“Hi, my name is Brian and I’m addicted to Second Life.”
This post is divided into three groups of “Inputs”;
- The first, a radio show, is the most recent and finally spurred me on to publish this topic. It’s lengthy in its own right, but I wanted to combine all these ‘Inputs’ together – this section also gives most insight into my personal issue.
- Then there is what I shall call here the JW Input, a leaflet.
- Following that, a couple of videos I found on Youtube; the final one is great and covers ten points which are what I want to end this topic on and if you don’t want to read everything here right now please skip to that final part.
I’ve started this topic so many times recently it’s ridiculous. Either my mind flits off to other things (a symptom of the problem I think) or something new crops up to present me with a different perspective from which to write it. Before I throw the towel in, lets begin with today’s input; an episode of Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, titled ‘Screen time and children’. It was a phone in session and a number of callers gave their insight, and while I don’t have children of my own the topic was still very relevant as I’m sure others will find.
It’s still relevant because my addiction stems from when I was a teenager which is when I began using the internet – I’ve now spent half of my life online (not all of it, thankfully, I do sleep). Teenagers these days may well have always had internet access and not really known a life without it, but I come from that cross-over generation; as someone that knew life before, a time when during the summer months the kids would be playing outside and building dens, not glued to a screen. I remember being allowed only an hour after school of TV time, but now I don’t watch “TV”, I log into Second Life (SL) instead and I failed to impose my own limits.
The internet can be a wonderful resource that enables us to find information, share, and connect with others in a variety of ways. The problem arises when logging in becomes a bad habit and something unhealthy in our lives. Not everyone experiences this, sees it in themselves or others around them, or feels it as a bad thing; this could be a false impression on their part or mine, but the way I see it is if it feels like a bad thing then it probably is, and the fact that I feel it must be good because that enables me to do something about it.
The sad thing for masses of people who don’t see a problem, but are sucked into it, is that they are often whittling away hours “looking at other people’s lives” rather than living their own. Checking a celebrity’s Twitter feed, or seeing snapshots on Facebook of a friend’s holiday or new child. Youngsters may see famous people online for whom they can aspire too; successful gamers, bloggers, or Youtubers, without understanding the stark reality that “not everyone is going to be like that.”
When we’re clued in virtually all of the time, we have to ask ourselves “How can we work or live our own lives with these constant interrupts?” Sometimes we need some regular access to the internet for work purposes, or to do homework, or to legitimately look up something useful; to do “mindful things”, but then, as I find, it can be hard to then log out and switch off and not end up in “mindless things” that eat away my day. “Create, don’t just consume.”
A further sad thing is when families suffer. I saw this a few times whilst on holiday; families eating out together but all with their noses in their phones – I was enjoying my self-enforced two weeks offline. This isn’t to say that perhaps people around me haven’t suffered either, either through me being online, or them.
For those that don’t see it, a sign that there is indeed a problem is when you’re forced to go without; take away the “drug” and do you/they become aggressive, irritated or anxious? If it’s yourself feeling these symptoms then you need to focus your attention on the other things in life.
Helpful rules and healthy routines:
- Have a device-free bedroom.
- Set times of the day to be online – switch your broadband router off outside of these times.
- Have a Screen-Free Sunday.
- Work with others. If you’re in a family environment then work together to agree on rules and boundaries, or team up with a friend.
- Plan your days; make them revolve around healthy routines, especially on those difficult days when you might be stuck at home, like rainy days, when it’s all to easy to find yourself online.
- Figure out what your life lacks that you try to make up for by being online. Since my late teens I became a bit of a Real Life (RL) loner; always quite happy in my own company (or so I thought), either through choice or simply because my RL surroundings lacked (and still does) real friends to hang out with. The internet gave me a way (or an excuse) to interact with other people, people from all over the world, and on my own terms. The internet can be a great place for those of us who are socially awkward (or other diagnosable issue), but we have to be careful we don’t try and seek to replace something that can only be found with face-to-face interactions, and I don’t mean via Skype, because here a significant amount of communication is still lost.
EDIT: [I totally forgot to include this!] My #1 Tip: For addictive services or games that need you to log in…
Don’t set them to sign in automatically, instead change your password to something random (passwordsgenerator.net), write it down on a piece of paper and
burn it fold it up/seal it in an envelope, put an instruction on it such as “not to open until the weekend” or “not until the chores/homework are done” and put it somewhere safe. I find this is a great self-imposed barrier. The next step is to impose time limits for when you do sign in. Don’t be too harsh on yourself though – make time to enjoy your activities in moderation.
Prior to this radio show I was handed a copy of this month’s “Awake!” magazine/leaflet from one of my visiting JWs*, which just happens to be about habits and how to harness them.
The topic begins with two examples to highlight good habits and bad habits. With regards to internet addiction I find it’s a bad habit that I get into where I sit down at my computer, maybe to get some work done, and then find myself logging into Second Life in order to chat with other people, but unable to get anything else done at the same time. It would do me well to change this habit.
The topic then goes on to outline three suggestions to enable you to ‘harness your habits and make them work for you instead of against you.’
(1) Be Realistic
This idea is to not try and change your whole life or problem at once, that ‘trying to reach all your goals at the same time is a sure way to reach none of them’ but in some ways the little changes, I think, can fail to change an underlying issue. An example comes by the way of Japanese “cleaning consultant” Marie Kondo. In her book her approach for “tidying up” is by changing our lifestyles in one big way, saying that the little tidy ups do little to change a lifetime of bad habits, and I can see her point.
The author of the JW leaflet goes on to say: “A modest person is realistic. He recognizes that there are limits to his time, energy, and resources. So rather than trying to change everything at once, he makes improvements gradually.”
Perhaps this is a limiting mentality – why not believe we are capable of making a big change?
Either way, you need to decide what it is you want to change, and for this the advice is to draw up some lists… the problem is, what if ‘drawing up too many lists that I fail to work through’ is a bad habit I’m trying to get out of!? But the idea is to make a list of good habits you want to build on and a list of bad habits you want to eradicate, and then replace one bad habit with a good one (the “Stop making lists” could be the last one on the list!)
(2) Manage Your Environment
This section is about blaming your friends and the environment you make around yourself. That’s somewhat harsh I know, and perhaps now how the author of the JW article explains it, and the truth is we have to take control of our own lives and not blame others (for which there is more of in the final part).
If you have a bad eating habit, it wont do you well to have unhealthy food in your fridge. If you want to quit smoking then it doesn’t help to keep cigarettes in the house. And if you have an internet addiction, you need to do something about the devices that allow you to be online at every opportunity.
A similar thing is with the friends and family around us. We can acknowledge a bad habit with them and a helpful dialogue can develop. Sometimes we might know or discover someone who feels the same, and we can even work together, as mentioned above. There can also be some around us with their own issues and sometimes people who are not helpful or healthy for our cause.
(3) Take a Long-Range View
The JW leaflet states that a there is “a popular notion that it takes 21 days to cement a new habit” but for some it can be sooner, and others a lot longer. I acknowledged something similar when I had a couple of weeks away cycling and suspected it wasn’t going to be long enough to overcome a bad habit, and that even a month (such as ‘Stoptober’ for quitting smoking), or the magical 40 days and 40 nights would be more realistic. Perhaps thinking of a time-frame serves no purpose.
Many of us will go through cycles of overcoming a bad habit to some periods of failure, which is perhaps why a gentle, gradual approach might not work, but we mustn’t be too hard on ourselves – we have to enjoy the successes and just work again at the failures, don’t conclude a relapse is a permanent failure, this attitude will not help – again, more on this in the final part.
Perhaps the assistance of a log will help, by keeping track of the good days and not so good.
I have tried these various things to a greater or lesser degree but it generally feels like I’m missing some further key – the Awake! topic also seems to lack enough depth or really grasp the issues; I find it to be overly simplistic in its approach (perhaps that is the intention so as to attract a wider audience, rather than scare off the masses with technicalities). In attempts to better myself I have created lists and stuck to them for some time (my To Do lists have always been a feature of this), creating a daily routine for me to stick to each day. I have worked with friends who are also trying to deal with healthy routines. I have succeeded in staying offline for a couple of weekends in a row only to slip on the third weekend. I also managed two weeks, Monday to Friday, out of Second Life, only to again overdose on the third.
*JWs are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They include various Bible references in their leaflets and I will include the once from this leaflet in the Further Reading section at the end of this post.
In looking for more answers I found two videos. The first one was again of a religious nature, but I personally find this helpful from a ‘personal betterment’ perspective. Sadly the speaker, Dr Naftali Fish, refers to a follow-up video, a meditation exercise, that was what I was looking for, but it seems to have never been created/posted.
The second video is by Teal Swan. I found this to be the most helpful ‘Input’ so far, which is why I wanted to end this post with it – she conveys a very personal and passionate perspective. First the video if you want to watch it and/or then I’ll list the 10 Key Points she talks about.
10 Steps to Overcome Addiction:
Some of these are covered above but Teal has done well to put them in a coherent order.
- Be honest – think about where you want to be
- Change your life – get rid of the people/places/things that aren’t good for you
- Cut ties with anything that does not serve who you want to be
- Get rid of the ritual involved in the addiction – remove the unhealthy routines
- Find supporters – people who are capable of reflecting back to you who you really are
- Ease up about the guilt – this causes unhelpful stress
- Find the motivation for the addiction – this is the most important (personally I think the problem with not addressing this is that you risk replacing one addiction/bad habit with another)
- Plan and structure your life so it doesn’t include the addiction – “play the tape forward”
- Love yourself – show this through eating healthy food, good sleep and exercising
- Meditate – there are different types to suit all; relaxation is the key
Further Reading and Notes:
Some Bible references referred to in Awake!: Philippians 1:10: “make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not stumbling others…” Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent surely lead to success.” Proverbs 22:3: “The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself, but the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.” 2 Timothy 2:22: “…flee from youthful desires, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace…” Proverbs 24:16: “…the righteous one may fall seven time, and he will get up again…” Proverbs 4:25-27: “Your eyes should look straight ahead. Yes, fix your gaze straight ahead of you. Smooth out the course of your feet. And your ways will be sure. Do not incline to the right or the left. Turn your feet away from what is bad.”
Dr Naftali Fish talks about the human soul for which the JWs seem to deny the existence of. I personally find the concept of a soul to be important; it gives an extra layer of reason for looking after yourself. Furthermore, for me, prayer is akin to meditation and some Google searches reveal that the Quran expresses the importance of prayer and fasting and how these act as “shields for the human soul.” I wouldn’t recommend using fasting to overcome internet addiction if it’s not something you’re used to but I think a healthy diet is important because some foods and drinks can overstimulate our minds making ones focus and clarity of thought in troubling times more problematic.
I’ve been watching Youtube videos of a non-relevant topic… or so I thought, until this topic came up on radio show about ‘Aliens and UFOs in the Bible’. I’ve set the link to the relevant point but to gain the context if you’re not familiar with the general topic of the video then it may be worth your while listening to it from the beginning: