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I believe we are becoming a nation of Internet communication addicts. With the widespread use of smartphones,Friends 200px tablets and laptops, many people check their messages all day, every day – and the majority respond to new messages immediately. 

According to Cranfield University research – 60 percent of 11-18 year olds admitted to being ‘very’ or ‘quite’ addicted to the Internet and their mobile phones. Baroness Susan Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist, made an interesting comment – “regular use of social networking sites shortens our attention span and makes us more self-centred.”

We live in a constantly connected world where talking face-to-face is less prevalent than it used to be. We are all now familiar with the scene of a group of friends or family sat around in the same room, each engrossed with their own device – a very self-centred behaviour style with limited interaction. Many Psychologists/Psychiatrists have noticed that in the past 16 years they have witnessed the development of an Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

The question is: are we harnessing communication technology or is it making us ill? The following symptoms have been described by the Boston Addiction Centre and the London Nightingale Hospital:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Backache
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Blurred or strained vision

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dishonesty
  • Euphoric feelings when in front of the computer
  • Unable to keep schedules
  • No sense of time
  • Isolation
  • Defensiveness
  • Avoiding doing work
  • Agitation

Internet addiction disorder (IAD), covers a variety of impulse-control problems, including:

  • Cybersex Addiction – compulsive use of Internet pornography, adult chat rooms, or adult fantasy role-play sites impacting negatively on real-life intimate relationships.
  • Cyber-Relationship Addiction – addiction to social networking, chat rooms, texting, and messaging to the point where virtual, online friends become more important than real-life relationships with family and friends.
  • Net Compulsions – such as compulsive online gaming, gambling, stock trading, or compulsive use of online auction sites such as eBay, often resulting in financial and job-related problems. 
  • Information Overload – compulsive web surfing or database searching, leading to lower work productivity and less social interaction with family and friends.
  • Computer Addiction – obsessive playing of off-line computer games, such as Solitaire or Minesweeper, or obsessive computer programming.

But it’s not all bad. Tazeeb Rajzwani of Cranfield School of Management says:

“These powerful technologies challenge existing management practices and models, consequently many executives are rethinking their infrastructure for collaboration and communication. Typically these technologies include blogs, wikis, podcasts, information tagging, widgets, mashups, prediction markets and social networks. The use of these social technologies within companies is referred to as Enterprise 2.0. Global enterprise spending on these technologies is predicted to increase dramatically to $4.6 billion by 2013, with a 43 percent year-on-year growth, which makes it the fastest growing technology in the enterprise software industry. “ 

Technology has introduced home working, instant global communication, teleconferencing and much more which can be time and health effective by reducing traveling, tension and anxiety.

Outside of work, the Internet, when used with a balanced, considerate involvement, is fun, stimulating and entertaining, and when used for shopping can be a great time releaser. 

Like most things in life, taken in moderation, along with other forms of communication, the Internet can enhance life experience but moderation is the key.


Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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