How to avoid getting addicted to the Internet

Welcome to  the new Weekend Watch“, my new  Friday morning blog post that looks at weekend events, be it news, books, or a little bit of fun.

As comedian Peter Kay says, the t’internet. This week’s Weekend Watch kicks off with the results of a poll I posted last week. The vote question was ‘Do you switch off from the internet when you go on holiday?’ Hmm, come on, admit it, you know it’s a tricky thing – and turns out you’re not alone, because a whopping 57% said that, if they went on holiday, they couldn’t do without the Internet. Take a ganders at the results….

The results to the poll, “‘Do you switch off from the Internet when you go on holiday:

57% No

27% Yes

14% Other

Thing is, more and more these days, the Internet, along with social media, smart phones and apps, is a growing part of our lives. As a writer, I find the Internet invaluable. Years ago, if I wanted to research something for an article or story, I would have to go to the library or trawl the papers, both of which could take up a good few days of my time. Now, though, things couldn’t be more different. The book I am currently writing is about a category one murder convict, so I need to know about prisons, criminal law, the appeal system.  Within just a couple of hours of web surfing, I can have the beginnings of some solid research, so much so that I now know about different aspects of prison life not just from a warden’s view, but from the viewpoint of  a convict inside – amazing.

And that’s the thing – the web is amazing. But with it, comes a darker side.  Type ‘Internet Disorder’ into Google, and you’ll get an array of websites and articles detailing the increasing rise of apparent dependency on the Internet. Sites such as psychcentral.com posted an interesting article on net addiction, sighting three stages of addiction, namely: enchantment, disillusionment and finally, balance. They do, however, speculate in the article that while the term, “Internet addiction” is spouted widely, the terms “book addiction”, or “TV addiction” are not (although, they haven’t met my kids…)

Further searching throws up more articles on the subject – and ones that are a little more cause for concern. The Telegraph newspaper published an article back in January, 2012, stating that research has identified that Internet users who become dependent on being online have shown signs of changes in the brain similar to alcoholics and cocaine addicts. Oh crikey. Now, while we mustn’t use this as cause for panic, it does throw up some interesting questions. How many of us have ignored our spouses, kids, because we are answering a text or tweet? (Come on, hands up…) Or, how many of you have ended up on Facebook till the wee hours after originally telling yourself that you’d only be on there for half an hour and then you’re off to bed? Hmmm? I know I have. And the rest.

I think, really, that the key is to find a balance. The Internet undoubtedly has enriched our lives. Information is available in a split second, social media can quite literally cause life-changing democratic revolutions and books can be written (hopefully for the better) with the aid of speedy broadband connections. However, with this 24-hour connection comes the constant pressure to never switch off, to always be in touch with others and, sometimes, at the detriment of those who we love around us. For me, personally, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook et al, they are all invaluable. But, there are times when I know it is wise for me to turn my back on it all, just for a while, and take a break. Thing is, can you?

Ooo, look out for my new regular Friday afternoon post, “Weekend Waffling” out later on today…

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