Online Addiction, Me? Surely not…

A few months back, I wrote a blog about the importance of ‘switching off’ from work in this 24/7 online environment that we now live in.

Online addiction is an issue which I feel strongly about, and one which has become a real contributor towards mental health issues in our society and workplaces.

On a recent (much-needed) holiday, I found myself reflecting on my ability to take an online hiatus (also much-needed).  It occurred to me that it was reasonably easy to make the decision to ‘switch off’ from work.  If we’re lucky enough to have a separate work mobile, we can switch it off.  We can choose not to log into our work emails, or to check our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.  It’s not an impossible feat.

What is becoming increasing impossible, is the ability to ‘switch off’ from an everyday perspective.  There is little doubt, no matter what our age, most of us are becoming increasingly dependent on the online world in our day to day lives – be it death notices, current affairs, or match fixtures – it’s all there at the click of a button.

Take my father, who is in his sixties (early sixties – important to distinguish or I may risk losing the coveted ‘favourite off-spring’ title).  He was the generation who lived by the daily newspaper, maybe even two or three different titles on a Sunday.  Like most of us, he has abandoned his beloved newspaper and now gets his news online.

Some statistics would indicate this online reliance is not an unusual trend for those his age with the fastest growing Twitter demographic in Ireland the over 55s.  It represents an interesting shift.  Traditionally, those with online addictions were often portrayed as sulky teenagers glued to the couch taking copious pouting selfies.  Not anymore.

Social media addicts are now as likely to be those of us in our late 30s, and upwards.  We may not be snap chatting our buys from Pennys, or Instagramming with the latest hashtags (I said MAY not – ahem), but we are using social media, for all types of reasons, all the time.

As I work in social media, I made a very conscientious decision to try to switch off my Wi-Fi as much as possible during this year’s holiday.  I’ll put my hands up and admit – I failed miserably.  Why?  I’m just too reliant on the web.  I logged on every day.  I checked the weather in France (mostly raining), weather at home (mostly sunny), I googled tourist attractions in our area, I logged onto the wine depot website to see what treats I’d stock up on to bring home (well worth a visit if you find yourself touring Brittany).  I googled, and then I googled some more.

It wasn’t all holiday and cheap wine related, of course.  Even though we were cocooned in our holiday hideaway, the world was still turning, and tragedies still happening.  While we were away the terrible and senseless shooting took place of 49 innocent souls at an Orlando nightclub.  It was shocking and unbelievable, and we wanted to know Why? How? Who?  So, we logged online to help us understand.  What else could we do?

On reflection, I feel disappointed in myself that I couldn’t ‘switch off’ for two short weeks.  I wonder what it says about me and my dependency on the online world.  I wonder if I’m becoming (or perhaps already am) an addict.  With 46% of the world’s population now logging onto the World Wide Web every day, it would seem I may not be alone.

Karen Twomey is a freelance PR and Online Communications Consultant with Communications Hub Tel: 0877642576
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