I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough!: The evolving world of digital detoxes and Internet addiction

digital detox signThe space between our online and offline lives is vanishing. We instant message or video chat instead of meeting up in person. We fire up our iPads or Kindles instead of turning pages of an actual book. Our phones are an appendage. We simply cannot help ourselves: If the digital solution is there, we should use it … right?

Maybe not. The surplus of tech in our lives comes with consequences. The uncontrollable tendency to check email, post Facebook updates, tweet random thoughts, and slap filters on snapshots of trees and our feet can turn from hobby to obsession – or even addiction.

This over-reliance is exactly what digital detox camps hope to alleviate, if not completely rectify. A digital detox camp is exactly what it sounds like; think of it as summer camp for adults, only the main purpose is for you to enter with an open mind and empty, gadget-less pockets. Leave all your button mashing, social media obsessions, and technological dependencies at the door.

But while there’s no denying that everyone deserves to take a break from our hyper-connected, digital world, the question is, are these camps really the best way to do it?

Defining digital addiction and recovery

Before we discuss the merits of digital detox camps, it’s important to talk about the differences between abusing the Internet and digital world and being addicted to it.

“Internet addiction is basically the obsessive or compulsive use of the Internet or other digital media devices – like an iPhone or a smartphone – in a way that creates some negative or deleterious impact in your life,” explains Dr. David Greenfield, PhD, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction (CITA) and renowned expert on Internet and cyber psychology. In order for your Internet and technology user to be considered a legitimate compulsion, it needs to have a debilitating effect on one or more of the major spheres – home life, school or work life, finances, legal status, or health and medical issues. If it doesn’t affect any of those areas in a major and harmful way, according to Greenfield, you’re probably not an addict, but like many people, you may meet the criteria for Internet abuse, which simply is an overuse of technology but not to an extent that it creates a problem in your lives. (And something most of us should probably cop to.)

Each person has a different brain chemistry – that’s why it’s harder for certain people to unplug and easier for others.

In order to meet the criteria for Internet addiction, you spend an excessive amount of time online, leaving you with almost no time for other facets in your life thereby creating a major imbalance. “You may see changes in your physical health. Increases in obesity, sedentary behavior, social isolation, or depression. A decrease in work or school performance. Irritability, mood changes, changes in the way a person relates interpersonally or socially, and more importantly, changes in primary relationships,” says Greenfield.

CITA acknowledges that today, it’s difficult to live without the Internet and that complete abstinence is futile. With that in mind, the center primarily treats virtual addiction by re-training the brain to perceive and use technology in a different way. They also encourage the use of filtering or blocking software that can modulate a person’s online movement. “We have found that if we can get a 5 to 10-second lag between the time that they want ‘the hit’ on the Internet or on the device and the actual ability to get it, the frontal lobes of the brain can kick in and they can actually use better judgment,” Greenfield says.

According to Gemini Adams, an award-winning author and illustrator of the recently released The Facebook Diet: 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Digital Detox (The Unplug Series), our biochemistry is to blame. “Research shows that when the brain receives a new piece of information, the part of the brain that relates to pleasure releases a burst of the neurotransmitter Dopamine,” she says. “Activities that increase the level of Dopamine in the brain are addictive because they generate a feeling of enjoyment.” However, each person has a different brain chemistry – that’s why it’s harder for certain people to unplug and easier for others. “It’s also why conditions such as Facebook Addiction Disorder (F.A.D). Digital Distress Syndrome (D.D.S) and Internet Addiction Disorder (I.A.D) are increasingly becoming recognized as serious conditions that need to be treated by the health and medical communities in certain countries,” says Adams.

web addictionGreenfield’s two-day and five-day intensive outpatient programs for patients suffering from Internet, gaming, pornography, social media, and personal device addictions not only involve assessment and identification of addictive behaviors and patterns of use and abuse – it also includes providing a better understanding of psycho-neurological patterns of addiction and how to work with them to create a change, development of a relapse prevention plan, and a real-time life plan to “plug back into life.” The intensive program entails about 20 hours of personalized therapy and strategies that usually take months to accomplish. Follow-up sessions are recommended and may be conducted in person, Skype, or by phone. He also offers Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), a cutting edge technology that uses light, sound, and vibration to create a movement in our brain patterns. EMDR was originally developed by American psychologist Francine Shapiro, PhD, which has been used successfully in curbing anxiety as well as other mental health and addiction disorders.

Internet and digital addictions are an emerging issue that we’re still learning how to treat – so what’s the difference between the recovery plan described over and a digital detox program?

Movies & TV

HBO’s Deadwood movie rustles up a trailer and a release date

This spring, HBO's long-awaited Deadwood movie will explore what happened 10 years after the events of HBO's award-winning drama, giving the series a finale 13 years after the show was canceled.
Gaming

Master Shinobi combat with our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice beginner's guide

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is one of the hardest games of the generation, and it can be overwhelming, even for those who have played From Software's other games. Here is what you need to know to get started.
Mobile

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Computing

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Social Media

Yep, it’s not just you. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are down for many

Facebook's family of apps has been suffering issues for much of the day. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook itself have been out of action for users around the world, with the company scrambling to sort it out.
Social Media

Facebook may soon let you watch live TV with friends in Watch Party

Facebook Watch Party is designed to allow friends to watch together, even when they can't be in the same physical space. Now, that feature could be expanding to include live TV. Facebook announced a test of the feature, starting with live…
Social Media

Federal investigation digs into Facebook’s data-sharing deals

Facebook confirmed it is cooperating with a federal criminal investigation. According to a report, the company is under investigation for sharing user data with smartphone and tablet companies.
Social Media

Facebook explains its worst outage as 3 million users head to Telegram

Facebook, if you didn't already know it, suffered a bit of an issue on Wednesday, March 13. An issue that took down not only its social networking site, but also Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. On Thursday it offered an explanation.
Gaming

Snapchat could soon let you play games in between your selfies

If a new report is accurate, Snapchat will be getting an integrated gaming platform in April. The platform will feature mobile games form third-party developers, and one publisher is already signed on.
Social Media

Twitter is testing a handy subscription feature for following threads

Twitter has recently started testing a feature that lets you subscribe to a thread so that you’ll no longer need to like a comment or post to it yourself in order to receive notifications of new contributions.
Social Media

Your Google+ public content will remain viewable on the web, if you want it to

Google's failed social network — Google+ — will soon be wiped from the internet, but there's a team of volunteers working right now to save its public content for the Internet Archive.
Computing

There’s more space on MySpace after ‘accidental’ wipe of 50 million songs

MySpace is no longer a safe refuge for music and media produced in the 2000s. It said that almost any artistic content uploaded to the site between 2003 and 2015 may have been lost as part of a server migration last year.
Computing

Intel and Facebook team up to give Cooper Lake an artificial intelligence boost

Intel's upcoming Cooper Lake microarchitecture will be getting a boost when it comes to artificial intelligence processes, thanks to a partnership with Facebook. The results are CPUs that are able to work faster.
Social Media

New Zealand attack shows that as A.I. filters get smarter, so do violators

The shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand were livestreamed to social media, and while stats show networks are improving at removing offending videos, as the system improves, so do the violators' workarounds.
1 of 2