The time I spend online increased significantly starting with the pandemic. Internet addiction, and more specifically social media addiction, is very common in today’s world. Hundreds of millions of people are addicted to the internet (https://www.businessinsider.com/420-million-people-are-addicted-to-the-internet-study-2014-12), and is similar to other more traditionally-known-about addictions (https://healthcare-digital.com/technology-and-ai/internet-addiction-same-drink-or-drug-dependency). Here are some side effects I’ve experienced from being online too much.
I’m angrier/more anxious. It’s easy to get swept away learning about everything terrible going on in the world and constantly exposing yourself to it. It’s one thing to stay up on the news and be aware of what’s going on around you. It’s another to never give yourself a break from the constant news cycle.
I have a much shorter attention span. With so much available at my fingertips, I have a much harder time watching an entire movie or video until the end. It has also affected my ability to calm down enough to read for enjoyment — something I’ve loved doing ever since I learned how to read, in kindergarten. Offline activities simply aren’t as stimulating. Web site algorithms set you up to become addicted to the drama you read about and watch, keeping you hooked 24/7.
My days feel way shorter. Wasting so much time online, your day gets away from you more easily. You realize you’ve hardly gotten anything productive accomplished by the time you turn off the light to go to sleep.
I’m more tired. Lying around makes me more tired than if I were active during the day. And science backs this up. I wake up tired, stay tired all day, and go to bed tired. I put off chores and avoid going outside. I almost never feel refreshed.
Even though I’m constantly tired, I experience insomnia. My increased internet usage coincided with bad insomnia. There have been nights I haven’t gone to sleep at all. Taking sleeping meds, which can have bad side effects themselves, often do not help, or I find myself waking up in the middle of the night wide awake.
I live in the past/future instead of the present. The nostalgia I find via the internet makes me grieve for the past. Negative, scary news makes me fear the future. None of it is good for my mental health.
I notice that often I excuse my internet use by saying it’s educational — I’m watching a documentary or researching a topic I didn’t know about before. But really, that’s just an excuse. I know I’d be better off just not being online in the first place and spending my time on moe meaningful pursuits. In reality, it serves as a distraction from all my problems. And that’s why I abuse it.
I am considering doing one of those 30-day cleanses where you abstain from the internet for anything not work or school related or otherwise necessary. Maybe I’d make an exception for a movie or documentary, as long as I watch it ’til the end. One thing is for sure — I’d have a lot of extra time to fill and get a lot of reading done.