A Digital World
Technological communication has become an essential part of modern everyday life. Through the use of smartphones, social media, and messaging apps, we can maintain contact with others throughout the day. Business communications happen more quickly and efficiently than in years gone by, and friends and family members are only a tweet or a text away. Google and other services give us easy access to news and information of every imaginable kind. One of the purposes of such instant communication is to free us up—to open up more social time to relax, enjoy non-work activities, or be with our friends and families. These are the positive, useful ways in which electronic communication can enhance our lives.
How Electronic Communication Can Take Over Our Lives
In our contemporary world, the use of electronic communication has become so pervasive that many people find themselves distracted by technology; their online lives have taken over their ‘offline’ lives. You are not alone if you find it hard to resist the pull towards constant and instant connection. Like many in contemporary society, you may find yourself compelled to check your phone, email, Facebook, or Twitter account whenever you have a free moment. You may be drawn to constant surfing, shopping, gaming, gambling, or sexting and find it hard to stop. You may find it hard to ‘unplug’ for even a small amount of time. You may find yourself too distracted to pursue more fulfilling or creative activities or relationships. When you do have free un-connected time, you may feel some of the effects of internet addiction.
Effects Of Internet Addiction
When electronic communication starts to take over your life, a number of internet addiction symptoms may become apparent. Feeling compelled to go online or use virtual communication may leave you feeling out of control. The instant gratification that constant access can provide may feel very satisfying in the moment. But, you may find yourself using your phone or the internet as a means of escaping difficult situations or uncomfortable feelings. Your eating habits or sleeping patterns may be interrupted, especially if you are used to being online at nighttime.
When you are offline, you may find it hard to relax. Then, you may notice that slow days and quiet moments can start to feel intolerable; instead of the relaxed enjoyment of free time, boredom, panic, despair, or loneliness set in. The ongoing use of virtual contact, without the live presence of another human being, can produce an aftermath of loneliness and emptiness. You may find yourself feeling a sense of lack, as you miss deeper, more meaningful connection with other people.
Like many people in this situation, you may start feeling as though you cannot live without that ‘brain high’—the adrenaline rush—of being constantly connected. You may find yourself looking for substitute ways to keep feeling active and on-the-go, such as over-exercising. Or you may experience drinking or eating problems as you seek ways to dampen feelings that emerge when you are offline. Alternatively, you may find yourself turning back to texting, tweeting, or being online as a means of escaping uncomfortable feelings. Finding it difficult to disconnect from your devices or from constant digital activity is one of the primary symptoms of internet addiction. If your use of the internet has reached these levels of interference in your everyday work, home, or social life, it is most likely adversely affecting your emotional wellbeing.
Internet Addiction Therapy
If you find yourself constantly plugged in or distracted by web surfing, texting, engaging with social media, or using other online programs, and if you’re suffering in the way described above, then psychoanalytic internet addiction therapy can help. It can provide you with a safe, quiet place where you can take time to just be, to disconnect from the virtual world, and re-connect with deeper layers of yourself. I offer a physical and emotional space that is somewhere in between the frenetic nature of our modern, constantly connected lives and the total silence of meditation. The idea of slowing down in this way can be frightening. It may be something you are not used to, and you may fear what feelings may arise. I am here to help you discover more of yourself and your own mix of feelings at a pace that is comfortable for you. While some feelings may be uncomfortable and painful, pleasant and joyous feelings may surprise you too. Together, we will explore parts known to you and parts that may be more hidden, with the aim of helping you feel more in touch and comfortable with yourself as a whole human being.
A psychoanalytic approach provides you with the opportunity to discover the causes of your need for constant mental and/or physical activity, whether it is use of your phone, the internet, or other forms of addictive activity. I offer a non-critical approach; I am not here to pass judgment on your use of devices or other activities, or to suggest you stop using them. Rather, in this form of psychotherapy, I will listen carefully and offer my thoughts as we enter into a conversation to explore what makes it is so difficult to let go, slow down, and enjoy other aspects of life. I will work with you to gain greater understanding of your use of the internet or your smartphone. Our aim will be for you to be in a better position to make choices about how you use them. The work is about gaining understanding and respect for the reasons these devices have become so important to you. This kind of internet addiction therapy offers a way of learning how to respect rather than fear your inner feelings, so that you can take pleasure in your own inner life, feel less compelled and distracted, and become more able to enjoy a fulfilling life.
If you are worried that you might be too dependent on electronic communication, then psychoanalytic psychotherapy can help you determine if that’s the case. Find out how to lead a more fulfilled life, in a way that encompasses the use of technology in a balanced, meaningful way.
Annie Sweetnam, Ph.D. If you think you may be overly dependent on the internet or digital forms of communication and would like help to figure this out and understand your feelings, please call or email me for a free phone consultation to learn more about psychoanalytic internet addiction therapy.
4236 Edge Drive, Oakland, CA 94602