Are You Addicted to the Internet?
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The internet can be a wonderful place – especially when your online experience is ad and tracker free (; Online gaming, shopping, social media, music, and video streaming, the list goes on. As more and more entertainment and services enter this digital landscape, an increasing amount of our time is spent online. So much so, researchers and internet users alike have begun to question, at what point does our usage become an addiction?
Technically speaking, internet addiction (IA) is not part of the DSM-5 – the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals. However, there has been an expanding amount of research conducted on the subject as the internet has grown in popularity.
Before we dive in, it’s important to clarify the difference between two seemingly interchangeable, yet different, terms.
- Habit: a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
- Addiction: a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms upon withdrawal or abstinence
Not all habits are addictions. Much of our day-to-day behavior is based on habits. They are part of our routine. These behaviors, good or bad, become addictions when we lose the ability to control them.
Internet Usage Statistics
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking into specific internet addictions. But, to lay the groundwork, let’s take a look at a few general statistics from recent internet studies.
- 81% of Americans say they go online on a daily basis. 28% of those reported they go online “almost constantly.” (Pew Research Center)
- On average, the world’s internet users spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. That equates to a total of more than 100 days of online time each year for every internet user. (We Are Social and Hootsuite)
- An estimated 6% of people worldwide are addicted to the internet. To add some perspective to that number, note that only 39% of the world even has access to the internet. (Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking Journal)
These are alarming stats – bringing attention to how ten minutes here and an hour there can quickly add up.
Are You Addicted to the Internet?
So how do you know if you’re addicted to the internet? Ironically, there are multiple tests online that will give you a pretty good idea of where your internet habits rank.
Here’s a quick and common one published by Dr. Keith W. Beard back in 2005. He proposed that individuals who can be described by 5 or more of these 8 traits could be diagnosed with an internet use disorder.
- Is preoccupied with the internet (thinks about previous online activity or anticipates the next online session).
- Needs to use the internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction.
- Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop internet use.
- Has stayed online longer than originally intended.
- Is restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet use.
- Has jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of the internet.
- Has lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the internet.
- Uses the internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).
How’d you do?
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