The world today is growing smaller, thanks to technological devices such as the BlackBerry, iPhone, and email, and social networking now allows us to break barriers of time, space, and even money to meet and connect with other people. But does the onslaught of these technologies overwhelm us, leading to anxiety, obsession and addiction to our technology and online socializing? The answer is an unfortunate yes. Experts estimate that 6% to 10% of Internet users are, in fact, addicted. Nearly 50% of these people with online addiction have another addiction such as gambling or pornography. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can lead to anxiety about whether we’re measuring up to others, as well as an unhealthy obsession over how others live their lives.
It is difficult to overcome these detrimental habits because society seems to encourage more and more use of technology. How do we know if we have a technology addiction, rather than just using it frequently? Childnet International defines Internet addiction as spending excessive amounts of time online at the expense of and to the detriment of other aspects of life. When we are obsessed with our online relationships instead of those with our friends and family, spend hours and days on virtual games, or compulsively gamble, there is a problem. When technology use and social networking affect our health, our finances, and our relationships negatively, there is a problem.
Fortunately, there are ways to make peace with social media in our lives. Try these tips for striking a balance with technology:
Set a timer: Determine a set amount of time each day to spend online, emailing, networking, etc. Use a timer with an alarm to remind you when you’ve used up your time for the day, and when it goes off, go do something else.
Call for reinforcements: Enlist people you love and respect to help you stick to your commitment to find balance. Go to them for support when you are struggling, and encourage them to be compassionate but firm with you and the limits you have set.
Try a ‘technology fast:’ Choose a week, weekend, or even a day when you will not use any technology at all. Put away your phone, computer, etc., and use the time to reconnect with the people and world immediately around you. If leaving your technology means heading out for a weekend in the wilderness, do it.
Rediscover non-technology-related hobbies: What sorts of things did you enjoy before you owned your tech devices? What did you spend time on before you joined social networking sites? Or what kinds of things have you always wanted to do but thought you didn’t have time for? Try them out now.
Seek professional help: Sometimes the best course of action for overcoming technology addiction, anxiety or obsession is to seek the advice of a qualified professional. These compassionate people have been trained to help people help themselves.
Living in a tech-savvy society doesn’t mean saddling ourselves with anxiety and addiction. With a little initiative and help, you can find peace in the digital world.