There is a disturbing epidemic sweeping across America. Teachers are noticing its effect on children’s attention spans. Children are noticing its effect on parents’ commitment to family time. And we are noticing its effect on our memory and overall quality of life. We, as a human race, are addicted to the Internet.
Sure, this is nothing new, but the latest statistics will shock you. One recent study found that Americans are particularly addicted to email, reportedly using it for six hours per day on average. This Internet time excludes time spent on social media, online shopping, or any other online activity. It’s solely time spent meandering through our jam-packed inboxes.
According to Nicholas Carr, the author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention. We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”
But herein lies the catch-22: No matter how much Internet we consume, it will never be enough. The brain’s craving for novelty never weakens. In fact, the more we use the Internet, the more our need for constant stimulation intensifies. It’s a phenomenon called “a compulsion loop” and, like lab rats and drug addicts, it means we need more and more stimulation to get the same effect.
In light of the holiday season that is upon us, we challenge you to admit your addiction,and to try to stay offline for at least one full day this winter break. If your work schedule will allow it, try to unplug for a full week. Do something with your family, like painting, cooking, or playing a game, that doesn’t require any bandwidth.
At first your attention span will seem dismal. But by the end of your Internet detox, you will have a renewed sense of calm, focus, and preparedness for the New Year. And your family will undoubtedly be a lot happier.
So, here I go. My name is Genevieve and I’m an Internet addict. Now it’s your turn.
For a startlingly accurate portrayal of one man’s Internet detox, visit The New York Times.
Stay off the screens and connected to family with these old-school games.
Will you take the Internet detox challenge with us this holiday season? Share your thoughts about our Internet addiction and the need to unplug in the comments.