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How to Wean Yourself from the Web

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Pick your poison: Victoria’s Secret.com? HSN.com? What about eHarmony? AIM? Steamy chat rooms? While the term Internet addiction conjures pictures of old men gawking at pornography sites, studies show that women, just as much as men have addictive tendencies online.

Cultural gender stereotypes online don’t deviate from the realistic social tendencies between men and women. Common online addictions for men include gaming, gambling and pornography. While women tend to be addicted to online shopping sites, chat rooms and instant messaging, according to Harry Croft, Health Place.com Medical Director.

Googling the cheapest Kate Spade bags for a few hours, then dominating a couple hands of online black jack for few hours is completely normal, right? How do you know you’ve gone overboard? How do you know when you’re addicted to the Internet?

When it comes to excessive Internet use, many may attempt to measure the amount of spent online as an indicator of online dependency. However, researchers say an Internet addict is measured by the degree of their dependency rather than time.

“It is important to note that it is not the actual time spent online that determines if you have a problem, but rather how that time you spend impacts your life,” said Dr. Kimberly Young, author of Caught in the Net.

“If you find that you are using the Internet as a means to regularly alter your mood you may be developing a problem,” Young said.

How do you know if you’re getting carried away on the web? Here are tips for identifying and changing your potentially addictive behavior:

-Clicking to Cope:
While Internet addiction is not an official mental health or medical disorder, those who seek happiness online and use the Internet to cope with emotional issues possess addictive traits.

If you have to drag a child, partner or friend away from the screen, if they continuously assure, “just ten more minutes,” or if they get irritable when forced to part with their PC, you may have an addict on your hands.

-Right up an Addict’s Alley:
Ironically, there’s a test online to help determine if you’re an Internet addict. How often do you form new relationships online? Do you check your email before doing something else? These are a few of the questions that help gauge if you’re an average or addicted user.

-Wane from the Web:
To help limit Internet usage start by setting a time limit. The modern workplace consists of employees staring at a computer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; blinking optional. To make it worse, post-work wind downs consist of watching a rerun of your favorite prime time drama online. Before you know it, 10 p.m. rolls around and you’ve been staring at a computer screen for 12 plus hours. To start, limit yourself to three hours online per day for a few days. Set a timer when you hit your homepage and shut down your computer when the timer goes off. If you find yourself craving for an extra half and hour and giving in, you may classify as an addict.

The bottom line comes down to the reason you’re spending so much time online. Dr. Hilarie Cash of Internet and Computer Addiction Services said “a heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities” is the very basis for addiction. Stopping the addiction starts with acknowledging the problem, identifying the source and seeking help.


Croft and Young: http://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/Internet/symptoms-Internet-addiction/menu-id-54/

Cash: http://www.netaddictionrecovery.com/the-problem/signs-and-symptoms.html



Lauren Misak is a journalist graduating this May from The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is passionate about health-related issues and has experience writing for state-wide publications.

Add a Comment1 Comments

This is a really good article, and I'm glad you're writing about this stuff.

I know this article is oriented towards women but I think the issues are very similar for men. For me, the hardest thing has been that I find it very hard to maintain enough face-to-face contact with people in modern society...it started when I graduated from college. I'm not sure what the culprit has been, but some factors I've thought about have been that our society is so dependent on cars, people tend to work long hours, and American society doesn't seem to value common spaces where it's possible to meet people or socialize.

Take coffee shops, for example. A lot of them seem to function more as mobile offices nowadays...striking up conversations with strangers is rare.

I wish I could follow the advice in this article but I am not sure I can. My work requires me to use the internet a lot...and I also use the internet to stay in touch with many of my friends, and as a way to network to meet new people both in a business and personal setting. I don't like it at all, but I feel more than a bit trapped.

When I step back from the internet, it's really hard to find the kinds of social institutions out there for me to form the sorts of bonds with people and with society that I'd like to. I am forced into using the internet because it's often one of the only things out there.

I think one solution is for people who run websites to be conscious in their use of the internet to encourage people to get together face-to-face, rather than to "suck people in" to spend more and more time online. For example, I use a website eBird which encourages people to enter data from birdwatching to further the purpose of science. This is a great website because it is based first and foremost on real-world (and outdoor!) activity. It can't "suck you in" because everything on the site is about stuff that is happening out in the real world, and the only way to use the site is to go out into the world. I think we need more sites like this!

Thanks again for the article!

January 27, 2010 - 2:50pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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