NOTE: If you’re stumbling upon my blog for the first time, (welcome!) please know that these thoughts are coming from a technologically savvy 20-something. These thoughts about Internet usage are often brought up by older generations who haven’t grown up as “digital natives”, but I want to note that these ideas are not limited to those older generations.
The information I use in this entry comes from a New York Times piece from 2010 on Internet addiction
According to the New York Times article, the signs of Internet addiction, or Internet dependence, are:
- Checking your e-mail before doing other things
- Frequently anticipating the next time you’ll be online
- You say “just a few more minutes” or “just a minute” when someone needs your attention when you’re online
- Lying or trying to hide how long you’ve been online
- Choosing to spend time online rather than going out with others
- Getting a lift from a depressed or nervous mood from going online
- Others in your life complain about how much time you spend online or using technology
At first when I read these, I didn’t think they applied to me.
I don’t blatantly lie about how much time I spend online, but I do catch myself shutting my computer and trying to look like I’m doing something else when Val or a friend suddenly enters my apartment. Also, if someone asks you how much time you spend on Facebook/e-mail/Twitter/blog-reading/surfing the net, would you give a true answer? Due to shame and fear of being judged, I probably wouldn’t. Also, do you quickly close Facebook or Twitter if someone is walking by you & your computer? One reason may be that you're at work and not supposed to be on Facebook, but if that's the case, why are you on there in the first place?
I don’t sit in excitement for my next online log-in, but I do think about the next time I’ll be online when I’m out and about. I ask myself, “how will I write about this on Facebook?” or “I wonder how people will react to this stuff on Facebook or Twitter” or “I wonder how many new e-mails I have.” Do you think about these things too?
Finally, I do feel a sense of relief once I’m online and “connected” to people. It would be easy for me to say that I like being online because I like being connected to people, but I have a phone. I have a voice. There are people all around me. I can easily connect with people without using the Internet. I even tried to make an excuse, saying that “well I use Facebook and check my e-mail so much because I’m so far away from my family that it is how I can communicate with them often.” My wise boyfriend pointed out that that is probably what everyone says. I’m sure when I’m back in the States and closer to my family and friends, my Internet usage won’t change.
It is not easy to admit these things. Not at all. (In fact, as I write this I occassionally am asking myself, "do you really want to post this for everyone to see? What will people think of you?"). For someone who values her strong will, it is very defeating to admit these weaknesses, especially for a public audience. The reason I’m doing it is for you all. Yes, I am a martyr for my cause. I’m hoping that if you see someone who you know and like (I hope?) admitting to this problem and trying to fix it, that it won’t be so scary for you to do the same. You don’t have to blog it to the whole virtual universe, but maybe it will spark some action on your part. The nice part is that probably everyone around you has an Internet addiction or dependence in some degree. Some are worse than others but still, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is in the same boat here. So let's dock and get off so we can start enjoying the real world that's not on a screen!
You might say, “How can I be addicted to the internet? It’s everywhere, it's unavoidable. It’s not like I seek it out, it’s just there. If I use the internet all the time it’s just because it’s a necessity these days.” You’re right, in a sense. In fact, only a few months before the New York Times article came out, the BBC released the results of a poll revealing that 4 in 5 people worldwide believe that internet access is a fundamental human right. Additionally, the article said that most governments regard the internet as part of basic infrastructure like roads, waste disposal, and water. Interesting, huh? It makes sense then that NYT article would liken an Internet addiction to an eating disorder, where someone has a consumption problem with a life necessity. You can’t live without food, so you can’t cut it completely from your life. In that way, it's basically impossible to completly disconnect yourself from the cyber world. Instead, the article says, someone who suffers from something like this must learn how to control and moderate usage.
That makes a whole lot of sense to me. With most people carrying around smart phones or tablets, internet access is all around us, especially here in Korea. It might seem like its unavoidable, but the truth is that you have a choice. There are ways to moderate your usage. Unfortunately, these days it takes an active effort to do so.
1.) I set a number of times per day that I check my e-mail, Facebook, blog replies, etc.(when I’m not at work sitting in front of computer). For example, on Saturday and Sundays I try to check my e-mail and Facebook only twice; once in the morning and once in the evening. After work on weekdays, I try to make it just one time. When I do log on, I try not to spend more than 10-15 minutes surfing. This has proven to be a lot more difficult than I expected. Last weekend I went an entire day without turning on my computer, but I found myself thinking about and wanting to go online, even while I was out and about with Val. Yikes!
2.) If you have a smart phone (which I don’t but Val does and this is his suggestion), turn off your notifications so your phone doesn’t beep every time you get an e-mail, Facebook response, or new tweet for someone you’re following. Your inbox and Facebook page are still at your disposable, you just have to make the effort to go there to look. You can easily do tip #1 with this method because you’re not being beckoned by your phone every 5 minutes.
3.) (numbers 1 & 2 will be much easier if you…) Post less on the internet. The less you post or comment on, the less notifications you have, the less you have to look at, thus the less time you will spend online. As much as you desire to tweet about the delicious sandwich you just ate or post on your Facebook status about how you’re at the grocery store with this person and this person at this location and OMG they have cabbage in stock!, hold your tongue and make the active choice not to. Chances are people don’t give a crap about that stuff anyway.
6.) If these seem too daunting for you, if anything, simply make the polite effort to keep your phone away when you’re with friends. One of the things I hate the most is when friends have their cell phone on the table in front of them while we are at dinner, coffee, or just hanging out. If conversation lulls for more than 10 seconds, my friends’ heads are down, looking at their phone. Unless you’re waiting for an important phone call, this is downright rude. This rule does not change if you’re with your best friend or your brother or at a job interview or at a party. It’s rude, no matter the situation. It really surprises me how many people don’t seem to realize that.
On that note, when the moment comes that your phone does ring or beep or vibrate or set off fireworks or whatever they do these days, excuse yourself before answering. Same thing applies if you suddenly have the urge to check something on the Internet from your phone. Basic manners, people!! Don’t forget them.
Mrs. Peacock would be ashamed.
My journey of disconnecting from the Internet has been a short one so far (only a few weeks) but it has proven to be difficult. This proves all the more to me that an Internet dependence exists in my life. These days, people may believe that Internet addiction is just a part of life and it's not a problem because everyone has it. If everyone has a problem, is it a problem, or a social behavior? Oh the philosophical and sociological questions that be. Either way, if Internet dependence is just a fact of life today, then that is very, very sad life we are living. If people don't start to recognize this problem, humans will live out the rest of our existence with our heads down, eyes on our phones and computers. So look up! Enjoy the beautiful world that is around you. Observe the faces, the architecture, the fly on the wall, the rice paddies flying by you on the train (OK maybe that just applies to me in Korea). Have a short conversation with the stranger sitting next to you on the bus. Read a book. Read a magazine. Close your eyes and really listen to that music that's playing in your headphones or from your laptop speakers. There aren't hard things to do. It's what people did before smart phones and computers. Heck, its probably what YOU did about 6 years ago. The Internet will always be there, so join me in my effort to take the precious time we have and enjoy the world and the company around us right now. Here, I'll start. I'm ending this entry now. I will read it over, edit it, and then I will then press the "Publish Post" button and enter these thoughts into the cyber universe, open to any and all comments. I PROMISE not to incessently check for comments on this blog entry, or on the Facebook post I will make to share this blog. In fact, I will wait until I get home to post it, so I'm not tempted while I'm sitting in front of my work computer for the rest of the day. It will be really, really hard. But I promise I will do it. And when I promise you, Almighty Internet, I can't go on back it.