4 Steps to Cure Internet Addiction: Don’t be a Tumbleweed!

Like housework, the Internet expands to fill the time you give it. Take it from a thirty-year veteran of housewifery: more time doesn’t necessarily mean better results.

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Photo credit: Anne Warner

Internet addiction is as real and serious a problem as gambling addiction. It’s potentially more dangerous because the internet is everywhere and open all the time. Our minds can’t get enough of instant access to friends, gossip, news and interesting information. It’s easy to cave into that craving and end up feeling like you’ve wasted life’s most precious commodity—time.

Here’s how to resist the allure of Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post, National review,  TMZ, or whatever your Achille’s heel is. Pick at least one from each of the three steps listed below. 

1. GET READY

Keep a log of time spent on the Internet.

  • Note when you start, and when you finish.
    • What did you intend to do, and did you actually do it? 
    • What did you drift to when you were bored or frustrated?

Learn about what happens in your brain when you click from site to site, or play online games over and over.

  • Volumes have been written about addictive behavior, and more information is coming out all the time, but a few helpful facts:
    • Checking e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and other social media compulsively is not about keeping up with your friends or work. It’s about soothing your anxiety.
    • Anxiety is a product of perfectly natural hormone cycles and physiological feedback loops that powerfully control human behavior. Working to understand why we do what we do, helps us change

2. GET SET

Acknowledge that your mind will resist. “Just Say No” doesn’t work, but there are tricks to fool your brain into going along.

  • Declutter your space. Internet addiction is characterized by an inability to dive deeply into a task or topic. It’s even harder to stay focused when you’re surrounded by dishes needing washing, paperwork needing attention, dust needing dusting. 
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Image credit: Andy Mangold
  • Declutter your computer desktop. It’s also hard to be calm and directed if your gorgeous screen saver is covered with unfinished projects.

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  • Each day, when you’re (a) the most clear-headed and (b) not online, set goals. Make a list of what you need and want to do on the Internet. Do you plan to read the newspaper, buy flowers for a friend, arrange a meeting? Write those things down.

3. GO!

Take Control.

  • Resist multi-tasking. It feels efficient, but it’s not. It muddles your mind. Stick to your list. Do one task, then the next, then the next. 
  • Turn off the internet at regular intervals and work as much as possible without it.
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Photo credit: r. nial bradshaw

Use an alarm or kitchen timer if you have to. Here are some apps that help track and limit time on the Internet: Rescue Time, Stop ProcrastinatingMoment, and a few others.

  • Sign out of e-mail and social media sites when you aren’t using them. The small irritation of having to sign in is often enough to remind you not to mindlessly use it.
    • Here is a cool app that allows you to “demetricate” Facebook, that is, stop Facebook from telling you how many notices, comments, likes, etc. you have waiting for you. 
  • Take charge of e-mail. Constant e-mailing contributes to unhealthy levels of stressCheck e-mail only two or three times a day.
    • Keep inbox empty by trashing, answering, filing. If you do nothing else, this alone will make you feel great.
  • Vary where you use the Internet.
    • Try going online only when away from home. See if your habits change when you’re around other people addictively clicking and checking.
    • Conversely, I work from home, so I go to coffee houses without internet and get some of my best work done.
  • Don’t sleep in the same room with your computer, smart phone or iPad. If they are there, you will use them. 
    • The wavelengths of light produced by your devices interfere with the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. 
    • Leaving your phone out of the bedroom can improve marital relations. This survey showed the 62% of the female respondents felt that their partner’s use of a cell phone interfered with their relationship.

4. GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY

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Have you struggled with spending too much time on the Internet? How do you deal with the problem? 

15 comments

  • Hi, nice article, and I like the layout of your blog. As someone who is getting into blogging, i find myself constantly at the computer. I need to remember your advise, espcially number 4. I used to love being outside, and unfortunately i find myself spending less and less time doing things that I loved. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Great advice and an excellent reminder to do something besides sit out at the computer.

    I’ve already been doing some of these for the reasons you’ve described. Especially important is to turn off the emails and internet browser so that I don’t get notifications. If I’m going to get anything done at all, it has to be in the morning when I have the energy. It means refusing to turn on the computer until the task is complete and I’m ready to start writing; otherwise I find that I’m eyeball deep in Facebook and an hour has gone by.

    There is another great way to put a damper on internet addiction: Get a cat. Mine is constantly putting his paws on my mouse hand and meowing at me if he doesn’t get enough attention. He’s too cute to ignore. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Excellent! I see so many folks at work hovered over their phones or on social media during the work day. The addiction is very real!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Screens are just so addictive, it seems. I have had no TV in my home for many years, although in truth, the time saved not staring at one is instead spent on my PC. I am resisting smartphones stoically, and do no social media other than blogging. But still, the number of hours spent gazing at this huge, dumb panel before me is quite unhealthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just finished a Stephen King Dark Tower novel. One of the sought-after magical items in the book is a glowing ball that lets you see the bad and strange things other people are doing, did or will do. It is so addictive, the holder longs for it forever. Was King prescient or what? It was published in the mid-1990’s, when the Internet was becoming pretty widely used, but before social media, and when blogging was barely conceived of.

      In defense of our glowing panels, I think the benefits are as great as the dangers. I also spend an unhealthy number of hours in one position. Researched this more for myself than anyone else. I do think technology is speeding up people’s understanding of how we operate as a species. That could change if content is manipulated so much, it becomes untrustworthy.

      Liked by 1 person

  • There is so much truth in this article. I am guilty of multitasking thinking I can get stuff done and find out that I barely got anything done. These steps will allow me to have visual evidence so that I can hold myself accountable. It will also allow me to improve in areas that I need too, so that I can get more things done…. Great content 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Good tips – I do know people who are addicted to doing housework. Clean is never clean enough. The same thing can be said for social media. There’s an infinite number of blogs to follow, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This article has some really good points–I like that you explain each one.
    Because of my level of ‘to do’ lists, I’ve used a lot of these strategies to change the way I interact with the Internet. And I think your article would have helped me a lot sooner. Thank you for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  • I just got back from a 33 day rafting and backpacking trip on the Salmon RIver. A month plus without internet or phone. But now back home and here I am again back on the screen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thirty three days?!?! We’re hiking today (Twin Peaks near Willamette Pass), and will be back in our nice bed tonight. I am impressed! And oh yeah, right back to the screen. Same with many comforts for me. We visited Grace at her Peace Corps islands, where I discovered the joys of zero makeup and zero mirrors, but as soon as we returned, out came the lotions and face stuff and hair stuff.

      Congratulations on an impressive trek. I’m sure you’ll use the Internet appropriately to tell us fans about the trip.

      Like

      • Find the joy of zero makeup and zero mirrors again in Eugene. Toss those lotions and stuff for hair and face. Set yourself free. Janene’s motto lately is “if Larry doesn’t have to do it then neither do I”.

        Liked by 1 person

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