One Bag Nation

Internet Addiction & The Power of Habit

Posted on: August 24, 2008

Like most bloggers I know, I struggle with an addiction to the internet. I call my internet “habit” an addiction because that’s how it feels most of the time; I feel compelled to read and write and before I know it, an hour (or more) has passed. I suppose that if I were making lots of money blogging, internet addiction would be in my job description, but it doesn’t work so well if you’re a working mother with a household to run and a blogging hobby that feels like it’s taking over your life.

The thing is, I’ve been amazed at how little time I’ve spent online during my vacation. My husband brought his laptop and our rental house has easy access, but I’m completely off my usual routines and my internet “cravings” are all but non-existent.

I’ve checked my email a few times, and looked at my blog and peeked at a few others now and again. When the idea for this post came to me, I thought I’d be anxious to sit down and write, but it took a couple of days before I made the time.

I must confess that the weather has been picture-perfect, and in fact was so hot, that sitting in bed working on the laptop was out of the question for the first few nights. What a terrible habit anyway! But once my pattern was broken, I just didn’t feel the need to be online – I’ve actually read an entire book in just a few days! Isn’t that what vacation really should be?

A lot of self-improvement and productivity blogs and books talk about habits: how to break bad ones and how to establish good ones. While flylady preaches to homemakers about establishing housekeeping routines, Leo at zenhabits inspires his readers to empty their inboxes, get their important tasks done, even run a marathon – all thanks to the power of habit.

I’ve learned how powerful habits are when it comes to eating and exercising. Most people groan when I tell them I get up at 5am to exercise, but the truth is, it’s become a habit and it’s not that hard anymore. A few years ago I decided I needed to eat more fruit; it was hard at first, but now making a plate of fruit to serve with meals is automatic.

This experience of suddenly losing my compulsion to be online has been pretty powerful, and raises a lot of questions for me about my quest for self-improvement and how I might harness the power of habit to meet my goals. In general I think it’s harder to stop doing something (smoke, eat too much, surf the net) than it is to add a positive activity (eat more fruit, floss, make your bed); I think that’s part of the reason why dieting is so hard for most of us.

But if it only took two days of staying off the computer for me to (almost) lose my compulsion altogether, what else might I be able to accomplish? I have some ideas about that, which I will share in future posts.

In the meantime, what about you? Have you had this kind of experience with habits and routines? What have you learned or accomplished as a result? Have you found a way to manage your internet “habit” or do you feel it’s out of control?

Please share – I’d love to hear from you!


13 Responses to "Internet Addiction & The Power of Habit"

It’s great to hear from you.

What a thought-provoking post.

I like to think that my internet addiction is under control, because nothing else suffers – the kids, my job, the household – nothing is neglected. But if I’m honest, I’ll admit that there’s one major problem: I don’t get enough sleep.

It’s never a problem for me to avoid the internet during a vacation, but once I’m back home, I’m back to sitting next to my laptop until way too late at night.

You gave me a lot to think about. Thank you!

There’s a lot of truth in that, yes, so it’s not surprising that modern children find themselves spending most of their leisure time in front of screens (computer, TV, hand-held computer games) because it’s gotta be even easier for them to get addicted.

I know I spent far too much time on my laptop.

@Vered I think what gets neglected is my marriage; being glued to the computer at night means less conversation and time to connect when my daughter is asleep. I also use the internet as a way to procrastinate during the day.

@Sharon My daughter is one of the few who isn’t addicted (yet)! But I don’t set a very good example, at least as far as the computer addiction goes.

Glad you had a good holiday, and gained some freedom from the internet! I have the same kind of experience. I find getting away from the computer very hard, i’ll have fights with myself as i browse pages and pages of mildly entertaining yet useless internet pages. I find it equally as difficult to get out of the house when i’m inside, yet when i finally get outside i want to stay and realise how much i love it!
Procrastination is the worst thing. Especially when you’re doing it because your body is desperate to relax, but you’re procrastinating instead – hovering between tension and relaxing and doing yourself no good. I try to recognise when i’m doing that, and actively do something completely relaxing instead.
Looking forward to your comments on habits, i’m always trying to cut down on things that aren’t so constructive in excess.

I was wondering how exactly I’d respond to this, but then I read your comment reply where you said:
This is exactly how I feel! It’s an addiction in a sense, but I also keep telling myself that once my blog really gets going and I get into a groove with it, I won’t have to spend so much time with it. Hopefully that’s true. But the truth is that I do waste a lot of time reading others’ blogs! I’ve started to just set limits for myself, or try to. That helps so I need to better about it! Thanks for being honest & sharing!

oops: the part in between those brackets was supposed to be quoting you saying:
“I think what gets neglected is my marriage; being glued to the computer at night means less conversation and time to connect when my daughter is asleep. I also use the internet as a way to procrastinate during the day.”
arently I’m using HTML code without even meaning to! 😛

@Camilla: you are so right on about procrastination not providing the relaxation we really need. I’m trying hard to think about what I feel I should be doing in place of computer time . . . it might just be reading or knitting or some other downtime activity.

@Nicole: I don’t know how long it takes to get into a groove with a new blog. I feel like I still have so much to learn and so much I want to do – including launching a new blog, believe it or not!

Hi Ann,

It sounds like you’re having a great vacation.

I find I’m online now more since I started blogging, however it’s more productive as I used to play games at night. Now I write and visit other blogs. To me visiting other blogs is like reading a magazine with lots of short stories, plus I can converse with the authors. How cool is that?

Hi Barbara,
I’ve often thought that my time on the internet replaces time I’d spend reading magazines. My laptop creates a lot less clutter, so that’s good 🙂

I would miss my internet friends if I ever gave up blogging; I think I’m trying (as always) to create some balance.

Knitting and reading sound far more relaxing indeed – there’s something about the internet being unavoidably endless. Like late-night TV when you just can’t shut it off and end up watching programs until 5am. I only watch DVDs now! Lol.

I really hope to take up meditation at some stage too. So when i notice myself procrastinating, i’ll set aside 15 mins or maybe even just 5 mins for a quick meditation to ground me and relax everything and refresh my perspective. I’m in search of a good book or CD to guide me.

Camilla – I think you’re onto something about the “endless” internet; there’s always something else to look at.

I wish I could recommend a good CD for you, but I don’t know of one – sounds like a great plan so I hope you find something.

Intention appreciated anyway. I dare say if i find something good, i’ll rec it on here, seeing as we’ve mentioned it already! 🙂

I am with Vered on this one. I found I was staying up way to late, because I wanted to read just one more post, make one more comment, which led to the next and next and next. I was definitely becoming sleep deprived. So, I determined that I will be in bed by 10 p.m. every week night no matter what. Just shut it all down and go to bed. It’s working! The only disadvantage is that the Lion has not adopted the same philosophy and I am sound asleep by the time he gets to bed, and I miss our nightly falling asleep chats.

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