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Is our internet addiction wrecking family life?

All our lives seem to have hit the pause button with the outburst of the pandemic. Don’t we all have volumes to whine about and exhibit our frustrations and emotional disturbance, this pandemic has caused? With movie theaters closed, no restaurants to dine in and with nearly no public gathering, we see only one easy escape. The internet.

Our frustrated minds are seeking entertainment through Netflix, HotStar or YouTube. We are turning out to become more and more desperate to connect with each other. And our only savior now is the social media outlets like Facebook, WhatsApp etc,. As a booster for our already extensive internet usage, the pandemic has been encouraging more of ‘work from home’ culture and online education. One business having promising results without a doubt are the internet providers. With a boom in the usage all around the world, internet has become a necessity of daily life.

Currently estimated at 574 million, the number of monthly active internet users has grown 24% over that of 2019. Thus indicating an overall penetration of 41% last year. 

Internet users distribution in the world

We have learnt to appreciate only the existence of internet over time. However, we have to know that the luxury of the facility of interconnectedness comes with a cost. A huge cost. Research findings have shown that excessive use of internet adversely affects one’s physical health, family life, and academic performance.

We may be more connected virtually, but such connections seem to be coming at the cost of our physical relationships.

We may be more connected virtually, but such connections seem to be coming at the cost of our physical relationships. Concerning family problems caused by internet addiction, family relationships are seriously disrupted. Due to the decrease in time spent with family there is reluctance of performing family duties.

A new behavior: Preoccupation with internet

Being addicted to the internet can be a dangerous and life-changing state. Internet usage can be a substantial time-sink for users. This however leads to increase of conflicts with family in the negotiation for time spent on the internet.

Apart from affecting family relationships, internet otherwise also has its unfortunate outcomes. Use of social media can generate positive feelings of connection. But alternatively increase feelings of loneliness, and the emptiness of illusory and false or shallow connections. It can also make it easy for a person to stalk or bully someone else, or make personally damaging comments that can be read instantly by a wide audience.

In 2004, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said childhood obesity had tripled since 1980 in the U.S.A. One of the most technologically advanced countries also has one of the highest shares of obese people in the world . Not a correlation to be proud about.

While the kids are busy on messaging apps, games and social media, their parents have the same level of access – and indeed appetite – for such things. Family problems are shown as long standoff between family members, quarrels, divorce.

The compulsive checking of social media has made face-to-face communication very difficult. A husband and wife may spend time next to each other, but their minds are engrossed in their own social entertainment as they scroll through their individual feeds. The earliest stages of marital issues are rooted from here.

What starts out as web surfing for one descends into online obsession and isolation.
What starts out as web surfing for one descends into online obsession and isolation.

Meanwhile, studies have shown that there is a link between depression and increased social media usage. And adolescents are most likely to become affected by it, which in turn, affects their family relationships.

Blurred boundaries: That was then; this is now

Constant checking of email, social media and the other apps that chime and buzz away on our phones is for most of us a familiar feature of life at home. But for the sake of our relationships, isn’t it time we weaned ourselves off more at home and back into a more analogue world?

Once upon a time, a family’s biggest technological nuisance was the phone ringing during dinner or late at night. Twenty-four hour TV programming, the internet and cell phones didn’t permeate the inner sanctum of the home. Those were the days when school stayed at school, work stayed at work. These boundaries weren’t crossed except in case of an emergency.

This new era of internet has violated all the gates of a happy family. Schools send out e-mails – announcements about homework events and what nots. Here kids are getting “business” as well as social messages when they’re at home. For adults, work doesn’t end just because they leave the office. In fact, companies equip their people with smart phones and laptops so employees are accessible 24/7. Physicians are used to getting emergency calls. But now there are insurance emergencies, technology emergencies, sales emergencies, accounting emergencies and so on.

Once the walls between home and the outside world come down, it's hard to build them back up again

Once the walls between home and the outside world come down, it’s hard to build them back up again. But, you can make it better.

Internet addiction hitting hard

First and foremost, begin from within. Minimize the double standards and practice what you preach. If you want your kids to limit screen time, do the same for yourself. You don’t want to lose your job over it. But consider how much work you do at home because you “have to“. Avoid works you do because “you can.”

While I’ am writing this,  4.5 billion people use the internet on a daily basis. As more people connect to the internet, more people will find themselves hooked on. Artificial intelligence designed to serve customized content, virtual reality and integrated reality and the list goes forever.

The signs of addiction

Maybe you are in a slight denial at this point. Maybe now you think you use the internet a bit too much, but you aren’t “addicted”, right?
Here, let me give you the basic signs of an addict. Check it yourself:

  • You try to regulate your use but can’t : When most people try to stop, they find out that they can’t. The rewards they get from the internet are too attractive in comparison to stopping. A classic example of addiction.
  • Withdrawal-like symptoms when use is discontinued: Let’s say you have managed to significantly reduce your time or completely quit using the internet with the exceptions of necessary obligations. What happens next if you are an addict?
    Depending on the extremity of use, it might end up with: Anxiety, Irritability, Brain fog, Daytime fatigue, Restlessness.
  • Other specific behavioral traits : Since internet addiction is largely behavioral, there will be certain traits that one exhibits as an addict. It can be,
    • Incessant desire to constantly use the internet
    • Loss of interest in real-world activities
    • Low mental resilience
    • Lack of long-term focus
    • Constantly checks out news sites, infotainment websites, or any website that matter for “new content”
    • Some form of pornography addiction

However, all of these may be issues in and of themselves, but if some or most of these resonated with you – maybe it’s time to turn an inquisitive eye towards your internet use.

Now, we know the effect that internet addiction is having on us or will eventually have on us. It steals away time, energy, and focus. It’s up to us to change our habit patterns and eventually substitute healthier ways of being in place of our internet addiction.

Technology is evolving. We have something new coming by each day, but family is always a constant of our lives. Do you think it’s fair to let some technology come our way to disturb our family life?

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