Is there such a thing as internet addiction?

It is not rare to hear people relish of how the internet is the best thing that has happened to mankind. And often you cannot help but nod in agreement because, as it turns out, the internet surely carries a big bag of countless benefits.
True a lot of people today are internet beneficiaries. However at some point, often without even realising it, the boot could cross to the other foot and you find yourself an internet victim.
Blessing turns into curse
Joel Mwanja, a website developer at Kola studios and software engineering student at Makerere University admits, with a whiff of discomfort, that he is an internet addict. He is however quick and proud to point out that he is on the road to recovery.
“I was always online. I used to spend more than 11 hours a day surfing. My phone was like an extension of me. A day without it would be a dark and long one. For me it was mainly social media. I was on a number of social media sites Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. I also used other chat applications like Kik, Snapchat and Cyberdust,” Mwanja explains.
First it was family that raised red flags pointing out to Mwanja that he was using his phone a little too much. Close friends soon followed with the same song and this time in a rather direct way they called him an addict.
Sheilla Atukei, one of Mwanja’s bosom friends shares of how at one point she feared she would lose her good friend to the internet.
“It was like his whole life was wrapped around his phone and laptop. There came a point when he even had no time for us his real-life friends. The only sure way of reaching him was through social media or a phone call, not in person. He would even WhatsApp on boda-bodas. And hard as we tried we would never convince him that he had a problem!” Atukei reminisces.
It was however after receiving a warning letter at his work place as a result of persistently showing up late for work that he actually woke up. Suddenly he broke off the wave of denial and took what is usually the first step to solving any problem—accepting that you actually have a problem.

When to start worrying about an internet addiction

It was however after receiving a warning letter at his work place as a result of persistently showing up late for work that he actually woke up. Suddenly he broke off the wave of denial and took what is usually the first step to solving any problem—accepting that you actually have a problem.
“I had started turning up late at work just because I stayed up late chatting with a couple of friends usually on Whatsapp or Facebook. I also realised I had started falling behind schedule in as far as work-related assignments were concerned. I was spending more time on a computer not developing websites as my work demands but reading stray blogs and chatting. That is when I knew I needed help,” Mwanja narrates.
He is now getting help. He did not seek professional services from a therapist as that comes with cost implications. But also, according to him it is only a matter of one getting determined to make a few adjustments and exercising loyalty to self by upholding the changes they set out to make in their lives, so he saw no need of professional help.
“Nowadays I have a policy of not spending more than an hour a day on internet. It is a rule. Of course it is hard. Sometimes I fail. But in order to ensure this I have forced myself never to load more than 25Mbs a day. And it is working. Friends have also been really helpful by appreciating my strides. Some even offer to take me out just so they can keep me busy and out of the world in my phone. I am happy with the development.” Mwanja shares, a smile playing on his face.
Collin Erima, a life coach at iCare in Lubowa asserts that today internet addiction is the commonest disorder that many people have decided to ignore because they never consider it a problem.
What people fail to understand is that excessive use of the internet is actually a very serious form of addiction that could impact so negatively on one’s life.
Erima says some people could spend numerous hours on the internet without necessarily passing for addicts, perhaps because the internet use is a big requirement in their line of duty.
Reasons to worry
When you find yourself bearing most of these signs then you pass as an internet addict, and there is nothing to smile about really because according to Erima, the implications could knock your life off rail.
“We have seen students fail in class as a result of the internet. But even the working folk are affected. You find someone working late in the night to complete work assignments and hence denying themselves sleep because they could not complete such assignments during the required time, they were taken up surfing. This limits your efficiency. Then people wonder why they have failed to get a promotion at work!” Erima explains.
One’s social balance could also be affected. Someone who is so taken up with the internet may not have time for the important people in their lives. Obviously a spouse may feel cut out and less appreciated in your life if you spend more time with your phone or laptop than you do with them. And this may ignite the frustration that could soon give way to constant fights that kill a relationship.
Worse still, the internet comes with financial implications. And when it becomes a big part of you then you will have to pinch your pocket some more in order to meet the costs of browsing time.
But there is a way out
John Bwire, an expert in Information technology and lecturer at Uganda Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Nakawa believes that in as much as internet addiction is a serious disorder, overcoming it is not exactly an up-hill task.
“There are no technicalities in this. It simply comes down to getting organised. Once you identify the problem then come up with clear guidelines of how you are going to fit your internet use into your life. Make it a point not to mix your internet use with your working hours,” Bwire aises.
Erima cautions that the initial stages of getting past such addiction are always hard, but this should not deter you.
“If you have really tried but still find yourself failing, take some serious measures. Start by using a phone that is not internet enabled. Do this for a week or two, in that you do not spend the day with your Smart phone but only use it perhaps in the evening after work.
“You may in fact be surprised that you love your life better when you are not stuck on your phone incessantly chatting on-line,” Erima shares.
He follows the same verbal stride to point out that it is also important to get involved in other activities that could occupy you. When you get some free time, try out something else like playing a board game. Perhaps go out with friends.
“It is important to have your friends on board. Let them know about your struggle and ask them to play a part too. You could tell them not to reply any message you send them during the time you had set out not to use the internet. That way they bring you a constant reminder of your personal commitment, they keep you in line,” he concludes.

Signs you are addicted to the internet

There are some red flags that could signal when you are crossing from the usual internet user to an addict.
Isolation from family and real-life friends
If you find yourself cutting out family and friends because you are busy flipping through web pages, then perhaps you have a problem. Some people end up paying more attention to their on-line friends than the ones they have in real life. Suddenly you start feeling like Tinah, a Facebook friend understands you better than your best friend in real life or even your spouse!
Losing track of time while using the internet
Do you sit in front of your computer to surf when the world outside still holds the light of day, only to push away the curtain moments later and shockingly it is at the fall of dusk? Well, if you are constantly finding yourself using the internet longer than you had intended then all is not well.

Feeling really down when you cannot access internet
Usually when you have important work to finish up on-line and yet for some reason you cannot access internet, one is likely to get irritated. But if for no important reason at all you start cursing and hating your day just because power is off and you cannot charge your gadget to start surfing, then you may pass for an addict.

Nursing a sense of guilt about your internet use
Are you the kind who use the internet at work outside the accepted time only to fumble closing pages on noticing that the boss is approaching?
At some point you even get defensive, aising everyone who raises eye brows at your excessive internet use that they had better paddle their own canoe.


Internet addiction was first identified in the US by Dr Kimberly Young. In 1996, she presented the first study on the topic at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference held in Toronto entitled, “Internet Addiction: The Emergence of a New Disorder”. Since then, studies have documented internet addiction in Australia, Italy, Pakistan, Iran, Germany, and the Czech Republic. It is a serious epidemic in China, Korea, and Taiwan.
In Uganda, very little research has been done on internet addiction.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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