Internet addiction is real. It is said to be more pervasive than alcoholism in the United States, and debate is raging over whether it should be officially classified as a mental illness.
Iconic Displays compiled a report which found that 60% of people can’t go without WiFi access for more than a day, and 75% said a week without Wifi would leave them grumpier than a week without coffee.
Even places that were formerly Internet-free, like airplane flights, are now hooked up with WiFi.
Widespread connectivity has revolutionized the way people communicate, stay organized, consume news and media, and has tremendously opened up opportunities for business and education.
However there is a dark side to this story.
Internet addiction is formally known as Internet Use Disorder (IUD). It has many of the hallmarks of other addictions, like drinking, smoking and gambling. The afflicted compulsively engage in certain behaviors, without being able to control their impulses, and in a way that is destructive to other areas of their life.
Symptoms include losing track of time and spending hours and hours online, difficulty completing tasks at work and at home, isolation from family and friends, feeling guilt or defense about Internet use, while also a sense of euphoria while involved.
The most common forms are cybersex addition; cyber-relationship addiction; compulsions with online gambling, stock training, and auction sites; information overload; and games.
Related: Pleasure-seekers are more likely to be active on Facebook
Furthermore, social media sites can trigger feelings of envy, misery, and loneliness. Two German universities recently found that one in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook. While the Internet ostensibly brings people closer together, the quality of those interactions often go down.
And let’s not forget about the physical toll internet addiction can have.
Personal posture trainer” startup LumoBack conducted a study that examined “Silicon Valley Syndrome,” the physical and mental health symptoms that arise from spending WAY too much time sitting in front of a computer screen. 60 percent of participants reported that they have experienced adverse health effects as a result of technology.
We may judge people who we see smoking a cigarette or feel pity for someone who threw thousands of dollars away on online poker, or stayed awake for 48 hours straight playing a game.
But next time you refresh Facebook five times in an hour or keep your phone out on a restaurant table, remember that, as with other addictions, you think you have control. Until you don’t.
Infographic by Iconic Displays