How can I deal with or get rid of my internet addiction?
July 16, 2004 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Anyone here feel they are seriously addicted to the Internet -- and by addicted, I mean, your Internet use is a net negative to your social or work life, and you can't seem to stop it. If so, what did you do about it?
posted by luser to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Got further into it, in the vain hope that it would someday top out as a net positive.
posted by scarabic at 7:39 PM on July 16, 2004

I am not addicted, I can stop anytime I want.
posted by dg at 7:43 PM on July 16, 2004

Internet "addicition" is BS. One can't be addicted to "the internet" or "computers" - those aren't things in and of themselves, only ways to obtain information, communicate with people, entertain oneself, etc etc. The internet itself is not what you care about. People always say they are "addicted" to things, blowing it way out of proportion. Talk to an alcoholic or a heroin user or something. That's actual addiction.

Please elaborate - how much time do you spend on the net? What do you do?

and scarabic - did you just make a pun? If so, get out. Forever.

I'm also addicted to taffey. I love mefi more than I love taffey. And I'm a man who loves my taffey. Ohhh man they are so chocolatey delicious. Ohh mm hhohhhh mmammmm ohhH!HHHHH!@!!! oh!! OH!! ohhm mmhmmm taffey
posted by ac at 7:50 PM on July 16, 2004

Actually, people have been known to exhibit actual addiction behavior patterns in internet usage. It's nowhere near as common as the broader use of the term implies, but it does indeed happen with the same sort of results: effects on job performance, destruction of marriages and other personal relationships, and so on.

Also, root beer taffy and mint taffy are far more habit-forming than chocolate taffy.
posted by majick at 7:59 PM on July 16, 2004

People can get addicted to the net, just like they can get addicted to MMORPGs or (to use a more 'real' example), gambling. I'm not addicted, but my sister certainly seems to be going that way. She is constantly on the net. I have control of the connection up here, and a lock on my door, so I can turn it off and she can't turn it back on -- but doing that causes her to react like some kind of crack addict.

I have seen a lot of people go through what you might call "internet addiction", leading to losing their jobs or other undesirable consequences -- in one case, it caused a marriage crisis. Internet addiction is real, it's here, and it can do nothing but grow at this point.
posted by reklaw at 8:00 PM on July 16, 2004

the Internet is a MEANS of doing something. You can't be addicted to, say, playing cards, or syringes, or something. Just like internet. Are you saying you are addicted to... what? Constant streams of information? Online gaming? What?
posted by ac at 8:09 PM on July 16, 2004

ac: any combination of those things, as a whole? Someone could crave the interaction in a chat room or find themselves drawn constantly to games or USENET (or metafilter). From an outside observer the effect is the same, though. It's sort of like arguing a difference between an addiction to beer and to scotch. To the rest of us you're just a drunk.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2004

A while back I found myself spending FAR too much time on the internet.

The Solution: Use a feed aggregator, namely Since it is web based, you don't even have to have a computer on and connected to the internet to keep your feeds up to date. This means you really can "quit any time," without missing a beat.

The important thing to remember is to keep the number of feeds you suscribe to to an absolute minimum. Otherwise, you'll only feed your "addiction."
posted by blasdelf at 8:33 PM on July 16, 2004

Sometimes it feels like addiction, but in reality for me I think it's just a form of displacement activity from work. I work on a computer all the time, and if I didn't have a Net connection I'd be playing solitaire or something ...
posted by carter at 8:35 PM on July 16, 2004

Of course people can be addicted to the internet, the same as they can be addicted to television, crack, work, and sex. When something occupies the majority of your waking hours at the expense of other areas of your life, it's addiction.

luser, I recommend you get away from the internet for as long as possible and see just how long that is. If it's not very long (like, if you can't not log on for a weekend), then I'd say you have a problem. (Of course, i don't know your situation--maybe you need the internet over the weekend for work or something.) My point is, if you honestly think you're addicted to X, the test is to remove X from your life and see what happens. Certainly this is not a scientific approach, but it's something you can do on your own which the results of will help you determine just how fucked addicted you are.

I've had points in my life where I've considered myself addicted to the net (chat, email, web, all three at the same time). When I've questioned why, I've always realized that I was avoiding something I didn't want to face. I'd make a conscious effort to question every time I was about to use the Net. If it wasn't dire, I didn't. That question was extremely difficult to answer honestly at first but it gets easier. If you find you're saying "no, not dire" and doing it anyway, take yourself away from the computer, physically. Leave the house, go for a walk, telephone a friend, play with the dog, masturbate, whatever.
posted by dobbs at 8:43 PM on July 16, 2004

What else am I supposed to do with my life?
posted by angry modem at 9:25 PM on July 16, 2004

I know that I go online, surf blogs, read metafilter, and check my email obsessively when I have something big and scary looming over me (academic deadlines, relationship trouble, family worries, etc.) It's numbing and calming to me. I would say that I use the internet as a drug, but I don't know if I'm addicted.

Talking about being addicted to the internet does seem a lot like talking about being addicted to the phone. I use both daily and would feel deprived without them, but is using them interfering with my life? Maybe if I was surfing porn or calling phone sex lines all the time-- but I mostly just interact with friends and get information.
posted by bonheur at 9:51 PM on July 16, 2004

Pun? I guess I did, but it was accidental, I swear!

I think your attitude toward addiction is a common one, ac. As a recoveree of an unnamed addiction, I've encountered it before, and I found it not only unsympathetic, but out of touch and unhelpful. Addiction is, strictly speaking, a behavior pattern. No one has ever been able to establish is a genetic phenomenon, nor connect the phsyiological aspects of various well-known addictions. Any behavior that fits the pattern is worthy of the name.
posted by scarabic at 10:04 PM on July 16, 2004

Including addiction to exercise, which I think is what we're "supposed" to do with our lives, angry_modem :)
posted by scarabic at 10:05 PM on July 16, 2004

At least some of the people who think the Internet is a net negative in their lives are probably suffering from ADD. These would be people that experience the Internet as an insurmountable procrastination problem, not an addiction (a word luser didn't mention, by the way.)
posted by lbergstr at 10:13 PM on July 16, 2004

Wait, I'm completely full of shit, he did use that word. The ADD point stands though.
posted by lbergstr at 10:14 PM on July 16, 2004

Good suggestions, dobbs, except for someone who must be on the web for work.

As far as the legitimacy of it, I don't buy that you can only be addicted to things and not behaviors. Of course you can be "addicted" to good behaviors, like reading or spending time with your children, but that's why I specified that the use have a net-negative life impact. It seems to be pretty accepted that gambling is a legitimate addiction, for instance.
posted by luser at 10:16 PM on July 16, 2004

I'm probably addicted to the internet. I spend hours each day reloading MetaFilter or some other page instead of doing things I should be. It interferes with my doing productive things.

I completely agree that it's a replacement for dealing with stressful things. I've let a number of important things slide for too long because I've been pacifying myself with the computer.

Of course there have been times where I've been without the internet (hell, even electricity) and I've done just fine. Of course maybe for me it's not so much the internet as the computer since that's where most of my entertainment is stored.
posted by mindless progress at 10:58 PM on July 16, 2004

Good suggestions, dobbs, except for someone who must be on the web for work.

Alcoholics are well-advised not to tend bar for a living. Either move on, professionally, or face and overcome the destructive behavior.

Of course, I only mean this as seriously as you consider your own problem to be. If you're just puffing smoke about wasting too much time online, then join the club. If you feel your life is in danger because of this, then, frankly, you need to find other work.
posted by scarabic at 11:05 PM on July 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

I spend an awful lot of time online on a daily basis, both professionally and personally, but find that during extended periods without Internet access (social events, vacations, finding something good to read, etc.) I don't feel panicked to return. In fact, I rarely notice.

I suppose that, to me, the Internet is like the audio commentary track on a DVD: an omnipresent undercurrent of information, available at the click of a button, that informs and enhances the overall experience. You can turn it off, though, and the movie (and life) can certainly be enjoyed without it.
posted by Danelope at 11:46 PM on July 16, 2004

I used to be on wayy to much, even though I am on for hours a day I don't look at it as an addiction. I can go camping and not daydream about global wifi (which will happen one day).
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:09 AM on July 17, 2004

If at home, you could get a modem router which can be configured so it only allows a certain amount of bandwidth usage, and get a friend to configure & password it. That way, you'll be able to use the internet, but only for a fixed amount of time.

I agree with the comments about displacement though. You need to work out if this is an addiction, or something less than that. If it is a real addiction, then you need to look at some sort of counselling before it starts to cause real problems in your life.
posted by seanyboy at 2:00 AM on July 17, 2004

My solution isn't for addiction, but for serious procrastination- since I work on the computer, it's tempting to go surfing, check my e-mail, play some flash games, yadda yadda, anything except actually write, so when it gets too easy to distract myself, I take all of my net applications off the desktop and off the start menu so I have to actually have to seek out the folders in the directory to start them. That's enough of hassle that I usually get back to work. If you're using XP, you might try creating a new profile that has no net applications installed, and put password protecting on your profile that *does* have the apps, just to deter yourself from loading it at random. Perhaps that will discourage you enough to make plans away from the computer and keep them, but at the same time, the net is there if you actually need to use it.
posted by headspace at 8:07 AM on July 17, 2004

I'm spending more time outdoors - amidst plants and trees, bugs and critters.

In the sun, or the rain.

Somehow, the more time I spend outside the less time I spend on the computer.

I have a theory about this. In short - too much time apart from "nature", greenery, natural light, fresh air, other living creatures - and so on - creates a net endorphin deficit which net addicts attempt to remedy through more and more computer time.

But - ultimately - the computer time, of whatever sort, doesn't satisfy in a really deep way.

So, the addict 1) tries even harder, essentially pushing the pellet-dispensing lever more and more times for less and less reward until reaching burnout or 2) gets up an walks out the door.

Which is what I'm going to do right now.
posted by troutfishing at 8:11 AM on July 17, 2004 [1 favorite]

the Internet is like the audio commentary track on a DVD: an omnipresent undercurrent of information, available at the click of a button, that informs and enhances the overall experience.

This is the main reason I go online too. Sites like Wikipedia and HowStuffWorks are always available to answer those "I wonder..." questions that pop into my head during the day. I've also found a number of good books, movies and bands based on discussion sites like MeFi and personal sites.

I've found this is a good guideline for my time on the Internet. It's all too easy to spend hours reading endless political debates and refreshing the same sites. It helps to take a moment and ask if my use is improving my life.
posted by brism at 10:31 AM on July 17, 2004

For most people these days, they can't just quit their jobs and become truck drivers or something to stop using a computer. As time goes on, more and more jobs require computer usage and more and more computers are online. I think its less like gambling addiction and more like a food addiction where you can't remove it from life, you have to learn how to deal with it being around all the time.

Unless its so bad you need to go off grid, and if that is the case, you have bigger issues than net addiction.
posted by jopreacher at 11:25 AM on July 17, 2004

I suggest getting a crappy computer and dial-up.
posted by bitpart at 11:43 AM on July 17, 2004

on my lab computer at school I edited my hosts file to redirect any site I found I was spending too much time on to
posted by Space Coyote at 11:53 AM on July 17, 2004

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