It is not unusual to be out in public today and see a lot of people walking or sitting down while looking at their phones. While ten years ago, seeing so many people wandering around with their eyes glued to their phones would be unheard of, today it is considered normal to see this in the public setting. I remember sitting at a restaurant with my husband and children one New Years Eve night, and while we were enjoying each other’s company, a middle aged couple sitting behind us sat during their entire meal without saying a word to one another. The silence between these two lasted so long that we even began to notice. We looked over to see the cause of lack of communication between this couple and noticed right away that both were staring at their phones rather than taking time to enjoy one another’s company. We sat in front of this couple for at least thirty minutes to an hour, and neither person put down their phones the whole time.
The internet is indeed a fascinating invention that allows information to be shared from all over the world. One can find out anything about everything with just a few clicks, something unheard of when I was a child. Now, even a toddler can navigate the internet with ease. With the invention of smart phones, people can carry a computer in their pockets everywhere they go, which can be cause for concern because the more access that a person has to the internet, the more tempted they may become to be addicted to browsing the Web.
My husband and I do have computers and an Ipad in our home, where we have access to the internet, however we try to manage our time on the internet so that it does not interfere with our daily lives and relationships with others. When we are out of the house, thankfully, we choose to not access the internet, which keeps us from using time set aside to spend with one another to browse the Web.
According to a study discussed by the New York Times, the average person checks their phone 157 times per day. This number includes texting, checking emails and logging onto social media. Of course, this is the average, so that means that there are people out there who use their phones to access the internet less than 157 times a day, and more than 157 times a day. This article also mentions a study that the University of Maryland did recently where they had participants go without access to their smart phones for 24 hours. The study showed that most participants felt “distressed” during the time that they were not able to check their phones.
I love technology, and I think the internet is a wonderful tool when used in the correct manner. Using the internet to spread the Gospel is wonderful, as well as sharing other important information with others, such as family news, church news, etc. I also think that using the internet for recreational purposes is fine, however, this form of internet use can be a problem when it is overused to the point that one’s spiritual well-being is neglected. When using the internet begins to interfere with daily life and relationships with others, however, then this practice becomes a problem. There is a condition that exists known as “Internet Addiction,” and there are even centers for recovery for this form of addiction, just as there are centers for recovery for other addictions such as addictions to drugs, gambling, and the like. Addiction of any kind follows the same patterns, and the first step in overcoming any addiction is admitting that a problem exists.
So, what are the symptoms of Internet addiction? There are several questions that a person can ask his or herself when assessing whether or not he or she is addicted to the internet. These questions include:
· Are you overly focused on using the Internet? Do you think about your previous or future online activity?
· Do you feel like you have to be online longer to be satisfied?
· Have you made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to cut back, stop or control your Internet use?
· Do you become moody, restless, irritable or depressed when you stop or decrease your Internet use?
· Is your time spent online longer than what you originally planned?
· Did your online use negatively affect a relationship, education, career or job?
· Do you conceal the extent of your Internet usage from your family or others?
· Does the Internet serve as an escape from problems or relief from a bad mood?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then you may have an issue with browsing the internet more than is healthy. By internet addiction, I am excluding browsing the internet to view pornographic material or participate in gambling. Those are addictions that can be discussed in depth in a separate article. By internet addiction, I am referring to the overuse of the internet to browse the Web, social media, emails, text messages and the like.
Speaking of social media, I have noticed that with the invention of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like, it seems that the volume of internet browsing has gone up. .I know personally of people who do not check their social media accounts much, and then there are those who seem to check their Facebook accounts many times a day. It is important to make sure that we are not too focused on what is going on with “friends” on social media so that we can remember to take time to nurture our relationships with God and others who are physically around us. If we spend hours repeatedly reading what others put on our newsfeed on Facebook, how much of that time could have been spent meditating on God’s Word, growing closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ, or being of service to those in need, just to name a few activities in which we could have been involved.
What does the Bible say about addictions like browsing the internet too much? Ephesians 5:16 states, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” This verse is referring to the fact that Christians should use their time here on the earth to do good and to work to spread God’s Word because there is a lot of evil in the world, and so many temptations to overcome. By spending much time browsing the internet on a computer or a phone, a Christian is not using his or her time in the best way, which is to do good works. Colossians 4:5 also refers to using our time wisely by saying “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” We should all use our time wisely, and choosing to sit idly, browsing the internet for hours is certainly not the best way to spend our lives. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
It is also important to remember than anything that we do or have that takes the place of time that should be spent with the Lord is an idol. Using the Internet to spread the Gospel is a very wise way to spend your time, but using the internet excessively for any other purpose can cause a person to view the internet as an idol before God. We are to put God first in all aspects of our lives. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Mark 12:30 also states “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
So if you feel that you may have an addiction to the internet or perhaps are prone to browsing the Web more than you feel necessary, how can you stop? The first step in overcoming an issue with viewing the internet too much is admitting that you have a problem. The next step is to take measures to reduce your time spent on the internet. One method that has been suggested is to use a timer to go off at a certain time to alert you to shut your computer or phone off. Another method is to take the internet off of a smart phone so that there is no access to the Web at all from a portable device, such as a cell phone. Every person is different so taking time to find the method that works for you will pay off in the end. Patience and self-motivation are essential to overcome any addiction, and overcoming an internet addiction is no exception. Life is so short! Your life will have so much more joy and meaning if you spend less time focused on things that do not matter and more time on what does matter; God and each other!
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).