Sunday, October 4, 2009

Internet Intervention

Do You Need Cyberspace Rehab?

Facebook and Twitter are only a couple of the social media networks I'm on and I find it a bit shocking to see the number of times many people comment in any 24-hour period. There are countless quizzes passed around involving such as pet's names, fantasy vacations and one's similarities to movie stars. People actually share what they have for breakfast as though anyone reading will find it noteworthy.

I began participating in social media a couple years ago because that's the current wisdom for writers and speakers to "build a platform." I don't know how valid it is but I'm blogging, tweeting and posting comments in an effort to find out. In order to remain true to my mantra about being "connected" and in deeper relationships, I don't just put my info out there. I do my best to engage others, affirming and encouraging as I relate to them. This requires an investment of time, which is a precious commodity (at least to me).

As I watch some of the content and by inference based on frequency of posts, I'm getting a sense that people can become addicted to all of this. I jokingly posted this comment; "They need to invent gum or a patch for twitter addicts" which was widely re-tweeted (copied and passed on), confirming my hunch.

I do know several moms who have had to take severe measures with their nearly-adult sons to separate them from computer gaming. This can be terribly destructive. And worse is something called Second Life, a virtual world where people create new identities for themselves then meet and interact with others as though it's all real. I know one man whose marriage ended when his wife became obsessed with Second Life and began a virtual extra-marital affair (in her false identity) with another "resident" in this world. Whoa Nelly! That's a lot to grasp. (And the pervasive challenge of internet porn isn't even in this discussion)

A new mental illness coined Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is gaining attention by healthcare professionals. So much so that a rehab facility has just opened to treat patients who are unable to control their use of the internet and/or internet-based games. Near Seattle, Heavensfield Retreat Center specializes in recovery for IAD sufferers. This six-week program, costing around $15,000, focuses on helping the person learn to engage in life again (via nature, relationships, exercise, and therapy) sans electronic media.

Are you getting the point? This could happen to anyone and it's insidious. Perhaps boundary-setting about the duration and extent of use is a good idea from the get-go. Maybe even an accountability partner (someone with whom you've agreed to be totally honest) to check in with is worth exploring. And I'm talking about adults. There is no question as to whether these tactics (and more) should be implemented for our children.

Here's the challenge: journal or chart every minute you are emailing, texting, IMing, participating in any social network or online game for a seven day period. Maybe we all need to take a step away from the keyboard. Or maybe you don't see any potential problem and believe the efficiency is worth such minimal risks. Your thoughts? If you've used up your allowed internet time, feel free to mail me a letter or wait til next week to post your comment below.
Diane Markins


Anonymous said...

Hi Diane! So far I haven't succumbed to tweeting or Facebook, but I know the marketing advantage. Your article makes me think, because I do have a weakness for procrastination and don't really need more ways to do that! Thanks for the thoughts.
Nancy Parker Brummett

Joan C. Webb said...

My allotted time is up! :-)

Anonymous said...

Internet Poem

I asked the Lord to tell me
Why my house is such a mess.
He asked if I'd been 'computering',

And I had to answer 'yes.'

He told me to get off my fanny,
And tidy up the house.
And so I started cleaning up...

The smudges off my mouse.
I wiped and shined the topside.
That really did the trick....

I was just admiring my good work.
I didn't mean to 'click.'

But click, I did, and oops - I found
A real absorbing site
That I got SO way into it -
I was into it all night.

Nothing's changed except my mouse..
It's very, very shiny.
I guess my house will stay a mess....
While I sit here on my hiney.
PS I love my computer because my friends live in it!
J Wilcox

Anonymous said...

Well Diane. . .you've most likely hit a nerve with me! I LOVE Twitter. When things pile up for me because there's more than 2 persons can get done - let alone 1, I turn to my TweetDeck & have a little conversation with one of my most frequent tweet friends - it lightens the load.

I'm NOT a Facebook fan. I know people play what I consider stupid games on it because I get them in my inbox - or my "home page". There's some game now that folks who used to add richness to their tweet stream are now absent because they're caught up in "Mafia Wars". And spare me these "so and so sent you a Jewel on Facebook - send one back".

No thank you! That's what I don't have time for!

I agree 100% with Amy Stark who says that twitter is the greatest form of social capital. . . can't remember the rest of her quote (on Twitter), but it said it all for me. The internet and social media are like anything else that man (or woman) thinks of. It can be used for bad and for good. I choose to use it for good and pray that others will as well.

One of the things I've discovered is that some health care facilities that cater to the more 'vintage' folk find social media very beneficial to lonely folks who are lacking in much social contact. Just learning the computer; the internet and the simple aspects of social media can help those who have the budding beginnings of dementia or Alzheimer's. And the opportunities to connect with folks half way (or more) around the world absolutely astounds me. On Twitter, I connect with an awesome person in Eastern Europe and recently had a woman from the UK join the Station because of a post I put up on another forum.

You are correct - folks can become "addicted" to the internet; the games that are there (ask Amy Stark about playing bridge at one time with folks from other countries & making some great connections). But then if one has an "addictive" personality; one will become addicted to most anything.

Since much of the vision my heavenly PAPA gave me 3 years ago involves use of the internet and now social media. . . I'm probably a wee bit biased. But I think the other side of the coin is what we can add to the lives of others by a simple post here and another one there. That's how I view it. . .

I believe that making connections is the absolute positive value of social media. Whether it's for business, professional, spiritual or personal advantage - one has to do "all things in moderation". . . but I can say that if I didn't consistently post here, it would be a pretty bleak picture. Actually it would be "blank" for the most part.

And if I didn't do some Twittering each day, we would not have grown as we have over the last number of months.

And as a "recovering professional therapist", I know that some professionals will come up with almost anything with which to diagnose another because it's all about the "almighty buck".

Sorry, I think I just went on a rant! I know how you feel when we don't get the response we want. . . but persistence pays off. And yes, if young people are spending too much time on the computer (for any reason); ipod; x-box, etc. - that needs to be monitored. And we'll not even go into the internet porn issue as that's a growing phenomenon that is causing considerable pain to too many women in this day and age.

Okay, I'm done! I have to go off and say "hi" to my Twitter friends; print off from the computer material for a Team meeting this a.m.; say a word or two in another post of things I wanted to mention a few days ago, but didn't have time to do so, etc. etc. etc.

All in all - I believe the internet and social media can be the most awesome positive addition to our lives - and that of others - that the world might ever have seen. Better than permitting Iran to have the bomb.

Much love in your day,

Linda Fitzgerald

Anonymous said...

Diane, kudos to you for continuing to take on and opine about controversial topics!

I held out against involvement in Twitter and fbook for a long time. Why? I really don't care if a friend ate a "tasty pear and power bar for breakfast". But then I succumbed to the tsuanmi of pressure from colleagues that this was a great way to build a platform (much as you said).

Then I entered a season of infatuation with the novelty of "creating my profile" (a satisfying exercise that might help to allay or solve mid-life crisis!), setting up columns in Tweetdeck, and reconnecting with some folks I haven't seen in decades (that was probably the highlight and most valuable facet of my introduction to the world of social media).

Then my internal clock began tracking the amount of time that could be wasted perusing innane posts about things such as pears and power bars, and I just said no. Now, I rarely immerse myself in tweetdeck of fbook pages, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything significant or opportunities to "promote" the ministry my wife and I've been called to do.

If someone dies and I'm close enough, their survivors will call me. If someone wants or needs the ministry we have been equipped to do (marriage coaching and training couples to do marriage coaching), they will call or write.

My tweets are limited to notifications of new blog posts, articles or training opportunities, and I peruse a select few others for the same. Why? It boils down to the time factor and is related to the value of stewardship.

We each have a specific number of days appointed to live. I want to responsibly represent (not market) what I have been given to do by God, and be on task with that as well as possible. Limiting distractions and conserving energy for priorities (God, family, work) is challenging enough without cluttering my brain with pears and power bars.

Why did I take the time to write this? perhaps for your accountability if I go off the wagon and begin posting inane details about my life, :)

Gotta go! Gonna have a pear and power bar for breakfast!

Jeff Williams