I don’t know about you, but I am suffering from information overload. Regardless of where I begin, I seem to fall into a black hole of never-ending links on an unquenchable search for mind stimulation. Let’s face it, without boundaries the internet can become an addiction.
Web-surfing is now as much of a threat to the family as alcohol or drug abuse. And I’m not just talking about online pornography. The time invested—or rather wasted—online can often preclude other more important activities such as in-person fellowship, marital intimacy, housework, and overall job performance.
How do you know if you are in danger? Netaddiction.com provides a free internet addiction test. This is a short, eye-opening assessment of your attitudes and behavior, resulting in a free numerical score. Just as I suspected, the twenty questions confirmed I am not addicted, but not well-balanced either. I need some tweaking. (Tweaking reminds me of Twitter, tempting me to quit writing and go tweet my result. Argh!)
Recently, my husband was kind enough to share that the U.S. has just opened its doors to its first residential treatment center for internet addiction, a place he may send me if I’m not careful.
To ensure my own health and the health of my marriage, I’m committed to continuous improvement in the area of internet-use management. Even this post is a form of self-therapy and accountability. Here are seven simple guidelines I’m embracing.
- Stay true to your personal mission while online. If you don’t know what that is, don’t Google it. Try prayer instead.
- Make a daily schedule for online activity and stick to it. Set a timer or an alarm clock if necessary.
- Use resources such as Bloglines.com or Google Reader to organize feeds in a central location. (I got this idea from author Mary DeMuth. Thanks, Mary!)
- Choose carefully your networks. Avoid the temptation to be a part of every online community you discover.
- Sync applications to each other. For example, use Selective Twitter to copy tweets to your Facebook page. This saves time and reduces your exposure to “the black hole.”
- Reduce inbox-fillers by turning off email notifications and unsubscribing to unnecessary feeds. These are attention-grabbers and time-suckers.
- Fast from technology on Sundays. Give your mind a rest and allow it to refocus and rejuvenate.
Much attention has been given to the potential negative consequences of online activity, but new studies have highlighted some positive outcomes. Recent research by the University of California revealed that internet use stimulates brain activity in older adults, and the Phoenix Center reported it even reduces seniors’ depression.
Surely the age-old balancing act is the chief contributing factor to the positive or negative effects we will experience from our insatiable appetite for cyber consumption. Our internet use must be intentional use. Anytime we let something drive us, we are in for a wreck.