It’s a pretty easy trap to fall into as a new mom. If you’re at home with a new baby all day long, tied to a small being who doesn’t speak and hardly seems interested in what you have to say, you can sometimes be desperate for interaction with your peers. And, thankfully, you have that kind of interaction at your fingertips. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, your e-mail, favorite blogs, whatever. Just a couple of clicks with a mouse, maybe some one-handed typing (because of course you are nursing or holding a sleeping baby while you’re doing this), and you are in contact with all your best friends (and not so best friends, and people you don’t really know but think might be fun to hangout with, and people you don’t know at all but enjoy laughing at).
Before too long this kind of behavior becomes reflexive. You sit down to feed your baby and you grab your phone, tablet, laptop, or computer and zone out while surfing the web, scrolling through pictures, “liking” everything.
And then it becomes more than just reflexive, and you feel lost or isolated if you’re away from your screen for more than a few hours. Does that mean you’re addicted?
I’ve felt that way at times – that I’m addicted to the Internet. I’ll refresh my e-mail 5 times in 15 minutes, simply to distract me from the monotony of the diaper changing-feeding-naptime schedule. I’ll be disappointed if there aren’t any new messages. I’ll think I hear my phone buzz with a new text only to realize it was just my imagination.
If I notice how frequently I’m refreshing, or that I’m grabbing for my phone with no reason or no goal in mind, I’ll walk away for a while. Give myself a little more space and try to be present for my family a little more completely.
While at times I have feared that I actually was addicted to the Internet, I know now that – for the most part – I am in control, and I actually enjoy and look forward to the times when I can take a break from the web for a while.
However, Internet addiction is a real thing. It can take over people’s lives. In fact, Internet addiction is more pervasive than alcohol addiction, according to Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the nation’s first inpatient treatment program for people with a severe addiction to the Internet, which is slated to open this month at Bradford Regional Medical Center in central Pennsylvania. The program, which costs about $14,000 and is generally not covered by insurance, will take on four addicts at a time to help break them of their addiction and teach them to use the Internet in more moderate ways.
Before you raise your hand and volunteer for the 10-day program, know that those who are evaluated with an Internet addiction and accepted into the program will start off with a 72-hour digital detox. If that sounds like a welcome vacation to you, rather than a recipe for torture, you’re likely not a candidate for the program. If, however, being cut off from the Internet is likely to make you irritable, violent, or depressed, you may want to seriously consider getting help.
But even if being disconnected from the Internet isn’t going to give you serious withdrawals, it never hurts to spend some time away from the screen connecting with people face to face for a while.