Should PR come with the following disclaimer: “Warning: This profession may be hazardous to your health. Associated risks include, but are not limited to, exposure to Internet Addiction, a behavioral disorder that may produce withdrawal symptoms akin to the comedown experienced by hardcore junkies.”?
According to new scientific evidence, the answer may be “yes.” In a small study of frequent web users, researchers at the UK’s Swansea University concluded the Internet is a powerful drug. And, for those who consistently partake, it may have negative, life-long consequences.
Swansea psychology professor Phil Reed tells the Daily Mail, “When people come offline, they suffer increased negative mood – just like people coming off illegal drugs, like ecstacy. These initial results, and related studies of brain function, suggest there are some nasty surprises lurking on the net for people’s wellbeing.”
Ecstacy? Really? That seems a bit extreme, especially based on a study of only 60 people. Nevertheless, as someone who spends a good portion of her day on the Internet researching information, blogging and monitoring social media channels, I’m not taking any chances. Here are my suggestions for how to ward off the dangers of the dreaded Internet Addiction:
1. Diagnose yourself: Preoccupied with your next net-surfing session? (Um, yeah). Ever feel restless or moody when you can’t get online? (Definitely!) Assess the presence of risky behavior here.
2. Unplug for a while: Fight the urge for an online fix by getting away from your computer and silencing your smartphone. Put in some face time (and no, I don’t mean FaceTime) with family and friends instead.
3. Treat the Internet as a tool: Let’s face it – we need the Internet to do our jobs as PR pros. But it’s just one tool of many. Manage it before it manages you.