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11 Ways to Detect and Solve Internet Addiction

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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!

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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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8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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