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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 January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

More About Self-Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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