Think back to your day. What portion of it did you spend on the Internet? Between social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and the endless amount of information you can find online, there are plenty of time-fillers on the Internet.
Online Communication is Increasing
Today it appears that practically everyone uses the Internet to connect with others. College courses are requiring students to keep up with blogs and create Twitter accounts, and smartphones have become increasingly common among students. With computer-like capacities, smartphones allow people to constantly be updating statuses and checking e-mail. Just last week in my Media Convergence class everyone had to list one thing that a smartphone allowed them to do. People said text, video, apps…nobody said “make calls.” Calling or face-to-face conversation seems to be decreasing as online communication increases.
Increased Internet Use Linked to Depression and Distractions
According to an article in TIME Magazine, people who compulsively use the Internet have higher rates of depression than those who do not feel the urge to use the Internet compulsively. The study seems to show a correlation however, rather than causation—they do not know whether depression causes increased Internet use or if increased Internet use causes depression.
In addition to depression, the Internet may be linked to negative distractions. In his book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr says that psychological research has demonstrated repeated disruptions to our train of thought can make us apprehensive, tense and scattered, and can lead to memory loss. The Internet, especially when it is accessible from a handheld device, is full of distractions.
People often do not even realize how frequently they are engaged in the Internet. According to Carr, studies on office workers have found that they constantly stop what they are doing to check their e-mail (sometimes thirty or forty times an hour), but when asked about the number of times they check their e-mail they usually give a lower number than the reality.
In addition to these effects, spending time on the Internet can distract us from our other activities and obligations. It can be hard to balance everything we care about and spending too much time online only adds to that feeling of “not enough hours in a day.”
Maybe you’ve experienced this scenario: you get online to check your e-mail for a minute, and a news headline catches your eye. You click it and find another link, and you decide to share it on Facebook. So you log into Facebook and begin scrolling through your friends’ statuses, and that reminds you of something you want to Google. Before long, an hour has gone by and you haven’t checked your e-mail yet.
Determine whether you Spend Too Much Time Online
These days it is nearly inevitable that you will need to use the Internet. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you aren’t spending an unchecked amount of time online. As with everything, moderation is key. Pay attention to the amount of time you are spending online and decide whether it is too much.
Some questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether you are spending too much time on the Internet (and other related activities such as texting):
- Am I often running late?
- Am I getting enough exercise?
- Do I feel tired at night?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I having headaches?
- Are my eyes blood-shot or dry?
- Does my body feel achy and lethargic?
- Am I completing the activities I previously planned to do?
- Have I become a poor listener?
- Do I know what the “outernet” is?
- Am I avoiding friends to spend time online?
- Am I able to turn my phone/computer off to give myself periods of uninterrupted time?
Think about your answers and decide whether too much time on the Internet could be negatively affecting you. If so, make the change that feels right for you. Come up with Internet/texting rules that you would like to follow. Some suggestions might be:
- Don’t get online two hours before bed.
- Only spend an hour per day on social media sites.
- Play a phone game when you’re out to dinner with friends. To play, everyone puts their phone in the center of the table before eating. Throughout the meal, no one is allowed to touch their phone or text. The first person to crack and reach for their phone has to pick up everyone’s bill. If nobody grabs their phone during the meal, then everyone pays for themselves (probably enjoyed good conversation).
- Put your phone on silent while studying.
- Leave your phone outside your bedroom when you go to sleep so that texts or calls don’t distract you as you are dozing off or wake you up.
- Commit to only checking your email or blog twice a day—once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
- Match the amount of time you spend online for fun with the amount of time you spend doing something else you enjoy. For example, for every hour you spend riding your bicycle, you can spend an hour on the internet.
If it seems overwhelming, just aim to stick with it for a couple of weeks and be aware of whether you feel a positive difference. If so, it will probably continue to be easier to stay aware of your Internet usage and to take actions to manage it more effectively.