Simply defined, an addiction is when a person has a strong or compulsive physical or psychological need to use a particular thing or do a particular activity. Addictions cause physical and psychological impairments in an individual. 

A person addicted to the use of internet or gadget is also not immune from such issues. Internet and gadget addiction includes social media addiction, gaming addiction, binge-watching, etc. In fact, this type of addiction is usually characterised by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviours regarding device and internet use/access, which in turn, can lead to impairment or distress. This compulsive behaviour interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on a person’s family, friends and loved ones and in their work environment.

Signs of addiction

An addiction to the internet or gadget maybe characterised by the following symptoms:

  • Spending long hours on social media or gaming or on the internet or gadget.
  • Constantly thinking about using the gadget/internet when taking a break from these.
  • Neglecting sleep or proper meals for using the internet or gadget.
  • Preferring to use the internet or gadget over spending time with friends and family.
  • Failing in the attempts to control usage of internet or gadget.
  • Being dishonest with others so as to spend time on the internet or gadget.
  • Withdrawing from activities that were previously considered to be pleasurable.
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or depressed as a result of internet or gadget use.
  • Dramatic weight gain or weight loss, backaches, headaches, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, an addiction to the use of internet or gadget may include at least three of the following signs:

  • The user has a strong urge or need to use the gadget/internet for long stretches of time to attain satisfaction.
  • When the user can’t use the internet or gadget, they experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, moodiness and compulsive fantasising, which get relieved when using again. 
  • The user turns to the internet/gadget/social media/gaming to cope with negative feelings such as guilt, anxiety or depression.
  • The user spends a significant amount of time engaging in activities related to the internet/gadget/social media/gaming (such as researching on internet vendors/eBooks or watching videos of other people playing the game).
  • The user neglects other areas of life (such as relationships, work, school and leisure pursuits) in favour of spending time on the internet/gadget.
  • The user is prepared to lose relationships, jobs or other important things in favour of the internet/gadget.

Breaking the addiction

Too much of even a good thing is considered as bad. Similarly, while the internet and gadget have many good qualities, spending too much time on these is not a good thing. One of the first steps to breaking the addiction is to set up self-help interventions. This includes setting timers on specific applications to restrict the time of usage. However, if it cannot be managed by self, it is better to get help from a mental health professional.

You may try the self-intervention tips given below to break the addiction. These may be helpful to prevent an addiction as well.

  1. Set boundaries – Set boundaries for internet/gadget use early on. Trying to change your habits might not be effective if you haven’t decided on your new boundaries. How long are you going to use the internet/gadget from now on? For what purposes? Decide these first, take action second.
  2. Get support – Get your family and friends to support you. Ensure that your family keeps you accountable and limits the amount of time spent on the internet/gadget. Let them in on the boundaries set by you and make it clear that there are no valid excuses for extended use; you need to be dragged away from the internet or gadget once your time runs out. 
  3. Modify your routine – Modify your routine so that you do not check your gadget or use the internet first thing in the morning or right after getting home from work/school. Using at these critical times of the day could get your trapped and prevent you from getting off and completing your tasks. It is much easier to get off the internet or gadget if you don’t get on it! Wait until you are done with your household chores and have spent enough time with the kids (or pets, if that’s more your thing) and then use the internet or gadget as per the boundaries set. 
  4. Restrict usage – Don’t use the internet or gadget for recreational purpose. Use these for productive and work-related purposes so that you do not feel attached or use it as a coping mechanism. Uninstall gaming and social media apps and other recreational websites for at least a month or two. Find recreational activities to do outside, in real life, to completely replace the entertainment from the internet or gadget.
  5. Track your progress – Remind yourself about the progress you’re making by tracking the amount of time you spent on the internet or gadget and comparing it with the boundaries you set in step one. Only spent 8 hours out of the 10 you allotted yourself for the week? Great work! You’ll do even better next week!

Practical tips

  1. Uninstall/block apps/channels that are non-productive or are causing distractions from productive work.
  2. Block out all unnecessary communications.
  3. Use apps that help you to become more productive, like a mindfulness app, to-do list, calendar, etc.
  4. Take time off from the gadget/internet, especially during critical hours, like an hour before going to sleep at night and in the first hour after waking up in the morning.
  5. Connect to nature, go for walks, involve in physical activity and healing activities like gardening.
  6. Turn off notifications.
  7. Spend time doing what you love.
  8. Set aside time for family, friends, pets and loved ones.
  9. Undergo a digital detox for 3 weeks where you would use the gadget/internet only for work. After this period, regulate the time that will be spent on leisure activities using the gadget/the internet.

Article by: Team bodhini