A study has revealed that people who are successful in their careers are more likely to be engaging in compulsive Internet use, and are at increasing risk of anxiety, depression and isolation as they obsessively log in during out-of-office hours.
The results came as a surprise to the researchers, who assumed it would be young people and the unemployed who were most at risk from Internet addiction. As a teenager, I would stay up chatting on msn or updating my teenopendiary with terrible poetry and homemade gifs until the early hours, while when I was on the dole I would be constantly refreshing my inbox in the hope that somebody, anybody, would throw me a bone.
It wasn’t, however, until I started working that my Internet use started to spiral out of control. The phrase “come to bed” will be familiar to Internet addicts everywhere, whether employed or not, but the need to be constantly plugged into the news took my addiction to another level, and I only just seem to have got a hold on it (though my darling boyfriend may disagree). Here are my five top tips to maintain a healthy online life. I’m now in recovery. Maybe soon you will be, too.
1. Schedule your Internet time
It sounds deeply boring, I know, but unless I’m on a pretty serious deadline, I now force myself to switch off at 5:45 p.m., which is when my partner gets in from work. Making sure there’s a clear division between work time and home time, I realised, is the only way I would be able to maintain our relationship. If the only time your loved ones see your beautiful face is when it’s basked in the glow of a screen, this might be one to consider.
2. Accept that not every email can be answered
A simple tip, but a revelation to me. Backed-up emails can be a terrifying prospect, but once you accept that it’s impossible to live a healthy life at the same time as answering each and every one, a surprising amount of time frees up. As a seasoned procrastinator, I’ve developed a little email label called “to reply”, for those messages which require eventual action on my part. Said action may be slow, but it acts as a reassuring comfort blanket.
3. Disable unnecessary notifications
The first thing I did when trying to cut down on my Internet use was to make sure it was unable to encroach on my day-to-day existence in the real world through the medium of iPhone notifications. In other words, I ended the process by which Facebook updates, tweets and emails would come directly to my mobile. This was partly to prevent tweets accusing me of being a rubbish feminist/crap journalist/appalling human from harshing my buzz when I was having cocktails, but it can also be used for work purposes. Anyone who needs to contact you urgently, for professional reasons, will probably have your phone number anyway. The same goes for friends and relations.
4. Go for a walk
A piece of advice from my mother, in the form of “make sure that you get out of the house every day”, but it can also apply to those in a work environment, or those who are embroiled in a particularly vehement political debate in the comment section. If you are able to, getting a bit of fresh air helps you realise that the outside world still exists before you return to your activities with a renewed vigour (or, in the case of online arguments, 10 more rebuttals that you thought of on the way to Budgens). If you can’t get away, take a nap next to the radiators in the staff room, disappear to the loos for a time longer than is polite, or have a cup of tea.
5. Remember: it’s only the Internet
It really doesn’t matter that much. It sounds cheesy, but spending time with people who care about you and make you howl with laughter is the best antidote to Internet addiction. It’s hard to take things like social media seriously when friends are texting you going “lol at your twitter storm – pub?” Logging in slips further down your priority list as you realise that your absence does not mean the world will stop turning. I recently took a month-long hiatus from blogging and Twitter, and when I returned, all was much the same. It was that, or smash up the router – and it worked.