The word addiction is typically used to describe an illness whereby people are compelled to drink alcohol or take drugs. However, addiction is so much more than that; it can be defined as a pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on the daily life of a person. This means that it is possible to become addicted to almost anything, including gambling, shopping, sex, eating, and even the internet. Internet addiction is becoming a major problem for many people since the advent of smart devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Constant online access and the development of new apps that you simply ‘must have’ means that more and more people are spending huge chunks of time on the internet. Many experts believe it is having a negative impact on society as a whole.
New statistics have revealed that people in the UK are spending over 24-hours every week online, and of those surveyed, more than half admitted to having an internet addiction.
Media watchdog Ofcom found that of the fifty million internet users in the UK, large numbers acknowledged that their internet use had had a negative impact on various aspects of their lives. Some admitted to bumping into strangers on the street because they were using their mobile device while others said they had been late for work or had neglected housework because of being online.
Almost a third have said that their internet addiction was so bad that they had forced themselves to take a ‘digital detox’. Over sixteen per cent admitted to deliberately opting for a holiday destination that did not provide internet access so that they could enjoy their time away without spending most of it online.
The Ofcom survey aimed to discover how the internet has affected the lives of people, and more than 2,000 adults and 500 teenagers were questioned. The results showed that the average user is spending over one day a week online. Fifty-nine per cent admitted to being ‘hooked’ and thirty-four per cent said that disconnecting from the internet is difficult.
A National Problem
Most people are of the opinion that it is the younger generation that is most likely to be affected by internet addiction, but the survey found that this is not the case. Forty-five per cent of those over the age of sixty-five admitted to being hooked. Twenty-nine per cent said that they spend too much time online.
Experts believe that internet addiction is causing damage to the lives of individuals all over the UK and that it is having an adverse effect on their working and social lives. Just under fifty per cent of those questioned said that their online use had affected their sleep, meaning they felt tired.
Almost a third said that because they spent too much time on the internet, they had missed out on spending time with friends or family members. Around twenty-five per cent of teenagers were late to school because of being online.
Shockingly, around twenty-five per cent of adults questioned admitted to sending a message to someone who was in the same room as them at home.
The Internet – A Good or Bad Thing?
There is no doubting the advantages that the internet brings, and being able to access it twenty-four seven can be hugely beneficial. Having constant access to information at the touch of a button has revolutionised the lives of many, but can you have too much of a good thing?
According to Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, Jane Rumble, “The internet has revolutionised our lives for the better. But our love affair with the web isn’t always plain surfing, and many people admit to feeling hooked.”
She said that millions of people are now worried about the effect that their internet addiction is having on their lives and are now implementing a digital detox to ‘get a better tech-life balance’.
However, it would appear as though a digital detox may not be as easy as it sounds. Fifteen million people in the UK have already tried to abstain from their digital devices, but around twenty-five per cent said they barely managed to stay off it for one day. Only five per cent managed to quit for a full month.
Fear of Missing Out
One of the biggest problems that internet users face if they are not online is the ‘fear of missing out’, otherwise known as FOMO. This can be enough to send many back online. They are worried that they will be in the dark, and around sixteen per cent admitted to feeling ‘lost’ or ‘cut-off’ from society during their digital detox.
Nevertheless, twenty-five per cent of those who took part in a detox said that their time offline was more enjoyable and productive.
Unfortunately, it appears as though internet addiction is not going away anytime soon. With so many people relying on the internet and worrying about missing out when they are not on it, it seems as though this is a problem that is only going to get worse.