Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Internet Addiction

“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”
Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. It has arguably replaced work itself as our most socially sanctioned addiction.
According to one recent survey, the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email. That doesn’t count time online spent shopping, searching or keeping up with social media.
The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.
Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.
I’ve known all of this for a long time. I started writing about it 20 years ago. I teach it to clients every day. I just never really believed it could become so true of me.
Denial is any addict’s first defense. No obstacle to recovery is greater than the infinite capacity to rationalize our compulsive behaviors. After years of feeling I was managing myself reasonably well, I fell last winter into an intense period of travel while also trying to manage a growing consulting business. In early summer, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t managing myself well at all, and I didn’t feel good about it."

However, some argue that the benefits of the internet outweigh the problems and the evidence is scanty.

1 comment:

  1. I imagine that the 'addiction" thing is a function of how one uses the Internet. One thing for sure, it beats daytime TV.

    For an aging widower like me, myriad emails let me keep in touch with friends around the world.

    I browse numerous websites for news of the world. I browse certain websites for political viewpoints on the news of the day.

    I moderate on two websites. One of them has an in-group forum for friendly conversations among some forty people.

    But when I'm away from my computer for several days, my only regret is the knowledge that I'll have to delete a bunch of casual stuff when I log back on. :-)