Of all the New Year’s resolutions that have been made, very few lists contain “Use the Internet less in 2013.”
That resolution, perhaps, should be at or near the top of everyone’s resolutions list. There are some interesting studies being done that seem to indicate an alarming number of people have developed, more or less, a virtual addiction to Internet usage. Some of the same studies are showing many people are supplanting healthy in-person contacts and relationships with Internet relationships via the Internet, in some cases with total strangers.
Of course, many people have no choice. They rely heavily on their computers to do their jobs. And, not to forget, computers and Internet communications can be a tremendous plus at times – saving travel time, money and all sorts of other hassles.
Experts are still undecided on exactly what constitutes an “Internet addiction,” although most agree if Internet usage interferes excessively with normal daily life and family relationships, something is wrong. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol often retreat from life, a stunting process that can lead to lots of trouble and deeper addictions. We have all heard of cases in which marriages were destroyed by one or the other spouse’s addiction to Internet relationships or Internet pornography. But surely there are other, less obvious drawbacks to Internet usage, such as children absorbed with computer games when they should be interacting with family and friends in social activities.
These are some of the symptoms of what might be Internet “addiction,” according to the studies:
Withdrawal behavior, such as irritation or depression, when not able to have Internet access.
A loss of other interests.
Using the Internet to replace or make up for human relationships.
An accelerating use of the Internet to get a “high.”
Children becoming angry and even violent when their Internet use is temporarily suspended by parents.
Some scientists are suspecting excessive Internet usage can actually cause physical changes in the brains of adolescents that are similar to the changes caused by chemical addictions.
At this point, the answers are not in; more research must be done.
But in the meantime, addiction or not, it would be a good thing for all of use to take stock of our Internet usage. The best way to do that is to write down each day how many hours were spent on the Internet and how much of that usage was work-related and vital or merely frivolous and “fun.” Then write down each day how much time was spent in in-person social interactions. Most people will probably be stunned by the imbalance between the two activities.
Redressing that imbalance would probably do all of us a world of good in 2013.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.