Nearly 3.5 billion people around the world are now online, the average person checks their phone 85 times a day and, in total, we spend just shy of three hours on the Internet every single day.
Whether we’re checking our emails, catching up on the latest headlines, seeing how many likes our Facebook post has had, doing some shopping or logging into online banking, the Internet has become an unavoidable aspect of modern-day living.
Whilst it can easily be hailed as one of the greatest inventions of our time, there are some downsides to the Internet and one of the biggest is how easily it fuels addictions.
Whilst many of us would joke that we’re addicted to the Internet and couldn’t live without it, this is becoming a serious problem.
Compulsive online-related behaviour interferes with normal living and can completely break down relationships with friends, family and partners as well as impact a person’s performance at work.
It can be hard to identify whether someone simply spends too much time online or if they have an addiction. Signs of Internet addiction can include:
- Being preoccupied with the Internet all the time
- Finding that you need to use the Internet for increasing amounts of time in order to feel satisfied
- Repeatedly trying to cut back on how much time you spend online but being unsuccessful in doing so
- Feeling restless, moody, depressed or irritable when you do try to cut back on Internet use
- Regularly spending more time online than you had intended
- Jeopardising your job, education or relationships because of Internet use
- Lying to others to conceal the extent of how much time you spend online
- Using the Internet to escape from problems or relieve feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, guilt or depression
The World Wide Web has not only made it easier than ever to access pornography, but because of the anonymity, people are far more likely to look at more extreme material.
Speaking about the increase in porn addiction, psychotherapist Michael Halyard commented:
“Modern pornography is more addictive than traditional pornography due to its easy availability, explicit nature, the wide range of images and video available, the ability to access it on any handheld device or tablet and the privacy that the experience offers.”
“People can spend hours searching the Internet on their computer or device for the newest or most hardcore pornography. This omnipresent availability makes it easy for people with addictive personalities to cross that indivisible line into addiction. For porn addicts, pornography can be as damaging as gambling, alcohol or drugs and can take over a person’s life.”
Gambling addictions have been around a lot longer than the Internet has but the World Wide Web offers a new route to addiction, and a simpler way to hide a problem.
Many years ago, the only way to bet on something was to go into the bookies. This is something that the average person may rarely do except for during big events such as The Grand National.
Nowadays, however, the temptation to gamble is everywhere and you can place a bet on almost anything. From football scores and horse racing to who is going to win X Factor, online betting websites are encouraging gambling in a wide range of ways. There’s also easy access to bingo sites, interactive scratch cards and The National Lottery.
A survey carried out in 2015 by the Gambling Commission found that 45% of the 4,000 people they surveyed had gambled in the past four weeks. Highlighting just how much of an impact the Internet has had on this, 97% of those who said they have gambled said they did so at home.
Aside from fuelling an increase in the number of gambling addictions, another issue with the Internet is that it makes it incredibly easy to hide a problem.
Online gambling is completely anonymous and you can do it during your lunch break, on your commute to and from work, or even sat in front of the television. This makes it difficult for family and friends to notice any prolonged activity.
Over 700 million people play online games worldwide and whilst this is often just a harmless way to pass the time, gaming can become very addictive.
As well as the risk of developing an addiction, compulsive gaming can have long-term negative consequences on a person’s mental and physical health. It can lead to a lack of sleep, a disruption in eating habits and people may isolate themselves in order to play games. All of these things can lead to fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression.
This is an issue that has become so prevalent that it has now been added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and is classed as Internet Gaming Disorder. The DSM has also warned that persistent and recurrent online activity can cause clinically significant impairment or distress because certain neural pathways are triggered just like in drug addicts.
If you think that you or someone you know could have an addiction of any kind, please feel free to contact Life Works and we will be more than happy to help.