The Green Computer: Internet Addiction
This week on The Green Computer, we’ll be exposing the dark side of the web: Internet addiction. Sure, the internet is a wonderful tool for sharing information and bringing the world together. But, for certain personality types, it can be very habit forming. Some people get hooked on a particular type of Internet use (shopping, gambling, pornography, games, social networking), while others seem to get their rush simply from being online and “surfing the net.”
Since the phenomenon is quite new, the psychiatric community is still debating how to classify the problem. Some prefer alternate terms, such as “disorder,” “compulsion,” or “overuse.” I’m no doctor, though, so I’ll just use the common term “addiction” for purposes of this article.
When does internet use go beyond “normal” and become a problem? Again, I am not a doctor, but I would say the problem begins when the Internet interferes with your health, job, relationships, or everyday responsibilities. For example, I know people who have lost their jobs because of excessive (or inappropriate!) Internet use at the office. I personally have been (occasionally?) guilty of neglecting my chores because I was chatting with a friend or shopping around for the best price on a computer (more about that next week).
What makes internet addiction a “green” issue? First and foremost, here at The Green Computer, we want your time in front of the screen to be a non-toxic experience–if you’re crawling into bed at 4am, drained from a marathon online poker game, that’s not my definition of green! Second and most obviously, excessive time online is a waste of electricity. Turn off the computer and go outside!!!
So, let’s assume you don’t have a life, career, or marriage-threatening addiction (if you do: please please please get some professional help!), but you would like to become more conscientious and responsible about your Internet usage. The single best tool I know of for this purpose is a Firefox plugin called PageAddict. It will monitor your usage, site-by-site, and create a detailed report. For example, since I logged in today, I’ve spent 20 minutes working on this article, 5 minutes researching it, 3 minutes on email, and 6 minutes wasting time reading about last night’s baseball game! PageAddict allows you to sort websites by category or even to limit your usage to a certain number of minutes/hours per day. You might find yourself saying, “I knew I spent a lot of time on Facebook, but I never imagined it was 17 hours a week!”
That’s it for this edition of The Green Computer. Please surf responsibly, and remember, there’s a real world out there, too! Get out of the house, spend time with your friends and family, and remember to smell the roses.
Matthew Edward Liston is a writer, editor, musician, and green computing consultant located in the rural hill towns of New York. You may contact him through the comment field below or at www.matthewliston.com.