How to prevent online exhaustion

Prevent Online ExhaustionThe average Internet user is online for 68 hours a month, which works out to about 2 1/4 hours per day. But what about those who spend 38 hours a week or more?

The draw of the Internet isn't just the massive amounts of information available at the click of a mouse, but also the interactions with people. Those who spend the most time on the Net are talking to others in chat rooms and on forums, playing Multiplayer Online Dungeons (MODs) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft (WoW) -- investing inordinate amounts of time in virtual worlds.

All of the excess time spent online can lead to exhaustion and even Internet dependency. It's estimated that about 5 percent to 10 percent of Internet users exhibit addiction-like behavior related to the Net, according to a study by Dr. Kimberly Young, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford. This is on par with addictions to alcohol and gambling.

Internet dependents exhibit symptoms much like other addictions such as depression, nervousness and withdrawal from everyday activities according to Dr. Young's findings.

But before you have to embark on a 12-Step Program and start attending meetings, here are a few ways to keep from overloading on the World Wide Web -- and maintain a good balance between online and offline time.


1. Schedule your personal and your work Internet use. Make sure you separate the two, so you're aware of how much you're using the Internet for entertainment and surfing.

2. Set a daily goal for your personal Internet use. Mark off the hours as you use them up -- and if you go over, turn off the computer.

3. Find real-life hobbies and activities you enjoy away from the computer. If you're involved in art, sports, music or social activities, you're less likely to spend lots of time on the Internet.

4. Take frequent breaks to rest your eyes, move around and stretch. Sitting for long, uninterrupted periods of time in front of a computer hurts your eyes, arms and back.

5. Evaluate how your Internet use is fitting in with your life. If you find it's interfering with meals, relationships, your job or school work, it's time to pull in the reins and get offline.

6. If you find it difficult to regulate your time on the Internet by yourself, find a friend or trusted counselor to hold you accountable. You can buy a device called a "SnoopStick," which allows the holder to see what you're doing on your computer at any time. There is also software that can limit your time and activities on your computer.

7. Seek help if you find that you're spending excessive amounts of time online, feel nervous or anxious when you're not online, see your relationships suffer, or if your Internet use is interfering with work, school or everyday life.