You might scoff at the idea. Being addicted to the Internet? That’s not a thing. That’s like telling your loved one he or she is a workaholic, just because you miss them, right? It’s just another tiresome example of a generational gap difference.
“Would it kill you to put down your phone for a minute to talk your dear old dad?”
“When I was a kid… yada yada yada.” Right?
Well, NO. Sacrificing quality human interaction for work is a problem for many and the same is true for spending too much time browsing the web. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is real, it’s here, and it’s growing at an alarming rate. It’s prevalent in our young people. 1-in-4 children are addicted to the Internet. Children. They really shouldn’t be addicts of anything.
In today’s wired world, a restaurant providing free WiFi is as or more important to some, than the quality of service or food. Internet obsessed patrons do not notice the actual rat scurrying out from the kitchen because they’re glued to a digital device streaming the movie, Ratatouille.
Just take a look around at younger folks in your favorite eatery next time you’re dining out (they won’t notice). First course of action isn’t perusing the menu for tasty offerings. It’s pulling out the smart phone and plugging into cyberspace. Why? They may have missed a few virtual “likes” on the filtered photo they posted just before that annoying 5-minute walk from the car to the entrance. Damn actual time and space, forcing us to monitor our own steps.
So, OK. It’s a little annoying for a server forced to revisit the table several times due to Internet obsessed diners. But what are the real issues with our children, teens, and young adults craving constant connection? Well actually, there are several.
But let’s look at two important, yet suffering, issues to start: relationships and sleep.
In Japan, it is said that some 500,000 teenagers are addicted to the Internet. It has recently been added to the DSM-5, with a request for additional research. Psychologists can already point to direct negative affects.
Nomura Kazataka, a therapist working in one a Yokohama cyber detox clinic, described how internet addiction can impact lives. ‘In the worst cases, kids drop out of school and are not able to catch up with school curriculum.’
Many experts also attribute social anxiety issues to Internet compulsion. Kids just aren’t connecting face-to-face as much. This of course, can lead to a poor social life and unhealthy relationships with friends and family members.
In fact, the problem is so ubiquitous in Japan that online detox retreat centers are popping up all over the island nation. One such program is the Kushunada Co. which offers a “digital detox” vacation package in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture (Japan).
“We want our travelers to experience something that is not part of their usual routine. By turning off their mobile phones, we want people to appreciate the moment and realize things which are often ignored when our digital devices are there,” said Mirei Eguchi, the organization’s Chief Executive Officer.
Here at home – and in Europe – the trend is catching on, with digital detox retreats such as Camp Grounded in the woods of northern California and programs at resorts, such as the Westin Dublin Hotel in Ireland have been drawing crowds for “unplugged” holidays.
The concept isn’t purely that these devices are bad for us, but like anything else… best in moderation.
“It is not that we want people to totally abandon going digital but rather, we want them to realize how important items such as mobile phones are in our lives and have a healthy relationship with these electronic devices,” Eguchi, 31, said.
The potential physical affects on one’s health can be detrimental as well. Not getting the proper rest leads to sleep deprivation and additional stress.
“Even on weekends, when you are meant to be resting, if you are connected online you are not really resting,” he says. “People need to take time away from their digital gadgets, disconnect, then you can nurture imagination and encourage face to face communication, said Yoneda Tomohiko, who has written a book on his battle with Internet Addiction.”
So maybe the next time someone from an older generation takes issue with you being on your phone at the family holiday party, you shouldn’t respond with a roll of the eyes. Maybe they just want you to unplug and listen.
It might just be healthy for you both.