By Mandy Poole * this article is also featured at mindyourmind.ca on the ‘community’ blog section.

Each day the human body conducts an effortless amount of tasks almost unnoticeably. We awaken, we use the bathroom, we cook ourselves breakfast and we get ready for work or school. Somewhere in the midst of the day we use the bathroom again; we eat again, and so on.

How much of what we do in our lives is unnecessary? How much of our time is spent on the Internet? Are you one of the 500 million active users on Facebook? Are you a part of the fifty percentile that log onto Facebook every day? Check your browser’s history; you might be amazed at how many times you logged on today.

Maybe it’s time to unplug to recharge. Maybe it’s time to get back into the real, touchable, attainable world of human interaction; stepping out of the safe zone provided by World Wide Web.

When we were children, no doubt a number of us spent countless hours outside playing in the sand, riding bicycles, playing sports and hanging out with our friends.

Suddenly it’s a harsh reality that the sun causes skin cancer, 7,500 cyclists suffer serious bicycle related injuries every year, 30 per cent of injuries are sports related, and our friends are online. We’ve been instilled with so much fear and succumbed to so much anxiety that we play our lives out in chat rooms, keep a safe distance from the unknown, and let our latest discoveries become websites that we’ve ‘stumbled upon’.

Holly Slade, a Communications and Cultural Anthropology student at Memorial University said that she spends as much as 50 hours per week on the Internet.

“I use sites and applications such as Facebook and MSN to keep in contact with friends and family. I use Twitter to keep up on current world wide events and news. I take advantage of the library website and online database to access online journals and articles that are required for my courses.”

Using the Internet for school purposes is certainly beneficial and almost necessary.

“(The) Internet can bring one to every coast around the world; it can expose them to cultures and elements that they would otherwise never be exposed to,” said Slade,

“It also provides instant answers to just about any questions that one could possibly think up – It’s a time saver.”

But where do we draw the line? What is an unhealthy, unnecessary amount of Internet usage?

The Stanford University’s School of Medicine conducted a study that identifies some signs of problematic Internet use. Some symptoms include:

Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities
Neglecting friends and family
Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or depressed as a result of online behaviour
Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches and even Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Diana Ali works with mindyourmind.ca, a website geared towards helping youth through tough times. Ali says Internet addiction can start affecting all areas of your life; areas such as work, school, social, financial and so on.

“Like other addictions, there is usually a deeper problem or mental illness underlying the addiction, such as depression and anxiety.”

Ali also went on to say that addictions are forms of escape or maladaptive coping methods. She said it is important that the underlying pathology is addressed when looking at treatment.

“I would recommend seeking help or treatment from a professional, a counsellor, therapist, doctor, addiction treatment centre, etcetera.” said Ali.

The bottom line

Even though Slade believes that a lot of the aspects of the Internet are good, it also disassociates people from actuality.

“(The Internet) provides a way to disconnect from human interaction and gives one a way to form walls and barriers so that they never need to be involved with others, if they choose not to. It gives one quantity, but not quality,” said Slade.

With today’s ever advancing technology, computer pros are finding new ways to lure consumers out of everyday life into online life. Social networking groups like Facebook, myspace and twitter, are constant newsmakers. Whether it’s the latest in privacy settings (or the lack there of), A marriage break up because of a relationship status change, or a battle over which networking site will survive the longest, the Internet will be a talked about phenomenon for years to come.

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