Are you addicted to the web?

Can you unplug from the matrix? Can you choose to stay away from a computer for a full 24 hours? 48 hours? A week?

As a freelance writer who works primarily on web-based projects like professional blogging, I spend an inordinate amount of time online. During the week, there is a very significant chance that I’ll turn on the laptop as I’m brushing my teeth in the morning and the computer will not be shut off until moments before I go to bed. The entire time that the laptop happens to be on, it is also online. I could be researching an article topic, interacting through Twitter, or catching up on posts in my Google Reader. Whatever the case, I’m online.

Now, it’s one thing to use something on a regular basis. It’s another thing altogether to have that transform into an addiction. Just because you take the bus to work every morning does not mean that you are addicted to public transportation. Just because you like the song stylings of Die Toten Hosen doesn’t mean that you are addicted to German rock music. These are things that can quite easily be replaced or displaced.

The Definition of Addiction

Addiction can be roughly defined as an uncontrollable craving or seeking of something to the point where the person becomes completely dependent. The individual experiences dramatic negative effects when withdrawn from this substance or behavior. The negative effects can be harmful or dangerous for the person’s physical, mental, social, and economic functioning and well-being.

When most people consider addiction, they think about things like drugs, alcohol, and gambling. The fact of the matter is, people can get addicted to just about anything. Deprive certain people from their video games and they’ll display the exact same symptoms as a person trying to quit smoking. They can become irritable, have sleep problems, and experience uncontrollable urges when around other smokers gamers.

Can’t Live Without the Web

The Internet is my livelihood. If it wasn’t for the web, I wouldn’t have met a lot of the people that I have and I wouldn’t have been able to launch (and grow) my freelance writing business. Many of us, myself included, look forward to funny videos on YouTube or the ability to reconnect with old classmates on Facebook. The world wide web is a wealth of valuable knowledge and interactivity.

Given all the good things that can come from surfing the net, it’s perfectly understandable that an ever-increasing number of people are going online and refusing to disconnect. It’s not only when we are at home or at work, because there are countless individuals who have their cell phones hooked up to a Facebook or Twitter account. BlackBerry users are addicted to mobile email. Many smartphones offer full HTML web browsers. The Internet is just so accessible and it’s hard to resist the urge to send out one last tweet, to read one last blog post.

A Forceful Removal

I realize that this is going to sound a little counter-intuitive and a little counter-productive, but it is absolutely paramount that you find some time during your online journeys to step away from your computer. (Make sure you read Beyond the Rhetoric before you do.) Dot com moguls still need the real world and you need to disconnect once in a while. Get out there and live your life. I was completely without Internet access while in Beijing last year and it was one of the most surreal (and freeing) experiences I have had in some time.

Don’t quit the Internet, but don’t neglect real life either.