While watching to a nonsensical video, I realized I had fallen into a trap all too familiar to many people. Lost hours spent in mind-numbing, often aimless and time-consuming web surfing and game playing. The Internet has changed us all in one way or another. Some have wisely conquered its use, while others have gradually been sucked in. How do we let it happen and how do we stop it?
Relationships are built on engaging with each other and God, not by reading blurbs on a computer or phone screen.
Things have changed dramatically over the last 22 years. In 1995 when the Internet was really beginning to take off it was an experience like no other. It was like a living encyclopedia. You could read interesting articles and view wonderful places. You could visit topic-specific chat boards, sell your old socks on eBay with the click of a few keys, and social media sites like MySpace were springing up. I remember hearing of people who had visited every single site on the Web. Not possible today.
I joined Facebook nine years ago. Although I was late to the party, I soon became as hooked as everyone else. At first I checked the postings Monday through Friday and skipped the computer on weekends. I started playing a few games and then soon I was checking Facebook updates multiple times a day and on weekends.
Various websites kept us busy enough, but then the Internet moved to our phones. Social media, movies, TV and games could now be accessed anytime and anywhere. We could tweet, post, snap and watch to our heart's content. And we forgot how to deal with boredom—how to take time to dwell on our thoughts.
Too much of a good thing
Today we collect “friends” and find popularity in the amount of “likes” we receive. We are easily caught up in all the entertainment and drama that unfolds; tidbits of people’s experiences good and bad. Games are more sophisticated, and more people play—some even pay to play with real money for virtual purchases. It becomes intoxicating to compete with other people and read about their lives from wherever we are. It’s a win if we use it well, but we lose when we take it too far.
Things that really engage us, playing games, reading memes, or watching cute videos in lieu of all else leaves, us with dull senses. If our time is consumed with it, the Internet can easily become too valuable to us. Where does our heart lie? (Matthew 6:21). I’m not saying the Internet is evil. I am saying that we can make it that way.
A Microsoft study found this digital lifestyle has made it difficult for us to stay focused, with the human attention span shortening from 12 seconds to eight seconds. “77 percent of people aged 18 to 24 responded 'yes' when asked, 'When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone' ("You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish," Kevin McSpadden, Time, May 13, 2015).
We all joke about it. The dinner where everyone is looking at their phone or the text-speak people use when talking. We take photos of facial expressions rather than talk to someone in person. Our lives are filled with photos, videos and emojis. It’s an epidemic, and only we can take control.
According to Psychguides.com these are the symptoms of online addiction:
• Feelings of guilt
• Euphoric feelings when in front of the computer
• Inability to keep schedules
• No sense of time
• Avoiding doing work
These can manifest into physical symptoms as well:
• Weight gain or loss
• Disturbances in sleep
• Carpal tunnel syndrome
• Blurred or strained vision
“It can also lead to bankruptcy, especially if the time spent online is focused on shopping, gambling and gaming.” According to Oberlin College of Computer Science, addiction can also cause social withdrawal, feeling more at ease interacting with people online rather than in person ("Computer/Internet Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects").
We are often told to “stay connected,” but the healthiest and most refreshing thing for our minds is to disconnect occasionally. Try setting time limits for games and social media. Turn it off. Remember there were generations of people who were without it and lived. Refocus on something else that needs to be done or spend some face-to-face time with others. Take a walk, go camping, or visit a museum. While doing so, make it a priority to only use your phone for emergencies.
The Internet is very beneficial when used properly. Remember your computer is a tool. Read the Bible, look at news reports, research, or read articles of relevance to your life. Relationships are built on engaging with each other and God, not by reading blurbs on a computer or phone screen. Play the game, read the posts, but then move on. Fill your mind with the wisdom God offers, not just the joke of the day (Colossians 3:2).