There's no doubt that the internet changed the way most of us communicate, shop, bank, watch movies and do business. According to recent Pew Research Center surveys:
- 77% of adult internet users use the internet on a daily basis.
- 59% of adult internet users use at least one social networking site, and almost all of them (92%) use Facebook, with 52% of them using it daily.
- The average age of the Facebook user is 38.
While nobody other than a few scientists had access to the Internet 30 years ago, today it's not unusual to see restaurants full of people ignoring the other people at their tables while they click on phones checking for e-mail, posting on Facebook or tweeting their whereabouts to others.
- In a 2011 survey commissioned by TeleNav, more than a third of iPhone users said they frequently use their phone at the dinner table.
- In the same survey more than half of all smart phone users said they'd rather give up chocolate, alcohol and caffeine for a week before parting even temporarily with their phones.
- In a recent study by the University of Maryland of 1,000 college students across the globe, the majority were unable to voluntarily go without using technology for 24 hours.
"In the past, addiction typically involved narcotics, alcohol or sex," notes Briana Stonelake, EAP consultant for VITAL WorkLife. "In this new age of social media, addiction now encompasses technology."
Technology addiction often ties into other types of compulsions, such as shopping, gambling and gaming. Using work time to bid for items on eBay, check for matches on eHarmony, update your Facebook profile, access pornography, visit online casinos or get lost in a game of World of Warfare is not only against standard company policies—it could be a sign of a greater problem.
"When the need to stay connected becomes an obsession, it starts interfering with one's ability to sleep, hold a job or maintain relationships with friends and family," continues Stonelake.
Internet Addiction: Recognizing the Signs
Stonelake suggests using the following criteria to assess whether or not your Internet usage is becoming a problem:
- I find myself thinking about the internet when I'm not online.
- I sometimes lie to other people about how much time I've spent online.
- I've missed classes or gone to work late because my online habit kept me up all night.
- When I've had a bad day, going online is the only thing that soothes me.
- I need to stay online longer to achieve the same level of satisfaction.
- I feel restless and irritable when I can't get online because my battery dies or I've lost my connection.
- I've made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or stop my technology usage.
- I've committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance my online activities.
"If you're staying awake late at night thinking about the next text you'd like to send, that's an indication of a problem," says Stonelake. "Lying is another red flag. If you have to lie about what you're doing, chances are something's wrong."
As the addiction to technology progresses, some of the mental and emotional symptoms can include:
Physical symptoms can include:
- Physical withdrawal symptoms
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Jittery feelings
As technology addiction spirals out of control, work and school performance suffers, normal social relationships and activities become difficult to maintain, health and personal hygiene often deteriorate, serious financial difficulties may occur, and depression and other mental health disorders may develop or worsen.
In some cases, obsessive use of technology is a learned behavior that simply needs to be unlearned or managed—by taking "technology vacations" or trying to extend the length of time you're not online each day.
"If you've been unsuccessful at stopping or curtailing your internet or technology use on your own, your Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) benefit can help," explains Stonelake.
Addressing Technology Addiction: How Your EAP Benefit can Help
Your EAP benefit includes free and confidential professional support services from VITAL WorkLife—24 hours a day, 365 days per year—to help you understand and address any problems you're experiencing with technology addiction.
"While alcoholics are typically advised to never take another drink, total abstinence isn't very realistic in a world where the ability to exchange e-mails and access internet resources is now a pretty standard job requirement," notes Stonelake.
When you call VITAL WorkLife, we'll help you assess what's going on in your life and help you develop a plan for moving forward. "We offer everything from coaching in simple mind control therapies to face-to-face sessions," explains Stonelake.
Face-To-Face Counseling: Free With Your EAP Benefit
In addition to unlimited telephone consultation, your EAP benefit also includes free face-to-face counseling with master's- and doctorate-level professionals, both for you and your family members.
"There's no reason to suffer in silence or feel like you have to tackle this problem alone," says Stonelake. "We can help you regain the balance you need to lead a happy, productive life."
More About Technology Addiction: Helpful Online Resources
At the VITAL WorkLife website, you'll find helpful articles and links to resources that can help you learn more about and cope with technology addiction issues including:
- Internet Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help: Parts I & II
- Signs of Internet Addiction
- Addiction of MMORPGs: Symptoms and Treatment
- eBay Addiction
- Cybersex Addiction Checklist
- Cybersex and Addictions
Accessing these resources is easy. Simply follow these steps:
- To find these articles, go to VITALWorkLife.com, click on member login and enter your user name and password.
- On the page that comes up, in the left hand column, click on the "Your Work & Life Resources" button.
- In the shaded area at the top of the screen, click on the pull down menu that says "Balancing" and pull down to "Addiction and Recovery."
- In the Articles section on the left side, click on "View All."
Pathways to Well Being Call VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App