Are you connected to a screen most of the day?

Your desktop at work, your phone, your laptop, your iPad, and perhaps a gaming device at home?

If so, it might be said that screens rule your world. Some experts raise the idea that a compulsion to be connected to the world outside your immediate surroundings via screens or technology could be a form of addiction.

And indeed, there may be a serious problem if your use of screen use interferes with your life.  If you cannot function with them or without them or experience a deterioration of your personal or professional life, then the term “internet addiction” may apply.

However, at this point, internet addiction is not listed as a disorder in the DSM-5, the diagnostic handbook used by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in the US. This is because internet addiction is thought to be just one aspect of many other mental health conditions. Basically, it may be an expression of your underlying mental health issues rather than its cause.

But meanwhile, your use of the internet may still be disruptive to your life!

Here are 5 ways to break free from the rule of the screens!

Ask yourself what the internet does for you

There is a reason why you go to your device again and again. And as any addict will tell you, there’s no point to living in denial.

You need to find out what the internet does that nobody and nothing else in your life can do for you. Once you find out what that is, stick to dealing with those issues intentionally.

Then, use the internet only for what cannot be achieved in any other way. You will be surprised how this changes the way you use it.

Disable notifications

One of the most disruptive and seductive tools from the internet? The constant flow of ‘notifications’.

They indicate that something important and new happened. Something that you immediately need to know about. This plays directly on the human need to be alert to changes in our environment. It also plays on the fear of being left out or left behind.

Notifications are the gateway to internet addiction. If you want to break free, disable all alerts except those that really are a matter of life or death to you.

Become the master of your own time

Internet addiction shifts the task of organizing your time to random responses and outside triggers. But as an adult, you are the master of your own time. So, as the master, you decide how much time you spend on which activities.

If you have a job, a lot of your time is already ruled by someone else. So when it comes to your own time, protect precious moments stolen by prioritizing screens. Assert your right to rule!

Remember the people!

That means the people who are with you right now, in ‘real time’, and those on the other side of your screen.

It’s worth remembering that the screens didn’t just fall from the sky like an alien invasion. People created them. People who initially only wanted to remain in touch with each other over the long distances that divided them. Choose to use your screens for true connection. Skype and Facetime with your loved ones far away. Send emails like love letters and to stimulate discussions with friends.

Not all internet use is the same. Remember the people around you to free yourself and explore the possibilities.

Find a place with ‘no signal’ and connect to nature

The best way to disconnect from the internet is to walk out into nature. It’s a chance to connect with the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of the real world around us. The world you were born into, and that you connected with, long before you ever used a screen. 

Internet addiction may not, technically, be a psychiatric disorder. But, it can feel very real and it can certainly disrupt your life. 

Follow the tips above to regain control over the screens that rule your world. If you find this too difficult to accomplish alone, reach out to a therapist who can help you set goals regarding your screen time and explore underlying issues.  For further information, please take a look at my specialty page on individual counseling.