Try these smart ways to keep a check on your Internet addiction. By Shweta Taneja
It’s a connected world out there. So much so that most of us cannot think of life without a phone or access to the Internet—even when on holiday.
Take control: Learn how to disconnect from the online world and organize your daily Internet use.
“When I am hiking and I force myself to disconnect from the online world, I feel alone. I feel like there’s so much of the trip that I would like to share with my online friends,” says Hrish Thotaa, a 31-year-old social media professional and self-proclaimed Twitter addict who spends 8-9 hours on social networking sites and chats, and 3-4 hours on email. “I spend my entire waking time online,” explains Thotaa.
A study called A Day without Media was conducted in 2010 by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, University of Maryland, US. The study had asked 200 students at the university to abstain from using all media for 24 hours. They then had to blog (http://withoutmedia.wordpress.com) about their experiences. “Although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely. I received several phone calls that I could not answer,” wrote one student on the blog after the 24-hour fast (the website did not give out names). “By 2pm, I began to feel the urgent need to check my email, and even thought of a million ideas of why I had to. I felt like a person on a deserted island… I noticed physically that I began to fidget, as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices, and maybe I am.”
“Most youngsters cannot imagine their lives without cellphones and the online world today,” says Jitendra Nagpal, consultant, psychiatry, Moolchand hospital, New Delhi. “They feel anxious or stressed when they lose connectivity, be it because (the) battery has run out, they are in an area with no connectivity, or they have no balance left,” he explains. Psychologists have a word for those who make it an obsession: Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).
Addiction to the World Wide Web is a very real issue. You can see the signs everywhere around you nowadays: a fidgety colleague who needs to constantly tweet, a friend who clicks the refresh button on Facebook hoping to see something new while on a dinner date, or you realizing at the end of a day that you have been browsing the Internet for so long that the afternoon has passed and you still have a pile of work to get through.
“Procrastination is the greatest demon of being connected,” says Sasank T., a 25-year-old marketing manager based in Bangalore. Sasank scored 58 on an Internet Addiction Quiz (www.netaddiction.com), a score which suggests that he might be facing some problems at work because of the long hours he spends online.
“I have had to work nights as I skipped deadlines since I was online for the whole day in office,” Sasank says. “There are times when many days go by doing nothing but browsing my favourite sites.” The only time Sasank disconnects is when his laptop heats up and gets switched off; and then the phone comes in. If, like Sasank, you can’t let go of the online urge, here are some tools that can help you:
Detect your time wasters
Wisdom has it that a 2-minute break on Facebook can last for hours. A second on a site can never last a second. Each one of us has sites that we love wasting our time on.
Try this tool: SelfControl (http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol) is a free software that allows you to restrict the time you spend on social networking sites, gaming forums or shopping sites. Simply install the software and add any domain name to its blacklist, like Facebook.com. Then put on a timer and tell the software how long you want to use that domain in a day (from 1 minute to 12 hours). Once you have spent that much time on that particular site in a day, it will be blocked from your browser for the rest of the day. All the other sites will work just fine. SelfControl takes addictions seriously. The app was planned as an extreme measure, so use it only if you are not going to change your mind—deleting the application or rebooting your computer will not help unblock the particular site.