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If the internet was a drug dealer, it would probably be the best drug dealer in the world. It’s always there to provide more of what you want, with algorithms constantly grinding away to make sure you see something you crave.
So how do you break your addiction? Here’s an unscientific set of steps that might just help.
Step 1: Admit you have a problem
You’re reading an article on internet addiction, so that’s a great start. Or maybe a friend has intervened to send you here and you don’t believe you have a problem. So tell me, before this session, how long had you been away from the internet? No, honestly.
See: you have a problem.
Step 2: Go into Do Not Disturb mode
Your phone and laptop almost certainly have a Do Not Disturb mode. Use it. Even if it’s only for an hour to start with – baby steps – this is a good way to wean yourself from the constant buzzes that notify you of, frankly, very little indeed.
Step 3: Move away from the cookie jar
Most internet sprees are unplanned. The fact our phone, tablet or laptop is just sitting there lures us in. “Oh, I’ll just flick it on and see if an email/tweet/Facebook message has come through.” Twenty minutes later we’re still there, eyes glued to the screen.
Take control and physically make it more difficult to access the internet.
Step 4: Do it with friends and family
It’s hard to break an addiction on your own, so pull in those close to you. You could set certain times as no-internet-zones, and not only meal times (I mean, obviously you ban phones from the dinner table, right?). Saturday afternoon could be reserved for something you all enjoy, or at least a couple of you. Get outside, go for a walk, hit a tennis ball, whatever works for you.
Step 5: Use software
There are many ways to stop yourself from browsing the internet, but let’s opt for the simplest: Cold Turkey. This is both an app that temporarily blocks everything on your phone and a program you can install on your computer to do much the same thing. Don’t worry, it isn’t forever – heck, you can start with one minute.
Step 6: Use hardware
Another option is to switch off the Wi-Fi signal on your home router. These all work in slightly different ways, but head into settings such as parental controls to see if you have the option.
Step 7: De-tech your bedroom
If you find yourself reaching for your phone first thing in the morning then a) you’re like everyone else in the modern world b) what are you doing, you crazy muppet? “Oh, but I use my phone as an alarm.” Answer: buy an alarm.
Phones are simply terrible things to have in the bedroom. Yes, they’re radios, they create white noise that help people sleep and yes, they can be an effective alarm – but they’re also hideously addictive drugs.
A phone by your bedside will make little buzzing noises. It will act as a siren at 7am, so the first thing you do is unlock it rather than letting your brain wake up the natural way. Are you really so important that you can’t wait until you go downstairs to make a cup of tea before you have to check your email?
Step 8: Be self-aware
So you’ve made it this far. You may even install Cold Turkey, or briefly consider charging your phone overnight. Or you may do precisely nothing. Whatever, think about it. We all slip into habits – and I’m talking to myself now – that we shouldn’t, and over-reliance on tech is just one of those.
Think about how much you use technology. How often you fire up Facebook because you’re bored, by which you mean you haven’t had some form of stimulation for 20 seconds. And look at yourself as you might before the internet happened, and ask – is being chained to a screen really making me happy?