Technology today makes it easy to connect — but online activity in such areas as social media, cybersex, online shopping and online gambling can lead to unhealthy amounts of time spent online and even addiction. It is important you learn how to disconnect.

Internet addiction

Internet addiction is one of the fastest growing addictions across the world and Singapore is no exception. It is estimated that Singaporeans spend over 6 hours online each day and with the development of smart phones and mobile data we are able to be online everywhere we go. However, despite the potential to develop into a serious addiction few people actually recognise themselves as having a problem with the internet. This could be because being connected has become such an integral part of our daily lives, where work, socialising and even shopping or ordering food can be done online. Increasingly the internet can also fuel other addictions such as sex, gambling or online gaming addictions. As we look around at our colleagues, friends and peers it is likely that their internet usage matches ours, making it even harder to recognise an internet addiction.

Whether or not your time online is the beginning of an addiction or simply a conformation to the norms of modern society it is important to take some down time, off the internet sometimes. Spending a few hours, or even days offline and away from laptops and smartphones is increasingly important for mental wellbeing and should be practiced regularly in daily life.

Six ways to reduce your time on the internet

Whether you are tackling an internet addiction or simply feel like you want some time away from technology, there are some extremely useful ways to unplug. By first identifying what essential uses the internet has in your life (for example, keeping in contact with your kids, or for work) you can then apply the following six tips to non-essential internet usage in order to reduce your online time.

Out of sight, out of mind

One of the easiest ways to reduce your internet usage is to make it difficult to access the internet. Internet addictions are fuelled by impulses to check emails, google something or send a message to a friend. Often we react to the impulse but do not realise what we are doing for the first few seconds. By making it harder to react and get online it often gives us the chance to acknowledge what we are doing and stop the impulse. Simple things like switching your laptop or smartphone off and putting it in a drawer or a bag will make it harder to react to impulses. After all do you really want to check your emails or browse Amazon if it will take you 5 minutes to load up your computer? Probably not.

Notice the triggers

Addictions have psychological factors that cause or trigger us to use or act in a certain way. Being aware of the motivation behind the addiction and the triggers that cause it is a very important step to overcoming the problem. For example, do you spend hours on social media or engage in online cybersex because you feel lonely, are you shopping online because it feels like a reward? While most treatment centres just focus on stopping the addiction the most successful way in overcoming an addiction long term is by treating the underlying triggers. The Cabin Singapore recognises internet addiction as a form of process addiction and has developed a highly successful programme that deals with the triggers to enable patients to continue to use the internet in a healthy manner.

Tell your friends

If you feel like you might spend too much time online or have an internet addiction, mention it to your friends or partner. They can help you by noticing the triggers or impulses faster than you can yourself. If you reach for your phone during dinner, a friend can nicely ask you to put it away, or if you usually spend all weekend gaming then maybe they can arrange a day trip or activity to get you unplugged. Your friends will also be more inclined to call, rather than instant message you in an attempt to help you get offline. You do not have to tell everyone about your problems but confiding in one or two of your close friends can be a great support in overcoming your addiction.

Go back to basics

If you are spending most of your time on your smartphone or tablet then downgrading the technology you use is a great way to reduce online hours. Buying a simple mobile phone that does not have internet capabilities allows you to stay connected without all the added distractions. If you use a laptop then create a place in your apartment where it sits and only use it there. By not bringing it into the bedroom or living room it cuts down access to the internet and can help you recognise how long you have been online by the amount of time you are in one place.

Use technology

As increasing internet usage is occurring everywhere, there are lots of apps being developed to control time spent online and productivity. Most are being developed for smartphones and include blocking websites at certain times of day, setting a daily limit for sites and tracking what sites are most commonly visited. Moment is a good app to track exactly how you use the internet and to set limits.

Reward yourself

It is important to do something that you enjoy during the time you usually spend on the internet to create a positive association with being offline. Start a hobby you have been wanting to do but have had no time for, or create an exercise routine to get in better health. During the first few weeks of cutting back internet usage reward yourself with something nice, like a massage or going for a nice dinner, having a goal will help you stay on track.

In this modern age of technology the internet is everywhere and it is addictive. It is important to be aware that online businesses and companies hire psychologists and marketers to make their websites appealing, to keep customers engaged and keep them checking back on the sites. One example is Facebook, where notifications, messages and suggestions keep people checking the website all day. If you are concerned about your internet usage, or just feel like you want more time offline then hopefully these tips will be useful to reduce your time spent online.  For a clinical diagnosis of internet addiction, feel free to contact us.