When you think of internet addicts – what do you think? Probably teenagers on msn for hours on end, talking in words that don’t make sense. Or maybe men in their twenties and thirties, absorbed in the world of online warfare, with wives and children who know the backs of their head more intimately than their faces?
Last week, parents of a three month old baby in South Korea were arrested, after letting their daughter starve to death while they were online raising a virtual child in the role-playing game Prius Online. They didn’t even play at home – they spent hours at a time in internet cafes, only returning home occasionally to give the baby the odd bottle of milk. No wonder The Times were asking yesterday if there is such a thing as internet addiction.
This is an extreme case of course, but I do wonder if there aren’t actually thousands, if not millions, of internet users who although not addicted, find cyberspace overtaking their lives in a way that can often feel difficult to manage. With so much knowledge to explore, so many ways to connect with people, the internet can feel overwhelming. And once you start getting involved in online communities, you can feel a pressure, if only internally, to carry on. It’s a bit like buying regular lottery numbers – you can’t risk not playing once you have your ‘lucky numbers’. Once you establish yourself in a forum or social network it can be hard to leave, for fear of what ‘exciting’ news or discussion might be happening without you knowing about it.
Of course I’m not saying I neglect my children in preference of raising online babies, but I do feel a pressure to somehow be involved, to be available, and if I am not online regularly I often feel guilty, or wonder if I am in someway missing out. Perhaps it is because my work revolves heavily around email, or maybe it is my flighty nature, always wondering if something more exciting might be happening somewhere else or if that next email might be a new offer of work or interesting party invitation. (Disappointingly they never are party invitations, so if you have any kind of celebration coming up, please do bear me in mind.)
As parents, we are very aware of making sure our children use the internet safely, but do we always take the same care of ourselves? With more studies showing a link between excessive internet use and depression, we are right to be concerned, but that concern needs to include the whole family. We mustn’t fall into the classic parent trap – the one where you spend twenty minutes packing wholesome lunchboxes, leaving yourself only time to scoff a piece of bread in the car for your breakfast.
I do always switch my Blackberry off at night, so as not to be kept half awake with dreams of that teasing, flashing red light, but I’m not sure this alone counts as Healthy Internet Use.
I’d be really interested to know how other people feel about their use of the internet. Are you forever flicking between forums, or do you avoid social networking sites as much as possible? Maybe you set yourself a time limit? Let me know…
Photo credit: andyi
I’m getting better. There was a time where if I couldnt get on the net at regular intervals I would get really aggitated but I’m more at a give or take place now. I like to at least pop on once a day to catch up with the main bits of gossip and update my blog and I couldnt live without twitter on my phone but I’m trying to make Sunday nights a internet/text free evening so my phone and laptop are left in my bedroom and I chill in front of the telly.
I think internet addiction is far more common that figures care to show you can do everything on the internet now.
I think you’re right Hayley that some kind of mild addiction is probably really common. You only have to look at the popularity of sites like mumsnet to see just how many mums are online.
I think you’ve raised a very valid point Jo. Furthermore, in a household where’s there only one computer (mine) you let the children do what they need to do first and create your own sleep deprivation by going on the computer later . . . Like all other technology, it has an OFF button. Must make the effort to use it.
It has an OFF button!? Blimey, that’s where I’ve been going wrong :-)
I openly admit I have an addiction. If I am at home the laptop is never off unless someone is round, I’m cooking, or am in bed! That’s not to say I am sat at it constantly, although these last few weeks I have been. I turned the laptop off yesterday and found myself wondering what the hell to do with myself! I used to live by the rule that I would only put on the laptop when the kids were in bed, so that gave me afternoon nap time of 2 hours, and all evening from 7.30pm. I’m not quite sure when or why that changed and I think your post has made me re think things. That said, if I am away from home doing stuff out and about it doesn’t bother me I am not on the net. I can even visit people for the weekend and never go online. For me I think it’s the fact at home I am the only adult so the net offers a bit of adult interaction, if I am getting that in the flesh so to speak I dont need the net, but when the internet is off and I am home on my own I feel lonely! I start work a week on Monday so my less internet time will become a permanent thing then anyway!
Brilliant post! My internet is on all day partly because I work online but also because if it’s not on I feel as if I could be missing out on something and I feel I need that connection with the outside world. If my internet went down I’d feel lost although I’d probably turn it back on to discover I’ve missed absolutely nothing. I use it a lot less when my daughter is at home, it would be unfair to spend my time in a virtual world when I have a child right there in front of me who needs my attention. In the day though I work from home on my own and it gets lonely, and I’m a single parent so my evenings can feel lonf too. I suppose the internet acts as company, which is sad really but that’s my brutally honest reply to your post.
@ supersinglemum and Rosie – I think you have both hit on an important idea there. For single parents especially, confined to the house with little adult company, the internet can be company, a way of getting that grown up interaction which you miss so much on your own with children.
It is a bit sad, if you think of a whole network of single mums at home alone, but good in a way that there is that way to reach out to other people in the same boat and share thoughts and worries.
OK I admit I am a bit of an addict but, as well as the benefits (ie my whole working life at the moment!), I do also recognise the downside of having various media bleeping at you for attention all the time. It seems that some US professors have also recognised that this is perhaps something which reduces students’ full attention………
I’m convinced it is going to have a serious long term effect on our ability to concentrate. I know I find it harder to read books – they seem so long! – and I am always flicking from one activity to another. Attention span of a goldfish…
I would say I do have a bit of an addiction but the way I get round it is to make my husband treat me like a child. He has some kind of password protected internet at home so I am not tempted there. Then I go to library and go on for an hour or two. Otherwise I’d be constantly wasting time checking emails etc.
I do think that email is really the bane of existance…people spending all day checking emails it is really no kind of life. But I can see you need to be available more because you are a journalist.
I love the idea that your husband has locked you out of your own internet! Sounds like when I make people hide biscuits from me, or at least move them out of arms reach. Normally I’m too lazy to actually get up for them :-)
My computer is being upgraded. Without it I did loads of housework and irksome errands yesterday. My house was ordered and I felt pretty good. Then Mr Kat brought a spare laptop home for me to borrow and the house is a mess again. Hmm… not sure I can figure a pattern…
Feels like there SHOULD be some kind of link, just can’t put my finger on it…
I have burnt numerous dinners and ran numerous baths till the water runs cold due to just ‘nipping on the computer for 5 secs’! I don’t understand how the time goes so quickly!
God, I know that feeling! The number of pans of pasta I have let boil dry… I even burnt a boiled egg once.
I am trying to make a concerted effort to spend less time online when my Daughter is awake but this leads to less sleep for me. I also find myself quickly checking my blog, twitter and e-mail accounts at work only to find that 20 minutes has passed without me doing any work….ooops!!!!
I do that too – an hour just whizzes by – the then I work for myself so all I’m doing is eating into my own income – D’oh!
I am on the internet regularly for both my business and my own personal entertainment and I do belong to a ridiculous amount of social networking sites for both purposes. Sometimes I get very overwhelmed by it all and I just have to walk away for a day or two. I have to remind myself that “you can only do what you can do” and not to take it too seriously.
I think I’m a bit addicted, (I love blogging and Facebook) but certainly not to the detriment of my health or anyone else’s. I have a bad lower back so when it’s acting up I can’t sit at the computer for a long period of time and have to do other things. That probably saves me from total addiction! If I’m not on the computer in the evenings, I’m either watching a movie or reading a book. Sometimes, I’m even out on the town with a friend! Thank God I still have some and they’re not all just online!
I know what you mean – sometimes I just think ‘arrrggghhh!’ and have to switch everything off. There is so much to keep up with isn’t there? Very impressed though that you actually sometimes go out and meet real life people :-)
Jo, isn’t this post like using an Alcoholics Anonymous leaflet as a wine label? :)
The point, though, is valid but I wonder if the same could be said of my father-in-law who reads two – sometimes three – printed newspapers a day. Is he a newsprint addict?
Because I have an iPhone I feel I am online constantly and am ‘pinged’ when someone contributes to my blog, or hassles me on FB or sends me an email. My feeling about the internet is it is just relentless and I can only see it becoming more intrusive – the scary bit is that older children seem to live a seamless online / real life that blurs methods of communication to a point that phoning someone is almost retro…
Ah yes, but that’s USEFUL isn’t it? I’m reaching my target market – AA info on a wine label would be perfect!
I get him to hide biscuits and chocolates from me too but alas I always find them!!
See that’s why you need a husband to lock you out of the internet lol!!
Okay, hands up, I’m a flicker. I’m a member of several networking sites and try to take part as much as I can. BMB is my favourite, but I join in many others too. I don’t do FB much these days because I got fed up with it’s clicking here and there and being taken to a different page I had selected, and I also got fed of being told, wait for it, that I looked sexy in my picture by men I didn’t know, and who, going by their pictures, looked like grease warmed up. I changed my picture after a while! I do Twitter a lot these days and find it very easy to make friends on there without feeling obliged to have a chat. My husband thinks I spend too much time on t’internet and Amy said the same a couple of weeks ago, but it’s my main hobby. It’s my pleasure the same way going to the pictures or to the pub is to someone else I’m not a geek, nor am I addicted, but I do enjoy catching up and I hate missing out!
I find flicking the most stressful thing – if I’m in the wrong frame of mind I find myself flicking backwards and forwards between things at increasingly alarming rates until I’m not focussing on anything and it all becomes a big cyber blur!
Before I met Jim, I was a single Mam.. and I had severe Post-natal Depression and the internet was an escape for me.
Since being with Jim, we’ve been known some evenings, to communicate via msn despite being in the same room.
However, I have days where I don’t think about the computer at all… but then those days I feel really down – all I can think about is losing myself in a virtual world.
That’s really interesting Beth – I’ve had lots of relationships where much communication has happened via email and msn, I think because I just find it easier sometimes to write things down rather than say them outloud. Do you find you can talk about things on msn that you wouldn’t be able to confront otherwise?
I was a little addicted to Mumsnet for a while. Kept dodging about the place burning supper when my husband was around as I didn’t want him to know I was spending 2 hours a day at least on it for 2 months. I finally went cold turkey on it, which was a good thing
Blogging is a bit of a new fad. The difference is, I am mainly doing it for me as a diary, so it has a constructive element.
I have never got into mumsnet, mainly because I know it would suck me in terribly. I think the fact that you didn’t want you husband to know is quite telling though – clearly you knew it was too much – glad you hear you managed to make the break! I agree that blogging has a much more useful, therapeutic feel to it. Much more wholesome I’m sure than just tapping away on random forums.
I spend far too much time on the internet and wrote a post about it just a couple of days ago. I think it has, rather sadly, replaced my social life.
Great post! Sounds like the internet is hugely important in your life – I can’t imagine how I would feel so far away from all my friends and family. xx
I am a self-confessed “addict” but online is where I have formed friendships and where I’m honing my writing skills. As a full-time working parent with children who are either left home with their own children, starting college and starting high school, I miss the parental interaction from the school playground, toddler groups, etc. On the social networking websites and choice forums, I can interact with my “friends” how I choose.
I can honestly hold my hand up, though, and say that no-one suffers from neglect because of my online activity.
That’s a good point Nickie about the internet being somewhere you hone your skills. The whole online writing community seems to be hugely supportive, and I know I wouldn’t have made half the contacts or found half the work I have without the friends I have made online.
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I had 3 weeks with no internet at home last summer. I thought it would be a nightmare. It was when I thought about all the blog stuff I needed to do. My mobile signal wasn’t great at that stage either so apart from at work it was strange being away from the internet. I didn’t totally switch off though, I did a lot of blog post writing so I had drafts ready to go.
I do spend way too much time online, although I switch off 1-2 evenings now because I’m out dancing, but in the evenings the OH falls asleep and I can be online and watch tv at the same time. It’s definitely a fine line.