Help! I’m Addicted to Technology!
Many simplistic websites tell you that you can stop internet addiction by doing something simple like setting a kitchen timer before you go on the internet, or resolving to spend more time with friends. That might work if your only problem is a little overuse of technology. But for true dependence on technology, that’s like telling an alcoholic that all they have to do is stop after two drinks when they get slightly buzzed like normal people.
If you are a true technology addict, the abuse of technology has become both a coping mechanism and a source of your problems. Feeling nervous or bored when at a social gathering? Whip out your smartphone. Annoyed at your partner or stressed from work? Escape into a computer game. Not sure what to do with your life? Obsessively over-research new career paths, while not taking enough steps to make any of them happen. Don’t know how to approach attractive people for dates? Follow them on Instagram instead. Upset about what’s happening in the world? Go on Facebook, Reddit or other social media and rant about what’s happening, and engage in heated arguments. Feeling lonely? Go into chat rooms and engage in sexual fantasies. Have a crowded, disorganized apartment? Go research online which things to buy, thinking they will solve your problems.
Eventually, all your time spent online means that you have poorer social skills, less ability to deal with stress and don’t have time to pursue your goals. In extreme cases, this means that all your time sitting at a computer has resulted in weight gain, poor health, bad hygiene, a messy house, and loss of relationships with family and friends.
An outsider might wonder why you spend all your time in the technology world, if it is causing you problems. It’s not just a source of comfort and distraction. Playing a computer game has basic rules about how things work, and a predictable strategy. If you play it right, and are persistant, you get further in the game. The real world is uncertain. There’s not a predictable strategy that is guaranteed to get you the job you want, the partner you want, the body you want. Persistance in a game gets you ahead.
Suppose you or a family member is diagnosed with an illness. It’s possible to research and find out all the major web sites that discuss it, and follow all the posts on a website that discusses it. You try to make that make up for the uncertainty that the illness causes, that even if you take medicine as prescribed, do what a therapist advises, and eat what a nutritionist advises, the illness might not be cured.
If you don’t have a place you feel you belong in the real world, being online can allow you to present only a certain side of yourself, and go to places where those traits are celebrated. But you see other people’s idealized images too, and feel bad that the side of yourself that you are hiding doesn’t measure up. Everyone sucks in their stomach in pictures, and doesn’t take pictures on days when their acne is acting up or the dark circles under their eyes are worse.
How the ITAA Program Helps Internet and Tech Addiction:
ITAA uses the 12 steps, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, which is used in many other programs for problems like overeating, gambling, spending, and sex. This is a proven way to look deeply at the problems that your addiction has caused you in the past, and to repair the problems of the past.
Although the 12 steps refer to a Higher Power, which many people choose to call God, you are not required to pick a particular form of Higher Power. You can make your higher power be the ITAA group, or the collective wisdom of the 12 step programs. One of our long-term members who has achieved substantial periods of abstinence from tech addiction is an atheist. The important part of recognizing a Higher Power is knowing that your own efforts to control your technology use in the past have failed.
Attending meetings help you know that you are not alone, and that there are other people who have the same struggles as you are. Hearing other people talk reminds you of why certain types of technology use were a problem for you, so that you don’t decide to go back to the problem activities. When other people talk about what they did to recover from technology overuse, you get the willingness to disable/delete apps on your phone or switch to a flip phone, delete your computer games, shutdown your computer overnight, ordisconnect your internet modem on the weekend.
In the ITAA program, you develop a list of technology activities or excessive technology use that almost always cause problems for you. Some things that often appear on people’s lists are staying up all night on the computer, visiting certain websites that have no productive value, or ignoring other people for extended periods of time in favor of technology use.
Members might also develop a list of technology activities or limits on technology activites that are safe or helpful, or a list of activities that are okay to do sometimes, but have occasionally led into tech binges.
We have two paradigms for describing these. One is to call the clearly problematic activites that you don’t want to do your “bottom lines”, and the clearly safe activities or restrictions your “top lines. The other paradigm is to describe them similar to the colors of a traffic light: the problematic activities are “red circle” activities, activities that are sometimes safe but sometimes problematic are “yellow circle” activities, and activities that are generally okay are your “green circle” activities.
Even once you have come up with these problem activities, it can be hard to stick to them. If you are a real technology addict, you probably have had many periods when you tried to set boundaries, only to relapse on what you resolved. Disabling blockers, using technology after the times you said you would, watching hours of videos when you said it would be just one…
Blockers, Restrictions, and Parental Controls to help Internet & Tech Addiction
On any Windows, Mac, or Linux system, you can edit your hosts file to block individual sites by redirecting them to a different IP address.
On Windows, Cold Turkey will block websites across multiple browsers.
Chrome browser has plugins such as StayFocusd, and BlockSite,