Disconnected in the Internet Age

Recently a video has been circulating on the Internet that offers food for thought about modern life with the internet, computers, and smartphones.  As a young woman goes through her day, she never has a cell phone, but her boyfriend looks at his before they have even gotten out of bed. A lunch-time conversation with friends dies as each person but her ends up staring at a smartphone.

Before the constant digital connectivity, people gave their attention to the moment – to the activity and people in front of them. No one thought he was others because he wasn’t at home to answer his phone. Cameras were a separate device; no one took pictures of her lunch – then dinner, coffee, nails, and new shoes – and shared it with the world. Now we have constant distraction that we think keeps us in touch. Of course, people can argue that nothing has really changed, and that we still connect with those around us.

But is it really connecting when we look at our phones to check texts, Fantasy sports scores, Facebook, or retweet the latest gossip while a friend is talking to us…only to realize you need that person to repeat half her story because you tuned out?

What if we turned our phones and computers off or restricted our use?

“I can’t leave my phone at home or put it aside,” we say. “What if someone needs me? I feel disconnected without it.”

The irony is that we are probably more disconnected than ever – from life, our families, friends, and in some ways even reality. The video is a microcosm of society giving an outside-looking-in perspective on our internet-addicted habits.

The Internet Addiction Age

It’s nearly culturally accepted that cell phones are part of both social and private moments. No one thinks twice about logging on to a computer just after getting home. But, maybe that isn’t OK. Maybe we need to take a step back and realize just what it all looks like and means – the unintended consequences and repercussions.

Children copy adults’ habits. They see us using our computers and phones constantly. How many of us have seen a baby playing with a parent’s phone? Some even know how to use smartphones already or can operate an iPad. Parents use them as a means to get kids to behave when out at dinner. Habits are not created over night; they are, by definition, done repeatedly over time. Eventually people don’t even think about what they’re doing, and this loss of awareness – on all of our parts – is creating this societal norm of disconnect. Some people get so lost in this technology and the Web they can develop an internet addiction.

When Your Teen is Dealing with Internet Addiction

Internet addiction can be the result of underlying issues. Troubled teens struggling with identity, acceptance, and loneliness can turn to the internet as a source of comfort. Through virtual worlds and online gaming, they feel connected to other people or find “friends” through social media. Online personas, relationships, and activities replace “real-life” ones, and internet addicted adolescents and young adults withdraw from friends, family, and even the things they once enjoyed doing.

The internet has a dark side. While social media can make it easier to connect to others, it has been used by both adults and teens to bully others. Instead of finding acceptance and friends, these situations can cause anxiety, depression, and fear in young people, who may often choose to not tell parents what is happening.

Wilderness therapy for troubled teens can offer a means to get away from the source of their addiction, which is important because they need to learn to keep active with non-internet activities.  Many young people today do not remember a world without computers, cell phones, and the Internet. Therefore, it may be more important to help them develop healthy computer and internet usage habits early because excessive use can have emotional, mental, and physical health effects. Pacific Quest’s wilderness therapy program incorporates healthy living, structured activity, and adventure with traditional individual and group therapy to help troubled adolescents and young adults developed balanced lives. And at Pacific Quest, learning to be part of a community and truly connecting with others are part of the process.

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