Curing Your ‘Internet Addiction’–Via. . .Internet Apps? It’s No Joke.

Posted on July 13, 2012 by

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When I came across apps for what people were calling ‘Internet addiction,’ I thought I had slid down the rabbit hole.

Treating addiction to computer technology with computer technology?

It sounded–let’s just say ‘off.’

But we must know the mantra by now: There’s always an app for that–even too much app.

Now, the Internet addiction these apps treat isn’t  referring to any sort of officially diagnosed disorder, for which you can receive psychiatric treatment and insurance reimbursement.

They’re really talking about our ‘addiction’ to social media–a growing problem b y most people;s admission.

In case you do your blog reading standing up–most irregular, really–sit down for this fact.

Statistics portal Statista found that if you add up the time all Americans spend on Facebook each month, it amounts to (really, ready?) over 100,000 years.

The average time spent, per person–and keep in mind that not one full-blood family member of mine goes on (I can’t be responsible for in-laws) which throws the numbers, so think how much some, unrelated people are logging on to keep this average afloat–was 7.09 hours per month.

But other social media sites should not despair of their ability to pull us in and not let us go.

Business Review USA found this year that

Facebook is the time-sucking champion, averaging 405 minutes per visitor in the month of January, but Tumblr and Pinterest managed to capture a significant 89 minutes of our time.

We just must return again and again.

Statista found that  50% of Twitter users and 44% of Facebook users check the sites multiple times a day.

And get this visual.

42% of social media users check their sites first thing in the morning. While the rest of us are brushing our teeth, using the facilities, showering, downing Raisin Bran–other people can’t begin any of these tasks until their Tweets  have been checked.

We have a problem on our hands.

And the very Internet that facilitated this social media frenzy is here to help you learn to control yourself, and keep your mitts off your time-sucking sites.

Let’s take a look at  a few.

One that I find particularly ingenious has the lovely name Anti-Social, whose name appeals to my personality.

The genius who thought this one up deserves some sort of award, for this application literally locks down the social media that have become such time wasters for so many of us.

For real.

When you’ve got the thing running, you’re locked out of Facebook and Twitter–and any other site you specify. If you’re smart, you’ll lock yourself out of Tumblr, of Pinterest, of Google+. No entrance allowed.

The only way to circumvent the clever program is actually to re-boot your computer.  This, apparently, according to Anti-Social, will cause you to

 feel a deep sense of shame for rebooting just to waste time on Twitter, [so] you’re unlikely to cheat.

My thinking would be that it’s just such a darn nuisance that you’ll give up. Yes, Facebook has a great pull–but if you’ve got to save all your work, close all your applications, and watch the computer think about shutting down and re-starting, you might just consider forgoing it for a few moments.

[Or, like we do in our family, shoo somebody else off their computer where they're gainfully employed, and check your retweets that way. Now, we need an app for that  kind of behavior!]

It is $15.00, but there’s a free trial.

Then there’s Think.

It claims it helps concentration–which makes me truly dubious–but it does get rid of the a lot of the tempting visual clutter on your screen.

I like to run about 13 applications at a time, each with a number of tabs, windows or documents open. It makes me feel like I’m really getting my money’s worth out of my new computer. But it does create a chaotic work environment.

Now, Think doesn’t have the humiliation deterrent factor that Anti-Social does (although it does have more complete blockage), but it works to minimize visual stimuli–and, hopefully temptation, by bringing one program to the foreground of your screen and hiding all the rest. It has a backdrop that, in their words, “shields you from the distraction of the outside world.”

The Desktop and other applications are kept behind it to keep you focused on the illuminated app.

And then some situations call for dire straights. Getting its name from the ‘freedom’ it gives you from the pull of the Internet, Freedom, the developers claim:

does one thing, and it does it well: Turn Freedom on, tell it how long you’d like to be offline, and that’s it. 

It’ll shut the whole online system down for up to 8 hours, by which times most people would really be in full withdrawal.  But think how much you could get done for a mere $10. However, you can once again second guess yourself by re-booting.

Which brings us to the ultimate–and free–app, which allows no second thoughts about how your tweets are piling up, or how many posts you’ve missed on Facebook.

Just for Macs (PC users will have to muddle through, once again), SelfControl (which of course we wouldn’t need if we had any) is somewhat similar to Think in that it

 blocks access to incoming and/or outgoing mail servers and websites for a predetermined period of time.

Really, think of the possibilities. You block your e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, your favorite shopping site, that blog where the posts are all as long as this one. But you still have access to anything unblocked on the web.

And, touts developer Steve Lambert,

Once started, it can not be undone by the application, by deleting the application, or by restarting the computer – you must wait for the timer to run out.

Alternatively, if you live in my house, you can go roust out the innocent person, say, balancing her checkbook online, or writing a much-needed reported, and check your social media sites on her computer, while she, displaced, dreams up ways to password you out of any future entry.

There’s probably an app for getting around their schemes–but that’s a topic for a different day.