What Overcoming Internet Addiction Actually Looks Like

I think many people have a naïve understanding of what it really takes to overcome internet addiction. It’s not an overnight job. It’s not comfortable. Blocking software will only get you so far. And making plans to go 72 hours without the internet when you haven’t even tried to go 3 hours without the internet is just a train wreck waiting to happen.

From my experience, beating internet addiction is a 2-part process where you complete each part simultaneously rather than one after the other.

The 2 parts are the following:

  1. Decrease the amount of time you spend doing highly engaging things on the internet
  2. Increase the amount of time you spend doing highly engaging things NOT on the internet

It’s pretty common sense, but the way in which one achieves each of these tasks takes some thought.

First, note how I squeezed the phrase “highly engaging” into each part of the process. When one is truly addicted to the internet, that means that they are in a highly engaged state of mind while using it. If you attempt to substitute that online time with less engaging activities, you’ll eventually find yourself returning to your device.

Second, note that the process of completing each task is also quite different. For Task 1, you are breaking bad habits, but in Task 2, you are building new habits. A common mistake people make is that they attempt to do Task 1, but then DON’T fill in that extra time with anything new. At first, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but eventually, regularly doing highly engaging alternative activities will be a necessity in keeping you off the web.

When it comes to technology addicts in particular, there are some other key points you should be aware of. When you say that you are “addicted to the internet”, what you’re really saying is that you:

  1. Can’t control when you START using the internet
  2. Can’t control when you STOP using the internet

Once again, these are two very different problems which require very different solutions.

We often have problems with STOPPING because of the way the web is designed. Today, websites are designed to maximize the amount of time you spend on them in order to manipulate you into viewing more ads, and in some cases, also collect more data from you. Advertising and selling personal data are two key ways technology companies make money from you even though you aren’t paying anything to access their website.

We often have problems with STARTING because we’ve built an automatic habit. Our brain has had so many experiences in the past where opening up the web browser (or doing some other kind of unwanted behaviour) gave it a satisfying reward, that it now calls your body to carry out that behaviour automatically. When your brain goes seeking this reward, that means that it’s looking to satisfy some kind of need. Being aware of what we are in need of in the moments leading up to picking up a device, can serve as valuable information for solving the STARTING problem.

Finally, as an internet addict, you will be glad to know that the very act of abstaining from the internet (or simply the websites/apps which you find most addictive) will be more than enough to reduce the strength of the grasp that they have on you.

Reddit used to be one of my biggest weaknesses, but now that I’ve spent such a large amount of time away from the site, using Reddit can almost feel boring or frustrating to me at times. I have had a similar experience with video games and other social media sites as well. I know you will feel the same too someday. Best of luck!

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