spends the vast majority of their time on the Internet, therefore, doesn’t have the time to keep up their previous hobbies. As well as losing out on time completing the hobby, this can lead to deteriorating friendships.

Hiding internet use

As with most addictions, someone feels a certain degree of shame when they have an Internet addiction. This means that someone will hide the amount that they use the substance, or in this case, concept, that they have an addiction to. If you ask someone how much time they spend on the Internet and they say that they don’t know or try to downplay the usage once they know the real amount, there is a chance of suffering from Internet addiction.

Poor concentration

Many current websites focus on creating short-form content that keeps people on their platform for an extended period. This primarily comes from video-sharing sites but is the central premise behind websites such as Twitter that feature hard character limits on their posts. Absorbing this content limits the attention span of users. If you notice that someone’s concentration worsens over time, this could signify an addiction to these social media sites.

Irritability

Someone’s changing behavior is one of the primary identifying factors of Internet addiction. More specifically, if someone is more irritable and becomes annoyed more quickly than before, this could be a sign of an addiction to the Internet. Also, consider how people react if you ask them to stop using their devices, as withdrawal symptoms indicate an addiction to using and absorbing the information they get online.

Insomnia

When someone has an addiction to the Internet, they may spend time online that they don’t notice. For example, when using the Internet at night, they might start watching a single YouTube video before following the recommended videos for hours, only coming off the computer far later than expected. For children with school in the morning or adults with jobs, inflexible waking up times mean that spending so much time at night online cuts into the amount of time that they spend asleep.

Types of internet addiction

There are several different types of Internet addiction, which affect people in unique ways. Some of the main types of addiction that people can suffer from online include:

  • Sexual addiction: The sufferer uses the Internet to look at, download, create, and distribute pornography, either in a visual format or through text. This can lead to a neglect of a real-world sex life with a partner or spouse, with these addictions in young people leading to poor development.
  • Relationship addiction: The sufferer uses tools such as online chat rooms to create relationships online, both romantic and platonic. This is at the expense of spending time with family and friends in the real world. However, digital relationships are not necessarily harmful and provide opportunities to engage with new people.
  • Gaming addiction: The addict spends excessive amounts of time playing games, gambling their money on online casinos, or trading virtual goods with people online. Gaming addictions can lead to financial troubles or attention deficit disorders.
  • Information addiction: The addict spends a lot of time searching for and collecting information on various topics, primarily in particular niches. In some instances, this research can be beneficial for a career, but only when research is guided.
  • Parasocial addiction: A parasocial addict spends much time on social media sites. There are two forms of parasocial addiction, with the first focusing on being a fan of major online creators and imagining a relationship with them. The other is being an online creator and having fans who see them this way.

How to avoid internet addiction?

You can take a few steps to avoid Internet addiction, both for yourself and the loved ones in your life. While these steps might not all work for you, combining and adjusting these techniques can find an approach that resolves addiction for you or someone you are trying to support. Some of the steps to try when avoiding Internet addiction include:

Track your symptoms

The first step in avoiding an Internet addiction is fully understanding the nature of the addiction itself. This means knowing what your symptoms are, the extent of your symptoms, and how they affect the people around you without you noticing. Consider using a mood journal that states the way that you are feeling on a day-to-day basis. By comparing this to your daily Internet usage, you can see whether spending so much time on the Internet harms your mood and worsens your symptoms.

Think about your usage

Think about the way that you use the Internet. This means the amount of time you spend online and your specific Internet usage in each of these instances. Keep track of the device you are using, the specific websites you visit, and why you visit these websites. For example, if you work from home and spend most of your time on the Internet on a desktop computer, this is understandable as you make a living from the Internet. On the other hand, if most of your time is spent scrolling through videos on your phone, this is a use that you can cut out.

Delve back into hobbies

Try delving back into the hobbies you loved before developing your addiction as a method of weaning yourself off the Internet. This includes writing, creating art, and even participating in team sports. After an extended period, you can see all of the benefits your previous hobbies brought without having to rely on the Internet for satisfaction. If you don’t fancy any previous hobbies, try something completely new, as brand-new learning pastimes are an excellent way to engage your brain.

Add a soft limit to your use

In the early stages of resolving your Internet addiction, try adding a soft limit to the amount that you use the Internet. This means saying to yourself that you will only use the Internet for a certain amount of leisure time and doing your best to come off your devices at the end of this period. For an Internet addict, this isn’t always the easiest. Still, it demonstrates more remarkable restraint and discipline (essential in recovery) when taking yourself off your devices without support from external parties.

Meditate

Some of the most significant symptoms of Internet addiction include anxiety. While dealing with the cause of your Internet addiction, you still need to reduce the impact of the symptoms on your broader life. This includes listening to the extent to which you suffer from anxiety when not on the Internet. Try relaxation methods like breathing deeply or meditating to limit the symptoms from impacting you and prove that you can be in a fit state of mind without an online connection.

Use apps

If limiting your use yourself doesn’t work, try using apps that limit your use. Some apps stop you from using certain websites, applications, and even devices for a set period. After activating these tools, try going for a walk or engaging with your other hobbies. This distracts you from the fact that you’re not using the Internet and engages your brain in new and unique ways that gradually reduce your reliance on the online domain.

Try therapy

If none of these solutions will work for you, try using therapy. Some therapy options include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which examines your issues and tries to change your thinking patterns to reduce your reliance on the Internet. Consult with a doctor or medical professional before following this route, as they may be able to recommend a therapist that is ideal for dealing with Internet addictions.

For people concerned about using therapy, you can start by joining an Internet addiction support group and learning from people who have dealt with similar issues.