It’s nine o’clock on a Monday night. You don’t have any plans for the rest of the evening, and you’ve just finished that paper due at midnight. Everyone else seems to be busy with their work, so you open your computer’s web browser to pass the time and begin to aimlessly surf the web. You check your Facebook, see if you have any emails, catch up on the news, and maybe browse your Twitter feed for something of interest. Before you know it the time has not only passed but seemingly evaporated, so that it’s now about time you thought about actually getting some sleep.
Sound familiar? While this may be nothing out of the ordinary for most, some have taken their preoccupation with the internet to such an extent that “Internet Use Disorder” is now being added by the American Psychiatric Association to the May 2013 edition of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V). Although it is merely being “recommended for further study” at the moment, this does move internet addiction a step closer to being an officially recognized mental illness.
Of course, if someone’s internet activity consists of just a few hours each day, there probably isn’t anything to worry about. Chances are they aren’t a full-blown addict just yet. One sign of a real IUD includes one’s internet activity going so far as to interfere with their personal life, to the point where they neglect social interaction or even eating. Another is when one is willing to risk important relationships or even a job for the sake of internet use.
The greatest sign of an addiction, however, is when one experiences what appear to be withdrawal symptoms when they are away from the internet for a prolonged period of time. The person will most often become frustrated or anxious, bordering depression, as well as severely irritable when they are unable to use the internet. In fact, psychologists are saying that an internet addiction acts very similar to other addictions, actually mirroring the changes in brain activity in the same way seen in cocaine and heroin addicts. This can have a big effect on one’s emotional processing, attention span and even their academic success. It is especially alarming when you consider that children are most at risk of developing such a disorder.
So although there is still much to be learned about IUD, for now it might not hurt to keep an eye on how much time you spend on the internet each day. And while the internet may very well be good for a number of things, it is important to remember to take such things in moderation, and, in the words of 1 Corinthians 6:12, not allow yourself to be a slave to anything.