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Internet Addiction Disorder

K.Brown | whatisocialnetworking.com


Have you heard of the term Internet Addiction Disorder?  What about Facebook Addiction, Internet Junkie, Net Junkie, or Nethead? Any of these labels sound familiar?  What about "online-a-holic?”  These unflattering labels are used to categorize and identify an individual's obsessive dependence with the Internet, more commonly known as Internet Addiction Disorder, or IAD.


Five well-known traits behind Internet Addiction Disorder are:  


• Excessive computer use typically associated with loss of spatial time perception;   


• Neglect of basic human drives, proper nutrition, personal hygiene and relationships;   


• Feelings of isolation, withdrawal, depression and extreme agitation, high-anxiety if the computer is unavailable or breaks down;


• Low tolerance levels, including an unjustifiable need for bigger, better, faster computer equipment, the latest and greatest software; and   


• Low accomplishment level, procrastination, lying, social isolation, and chronic fatigue.      



Those at Risk


According to Maressa Orzack, director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at Harvard University's McLean Hospital, between 5% and 10% of web surfers suffer some form of web dependency. Another supporter, David Greenfield, PhD., of the Center for Internet Behavior, conducted a study with ABC News dot com in 1999 and is author of Virtual Addiction.  He believes that some services available over the Internet have unique psychological properties which induce dissociation, time distortion, and instant gratification, with about 6% of individuals experiencing some significant impact on their lives.  However, he says it may not be seen as an addiction but rather as a compulsion. Source: Wikipedia 2010.  Certain activities performed on websites, especially gaming and social networking sites, have the potential to significantly alter normal functioning of the mind.  This is not good news for teenagers and young adults whose minds are still growing.


Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).  And because they spend so much of that time "media multitasking” (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7-1/2 hours.  http://www.kff.org.


An excellent study was conducted by Pingdom.com who wanted to know the average Twitter and Facebook user and how age is distributed across millions and millions of social network users. They pulled together age statistics for 19 different social network sites and crunched the numbers. Pingdom.com’s website shows charts and graphs where they gathered all the statistical information at: http://royal.pingdom.com/.  The age group that dominates social networking sites is 35 to 44, and only 3% are aged 65 or older.  Some of those users are spending 8 billion minutes online at Facebook alone - sending daily messages, joining groups, tagging photos, updating one's status, sending and accepting friend requests, creating and managing farms, and decorating rooms - it's a fairly long and time consuming list.


How did this happen?


Given these statistics, it's not hard to understand why the  number of internet-related psychological disorders has increased in recent years. But, on an emotional and spiritual level, it is hard to understand. Many people unconsciously use the fantasy world of the Internet to escape unpleasant family dynamics, drug abuse, alcoholism, or stressful work-related conditions and often turn to the Internet and social networks for comfort, familiarity, or support.   These underlying issues have the potential to set the stage for IAD. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you something is off-kilter.  Perhaps you see it in yourself, a close friend, or your spouse.  With teenagers, many parents instinctively notice the behavioral changes and choose to simply "observe," hoping perhaps that it will go away.  Some parents shrug it off to "growing pains," and assume it will pass given enough time.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.


Whether it's a negative label, compulsion, or certifiable disorder, IAD is here, it's real and if you know someone who is showing the signs of IAD, it is much better to face it early on than to ignore it. Some network users recognize they are spending way too much time on social sites and can wean themselves off. Others simply get bored and are totally over it, but many are not so fortunate.


How to help?


Listen and be there for those that need our wisdom and advice. It's not always easy to just "listen" because we tend to judge and criticize. But really listening is exactly what is needed; especially with young teens. A lot of parents don't get it - that kids have their own path to walk too, and part of the parenting role is to guide them along that path.


Decide if you need take a proactive stance with your children's computer and Internet use, and that includes teenagers. Keeping them safe is a full-time job - not part time- and it's our duty to act responsibly with their upbringing.  Do a Google search for internet monitoring software to get an idea of what those software products has to offer. Look for website reviews, talk to other parents and teachers for recommendations.  Most importantly, set boundaries with your children and stick to them, no matter what the outcome. When parents set boundaries, children and teens learn to do the same and, it makes them feel safe. What could be better than that!


Many countries, including the United States, have enacted laws against the possession or distribution of certain material, such as child pornography, via the Internet, but do not mandate filtering software. T here are many free and commercially available software programs, with which a user can choose to block offensive websites on individual computers or networks, in order to limit a child's (or teen's) access to pornographic materials or depiction of violence. Source: Wikipedia, 2010.


If Internet Addiction Disorder applies to you and you feel like you're spending too much time on social networks (and ignoring your life) and can't seem control yourself, then talk to someone.  It will help! If you think the hide-and-seek dynamics of professional counseling aren't for you, then please consider the simple act of changing your beliefs (it's not that hard, really), and honestly work to get off the IAD merry-go-round. Search self-help books on energy therapy, EFT, meditation, anything that resonates with you.


The Internet and social networks were not created to bring disharmony into our lives.  They were created to allow connections and communication among people and that's a good thing.  


Happy (and Healthy) Social Networking!