How much time a day do you spend online? Do you check email before getting out of bed? Do you stay up too late to chat with friends on Twitter?
Um, yeah. Me too.
Why is the internet so addictive? According to this article, which quotes Susan Weinschenk, it’s all about dopamine. What is dopamine? It’s a brain chemical that, basically, makes us feel good. According to Psychology Today, “dopamine neurons become activated when something good happens unexpectedly, such as the sudden availability of food. Most abused drugs cause the release of dopamine and this is thought to contribute to their addictive properties.”
Ms. Weinschenk states, “the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search.” What is hanging out on social media but a constant level of seeking? We’re seeking the next @ message on Twitter, the next status update on Facebook, the next blog post. This can cause a sort of “dopamine induced loop” according to Ms. Weinschenk, who states:
“With the internet, twitter, and texting we now have almost instant gratification of our desire to seek. Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type it into google. What to see what your friends are up to? Go to twitter or facebook. We get into a dopamine induced loop… dopamine starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking which makes us seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, stop checking our cell phones to see if we have a message or a new text.”
So, are you wondering if you’re addicted? This handy “Internet Addiction Test” might have some answers for you. I scored a 34, which is remarkable because of the incredible amount of time I spend online. However, because so much of my work is online, I had to answer “N/A” to a bunch of questions that had I answered them more exactly would have likely cast me into the addiction pool.
However, personally, I don’t worry much about internet addiction. Maybe it’s because I’m a recovering drug addict (fifteen years clean and sober!); I’ve experienced addiction, and the relationship I have with the internet is nothing like my drug addiction was. I love the internet and social media: it is my passion, my profession, and my life in many ways, but I’m not an addict. For instance, I don’t take my laptop camping.
Of course, I don’t go camping much anymore. And I DO bring my phone. That has the internet.
If you’re worried that you spend too much time on the internet or use the internet in an addictive manner, there is help. Contact local addiction treatment programs for suggestions. I also found these 12 Steps to Recovery for Instant Communication Junkies to be very wise words, too. If you need help, get it. If you’re like me, well… see you on Twitter!