While a perk of living in the digital age is that technology is almost always at one’s fingertips, unrestricted access to a seemingly endless stream of information is not necessarily healthy.
Time is too precious to waste, but addictive habits such as scrolling the internet or browsing social media often result in lost minutes or hours that could have been devoted to something more productive. Even worse, some evidence suggests that internet dependency can negatively affect real-world behaviors.
While internet browsing can be fun and expand an individual’s communicative capacity, many who use the internet excessively fail to recognize the harmful impact the habit is likely having on their character.
The ‘Internet Wormhole’ and Its Devastating Impacts
According to SWNS Digital, a recent OnePoll/FutureLearn survey of 2,000 Americans found that the average person loses 35 hours a year to online browsing.
Many of the study’s respondents said they accidentally fall into an “internet wormhole” about five times a day after going online to research a specific topic of interest.
The most popular research topics for participants were celebrity news and current events, with 51 percent and 40 percent of people, respectively, pointing to these subjects as a lost time culprit.
Another 34 percent and 32 percent of those surveyed said they often lose track of time reading about history and science. Thirty-one percent of respondents named health news as the topic that could keep them online for large chunks of time.
As many as 45 percent of participants said they believed the amount of time they spent online made them “unofficial experts” on these topics.
For many respondents, however, it seems the desire to learn was not the sole reason they turned to the internet for answers.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents admitted to feeling satisfaction after Google proved them right about a particular fact. Roughly 40 percent of those surveyed specifically said the internet was a common resource to settle disputes about historical and political events.
While the internet is a useful tool, burying one’s nose in a phone or computer can be an isolating way to absorb new knowledge. Such a habit also risks exposing one’s brain to an overflow of information, which, in turn, can poison the way people interact with one another.
Excessive Internet Usage and Its Potential Impact On Human Behavior
A 2020 study from Michigan State University and California State University, Fullerton tracked the social media usage of 472 students ages 18 to 24. According to the results, the students who were heavily addicted to social media were more likely to enjoy making others angry or humiliating them for personal gain.
Such traits are not limited to social media, either, as the researchers found that addictive internet usage could produce the same negative behaviors. The study also pointed out that the same traits are typically associated with narcissism and psychopathy.
Since the internet offers a free platform to those who benefit from its anonymity, there is little incentive for civil behavior. Even if one does not engage in aggressive online behaviors, the constant stream of negativity can be difficult to ignore when scrolling.
Breaking Destructive Internet Habits
As researchers continue to explore the internet’s influence on the current culture, the potential side effects associated with its excessive use have grown increasingly hard to ignore.
If anything, it seems the internet has only fueled the culture’s toxic emphasis on appearing right rather than being reasonable and kind.
Instead of constantly reaching for the phone or the nearest technological device, people should probably re-evaluate their habits and find some screen-free hobbies.
It might just help them develop a more positive outlook — one that is unlikely to be found in the cesspool of the internet.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.