Virtual Reality: Beating the Addiction

Mom's been nagging me that I'm spending too much time online & she has no idea what I'm doing anyway. I quarrelled back: I was lonely, it's harmless, I get to stretch my creativity, mix with friends from around the globe & she should have more faith in me. Yesterday the NST had an article about the dangers of online social networking. Today the Star talked about online predators. 

Then I realized 1 thing: I AM addicted to the virtual world. The Internet has become a drug in my system, I noticed the following:

1. I don't stop typing even though it's 4-5am & my eyes are feeling tired.

2. I spend most of my time sitting in my chair in front of my laptop.

3. I get nervy when I'm away from the laptop *unless I'm doing something really distracting*

4. I rush to the laptop when I reach my room.

5. I've got MSN, Skype, 5 email accounts & I joined 7 online forums, not to mention having this blog, 2 websites & 2 forums, since last yr. 

Damn. So how do YOU know if you're addicted to the virtual world?

You're addicted if your life centers around this
The Signs

1. You keep thinking about your online friends, online activities, games etc.
2. Relaxation = going online
3. You feel restless & uneasy when you aren't online
4. You socialize mainly through the Internet
5. You suddenly don't hear much from your real-life friends
6. You invest a lot of time, energy, even money to be online...and it's increasing

Why should you cut down on your time online?
1. Health reasons
  • Eyesight: staring at the screen for prolonged hours, whether you're chatting/gaming, is strain on your eyes. 
  • RSI: Repetitive Strain Injury occurs when you strain the nerves, especially when you're holding the mouse for too long/in the wrong position. Other injuries like Carpal Tunnel syndrome & cramping.
  • Sleep: being addicted means changing your sleeping hours & you may not get sufficient sleep. Lack of sleep leads to other problems such as fatigue etc.

You may get RSI from excessive surfing
2. Social skills
  • Being online reduces the need for face-to-face interactions. The individual is more confident being behind the shield of the virtual identity & does not develop the confidence needed to face people in the real world.
  • Shyness can develop/intensify with increased online interactions. The individual seldom develops an outgoing nature & garner real-life relationships. Not to mention the lack of pheromones takes away the thrill of having a real-life conversation.

Tied to the virtual world?
  • The virtual world rarely requires fluent & perfect language. Perhaps a small side effect is reduced proficiency in languages, especially verbal prowess.
  • The fact that the Internet connects the world brings hidden threats. Assuming that foreign cultures is superior to local cultures plus peer pressure may cause an individual to adopt traits that are undesirable/fake. 
3. Dangers
  • Online predators: we've heard of these opportunists who take advantage of younger, more naive individuals for their own gratification. In 2008, it was estimated that 15% of teens experienced online sexual harrassment. Trusting souls leak intimate photos & details over the Internet & suffer identity theft, distribution of compromising photos etc.

Things aren't always what they seem online
  • Excessive dependence: some people turn to the Internet for attention & what they mistake for as love. A careless fall-out may have disastrous consequences. There are even sites encouraging suicide; the case of the Florida teen who committed suicide after being taunted by online forum members in 2008 is a tragic example.
  • Addiction: addiction itself is a hazard. It is a distraction from more important events of the real world & does not provide a safe haven as we presumed it to be. Being addicted means being hooked & it eats up our time, our energy & our money.
What can you do to beat it?
1. Decide
Only you can make the decision to stop the addiction. Understand the hazards of online addiction & determine the goal you want to achieve. Is the fun worth the aches & the dangers you get? Is it really important/crucial to spend & expose your life to virtual strangers? When you can compute these 2 elements, make the decision to save your life.

2. Discipline
Deciding to do something & DOING it are 2 completely different things. Once you've decided to beat the addiction, discipline yourself to do just that. Think of the things you'd be missing out if you continue the addiction, remind yourself of your priorities. Be tough on yourself: set a time limit & stick to it.

The image says it all
3. New Hobbies
To ensure you won't stray back to the computer with so much free time at hand, occupy them. Get a new hobby: learn a music instrument, a new language, join physical sports, borrow books from the nearby library etc. Not only will these activites occupy your time, you'll get the chance to socialize with people & make new friends.

4. Face-to-face Socializing
Get back into the game. Call up your friends that you've sidestepped while seeking companionshhip online. Make a date to go to the cinema, have a camping trip, or a food feast. Meet up & sharpen your communication skills for face-to-face socializing. Your real life friends may have had experiences that are more interesting than your online friends.

Get active
5. Goodbye, games
In the end, when you no longer feel the desire to chain yourself to your laptop, you will see there's no need for the games & the virtual facade that you were addicted to. Get rid of unneccessary games & online attachments *if you've made real relationships from online sources, don't dismiss them. The key word is unneccessary

Take control of your life. As Mom always told me: GET REAL. Sure the Internet is a fascinating & dynamic world, but it's really limited by other people. Your life, the real life, is only limited by YOU. Moderation is key. Mom was right, after all :p


Rwi Hau said...

hahahahaha...well, i can normally be seen at my laptop computer when i need to look up something, update my facebook page, twitter and download stuff. and mind you, my laptop is 24/7 switched on. i leave it on even when i go hang out with my friends. it's not an addiction, it's sorta like a necessity. it's like another limb of yours and you can't live without it. but remember, it's useless without a broadband internet connection. lol.

Rowan said...

You've twitter? You twit :D

Well I am addicted, now I've switched off my MSN & Skype. Gonna write another article & then I'll shut down :)

Anonymous said...

The internet has become a necessity in everyone's daily life. It is inevitable. We don't scope a wide range. Let's scope to individual, home-user (students for e.g.). We rely on the internet too much for information, news update, knowledge, gaming, downloading, video streaming, many more, not to mention social networking. I believe social networking has become a hectic issue in society nowadays, I also believe that it is about knowing to do and not to do. When NST and The Star highlighted this issue, it is about advising and educating internet users. We cannot stop social networking, (What is the purpose of borderless world?? Globalisation??) I personally think that we cannot stop social networking but constantly reminding internet users to be careful, stay alert, and be updated.

Beating the addiction, I don't think in this century anyone can do that. This globalisation relies too much on internet for latest stock exchange update, business growth and downfall, information received and sent, constant communication and continuous unpredictable changes. People rely on it, a necessity, not an addiction. People do not constantly doing outdoors activities, they have indoor activities as well. Besides ASTRO, printed newspaper, we have a reliable tool which the computer with broadband internet connection. Right now, if one is a loser if he/she thinks that internet is an addiction. We are 21st century thinkers, not 18th and 19th freaks. Ask those thinkers back then, they are the one playing hard to improve communication and ease people's life, not causing addiction to it.

Rwi Hau said...

^woah there dude!! that's a cool one there. i have to agree, it's more like a necessity than an addiction.

marissa norfis said...

i like to explore the virtual world but i x call it as an addiction...i call it...hmmm... perhaps curiosity coz i just can't stay still until i know whats the latest buzz in the virtual world..(not to mention that it's more then necessary for me as a comp sc. student..huhu)..but till now..i think it's just fine for us to explore the virtual world as much as we like as long as it doesn't give bad effects such as what u have listed in ur post..hehe..if yes then it might turn to be scary..huhuhu

Rowan said...

Yeah haha I doubt you're addicted Marissa :) Me, I'm a classic case of a goner :D

Rowan said...

@Anonymous: Yeah it's a necessity for many people but it becomes an addiction for others. I don't think spending nearly 12 hrs online at online forums & blogging is a necessity :( I know I'm addicted. When I'm away from the PC, I get restless. Plus I'm so sedentary over there. Maybe it's a necessity for you but it's become an addiction for me...

Rwi Hau said...

rowie, you still remember there's a news article of a kid committing suicide live online through a webcam which you posted at umplife forum? what you wrote here reminds me so much of the news article you posted at the forum.

Rowan said...

Yup I made a reference to him in this blog post too.