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11 Ways to Detect and Solve Internet Addiction

11 Ways to Detect and Solve Internet Addiction

Today when I tweeted a call for topic requests, Vered from MomGrind asked me if I could talk about internet and computer addiction. This is a serious problem these days and a lot of people from all walks of life fall prey to it. It might not be unanimously recognized by all psychologists, but it has a great deal of traction and support among many reputable psychiatric researchers. It doesn’t really matter what internet addiction’s “official” status among academics is: almost everyone has known or does know someone who is seriously affecting their life and the lives of those around them through internet addiction.

I’m not a psychiatrist: if you fear your problem is so serious you need professional help, go out and see one.

I’m going to write this article for those who might have trouble leaving the computer behind when the back of your eyes are telling you it’s definitely bedtime, but your spouse hasn’t packed up and left yet as a result of it – not quite a full-blown addiction, just on your way there.

Detecting the Problem

The problem with many addictions is that it can be hard to tell when a hobby has become more than just that, and taken a hold on you. It can also be hard to be honest with yourself when facing a list of symptoms, so make the extra effort now – we’re going to go through a few.

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1. You spend more time with the computer than with people. Doesn’t matter if they are your family, your friends or random people you stalk at the mall – the first symptom of the problem is spending more time with the hunk of metal on your desk than with the people in your life.

If there are no longer any people in your life because you spend so much time online, then you really need to close your browser and book an appointment with a professional! A good start would be to use the paper version of the phone book.

2. You can’t abide by your own boundaries. Part of personal development is about setting and abiding by boundaries, which happens to be where most people fail when it comes to addiction. If you tell yourself you’ll only spend an hour online before playing with the kids and end up online until after they’ve gone to bed, you’re in trouble. This self-deception is a clear sign of internet addiction.

3. Lying to others about your computer usage. Number two was about self-deception – this one is about lying to others, particularly members of your family who you may have made deals with regarding your computer usage. Lying about your usage so you can stay on that “little bit longer” is a big, glaring warning sign.

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4. Feeling unable to live without the computer/internet. If you feel you can’t go without the internet for more than a few hours, you have an internet addiction. “But I make my living online!” Ask yourself if you could do the work offline and then give it to someone else to execute online – such as writing an article on paper for an assistant or friend to type up and post. Can’t bear the thought of that one degree of separation for even a week? Not a good thing!

Likewise, anxiety when you’re separated from computers is a sign to watch for. I get like that when I leave my mobile phone at home – perhaps I’ve got a problem there!

5. Misguided spending on your computer. Did your hard drive just die and, despite the fact you couldn’t afford rent or Johnny’s daycare fees this week, you went out and bought a replacement? When the anxiety of having no functional computer demands money required for other expenses, it indicates a dependency.

Solving the Problem

Solving the problem on your own, or with the support of your family, requires that you’re doing so before it gets out of hand and to the point where you need to pay excessive prices for therapy. If you’re unsure, trying to solve it on your own and seeing how far you get is a great test – if you can’t manage it, go get help.

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1. For the web-workers – get a virtual assistant. They can be fairly cheap and every hourly rate spent on them is one hour that you can shave from your computer time. This won’t solve the problem on its own, but web-workers will have a harder time defeating internet addiction and need to spend as little time as possible online when not completing essential work, at least until the addiction is dealt with.

2. Set your computer usage boundaries early on. There’s no point trying to change your habits if you haven’t decided on your new boundaries. How long are you going to use the computer from now on? For what purposes? Decide this first, take action second.

3. Get your family and friends onside. Ensure your family keeps you accountable and limits the amount of time you spend online. Set a time limit in hours or minutes and make it clear that there are no valid excuses for extended use; you’ve got to be dragged away from the computer no matter what, once your time runs out.

4. Give them the passwords. Once you’ve got the agreement of your family or roommates to help you out, let them change the passwords to your computer’s user account, the modem or router, and your email account. I’m tempted to leave this next sentence out for the sake of the self-deceivers, but you may be able to avoid this pretty ruthless precaution if you can still manage to self-regulate with the help of some self-discipline.

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5. Modify your routine. If you trap yourself by checking email first thing in the morning or heading straight for the computer when you get home from work, intending to get off and do other things but never quite getting there, change your routine a bit and get other things out of the way first. It’s much easier to get off the computer if you don’t get on it! Wait until you’ve done your household chores and got time spent with the kids (or pets, if that’s more your thing) out of the way, then give yourself some net time. Reward yourself, in small amounts, for holding out.

6. Don’t use the computer for recreational purposes. Remove the emotive feel-good incentive to use the computer by using it for business and email. Get it done and get off. Uninstall computer games, and vow to stay away from social networks and other recreational web destinations for at least a month or two.

Find recreational activities in real life and completely replace your internet entertainment with them. Completely. Seriously, I mean it!

6. Track your progress. Remind yourself how much good progress you’re making by tracking the amount of time you spend online compared to the boundaries you set in step one. Only spent 8 hours online out of the 10 you allotted for the week? Great work – you’ll do even better next week!

These tips should get you well on your way to a more balanced life – what are your tips? Leave them in the comments!

More by this author

Joel Falconer

Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

The hardest part of socializing, for many people, is how to start a conversation. However, it is a big mistake to go about life not making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it [in conversation or anything].

This isn’t to say you must always be the first in everything or initiate a conversation with everyone you see. What should be said, though, is once you get good at starting conversations, a lot of other things will progress in the way you want; such as networking and your love life.

Benefits of Initiating a Conversation

First thing is you should acknowledge why it is a good thing to be able to initiate conversations with strangers or people who you don’t know well:

  • You’re not a loner with nothing to do.
  • You look more approachable if you are comfortable approaching others.
  • Meeting new people means developing a network of friends or peers which leads to more knowledge and experiences.

You can only learn so much alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of the benefits of learning from others. Being able to distinguish the ‘good from bad’ amongst a group of people will help in building a suitable network, or making a fun night.

All people are good in their own way. Being able to have a good time with anybody is a worthy trait and something to discuss another time. However, if you have a specific purpose while in social situations, you may want to stick with people who are suitable.

This means distinguishing between people who might suit you and your ‘purpose’ from those who probably won’t. This can require some people-judging, which I am generally very opposed to. However, this does make approaching people all the more easier.

It helps to motivate the conversation if you really want to know this person. Also, you’ll find your circle of friends and peers grows to something you really like and enjoy.

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The Rules

I don’t have many rules in this life, for conversation or anything; but when it comes to approaching strangers, there are a few I’d like used.

  1. Be polite. Within context, don’t be a creepy, arrogant loudmouth or anything. Acknowledge that you are in the company of strangers and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. First impressions mean something.
  2. Keep it light. Don’t launch into a heartfelt rant or a story of tragedy. We’re out to have fun.
  3. Don’t be a prude. This just means relax. This isn’t a science and conversation isn’t a fine art. Talk to people like you’re already friends.
  4. Be honest. Be yourself. People can tell.

Who To Talk To?

I’m of the ilk that likes to talk to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a story and good personalities. Some are harder to get to than others, but if you’re on a people-finding excursion, like I usually am, then everyone is pretty much fair game.

That said, if you’re out at a function and you want to build a network of people in your niche, you will want to distinguish those people from the others. Find the ‘leaders’ in a group of people or ask around for what you’re looking for.

In a more general environment, like at a bar, you will want to do the same sort of thing. Acknowledge what you actually want and try to distinguish suitable people. Once you find someone, or a group of people, that you want to meet and talk to, hop to it.

Think of a few things you might have in common. What did you notice about their dress sense?

Building Confidence

The most important part of initiating conversation is, arguably, having confidence. It should be obvious that without any amount of self-esteem you will struggle. Having confidence in yourself and who you are makes this job very easy.

If you find yourself doubting your worth, or how interesting you are, make a few mental notes of why you are interesting and worth talking to. There is no question you are. You just have to realize that.

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What do I do? What is interesting about it? What are my strong points and what are my weak ones? Confident people succeed because they play on their strengths.

Across the Room Rapport

This is rapport building without talking. It’s as simple as reciprocated eye contact and smiles etc. Acknowledging someone else’s presence before approaching them goes a long way to making introductions easier. You are instantly no longer just a random person.

In my other article How Not To Suck At Socializing, there are things you can do to make yourself appear approachable. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to flock to you. You’ll still probably need to initiate conversations.

People notice other people who are having a blast. If you’re that person, someone will acknowledge it and will make the ‘across the room rapport’ building a breeze. If you’re that person that is getting along great with their present company, others will want to talk to you. This will make your approach more comfortable for both parties.

The Approach

When it comes to being social, the less analytical and formulaic you are the better. Try not to map out your every move and plan too much. Although we are talking about how to initiate conversation, these are really only tips. When it comes to the approach, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Different situations call for different approaches. Formal situations call for something more formal and relaxed ones should be relaxed.

At a work function, for instance, be a little formal and introduce yourself. People will want to know who you are and what you do right away. This isn’t to say you should only talk about work, but an introduction and handshake is appropriate.

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If you’re at a bar, then things are very different and you should be much more open to unstructured introductions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of walking directly to someone to talk to them. It’s too direct. I like the sense of randomness that comes with meeting new people.

However, if there is rapport already established, go for it. If not, take a wander, buy a drink and be aware of where people are. If there is someone you would like to talk to, make yourself available and not sit all night etc.

When someone is alone and looks bored, do them a favor and approach them. No matter how bad the conversation might get, they should at least appreciate the company and friendliness.

Briefly, Approaching Groups

When integrating with an established group conversation, there is really one thing to know. That is to establish the ‘leader’ and introduce yourself to them. I mentioned that before, but here is how and why.

The why is the leader of a group conversation is probably the more social and outgoing. They will more readily accept your introduction and then introduce you to the rest of the group. This hierarchy in a group conversation is much more prevalent in formal situations where one person is leading the conversation.

A group of friends out for the night is much more difficult to crack. This may even be another topic for discussion, but one thing I know that works is initiating conversation with a ‘stray’. It sounds predatorial, but it works.

More often than not, this occurs without intention. But if you do really want to get into a group of friends, your best bet is approaching one of them while they are away from the group and being invited into the group.

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It is possible, like everything, to approach a group outright and join them. However, this is almost an art and requires another specific post.

Topics Of Conversation

Other than confidence, the next thing people who have trouble initiating conversations lack is conversation! So here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

  • Small talk sucks. It’s boring and a lot of people already begin to zone out when questions like, “What do you do?” or “What’s with this weather?” come up. Just skip it.
  • Everything is fair game. If you are in the company of someone and a thought strikes you, share it. “This drink is garbage! What are you drinking?” “Where did you get that outfit?”
  • Opinions matter. This is any easy way to hit the ground running in conversation. Everyone has one, and when you share yours, another will reveal itself. The great thing about this line of thought is that you are instantly learning about the other person and what they like, dislike etc.
  • Environment. The place you’re in is full of things to comment on. The DJ, band, fashions; start talking about what you see.
  • Current events. Unless it’s something accessible or light-hearted, forget it. Don’t launch into your opinion on the war or politics. If your town has recently hosted a festival, ask what they think about it.

Exiting Conversation

Although I’d like to write a full post on exiting strategies for conversations you don’t want to be in, here are some tips:

  • The first thing is don’t stay in a conversation you’re not interested in. It’ll show and will be no fun for anyone.
  • Be polite and excuse yourself. You’re probably out with friends, go back to them.  Or buy a drink. Most people will probably want to finish the conversation as much as you.

Likewise, you could start another conversation.

If you’d like to learn more tips about starting a conversation, this guide maybe useful for you: How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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