We laughed when people started calling BlackBerries “CrackBerries,” and we all joke about our shameless internet additions on the daily. But as it turns out, our need to always be dialed in to the internet may actually be akin to real addiction.
Or at least that’s the concern based on a new study from the U.K. and Italy, where researchers looked at people’s internet usage and their physical reactions to cutting the cord. The researchers examined 144 people aged 18 to 33 during the experiment and measured things like their heart rate and blood pressure before and after a session online. To get an idea of usage habits, they also asked each participant to rank their addiction levels and feelings of anxiety.
For those who self-reported an addiction, there was a higher likelihood of participants experiencing a faster heart rate or increased blood pressure as soon as they were finished their session. Although there wasn’t enough of a difference to cause any kind of medical concern (it was only a three-to-four per cent jump), it is worth noting that those are some of the same withdrawal symptoms people with addictions to drug and alcohol can face when they stop using.
“Whether problematic internet use turns out to be an addiction — involving physiological and psychological withdrawal effects — or whether compulsions are involved that do not necessitate such withdrawal effects — is yet to be seen, but these results seem to show that, for some people, it is likely to be an addiction,” said Roberto Truzoli, the study’s co-author.
That’s some scary stuff. At the very least, this highlights the importance of unplugging every once in a while. Because it wasn’t like a majority of these users were simply using the internet to do their job: shopping and surfing social media sites were the two biggest reported uses for turning to the internet among those studied. And we’re talking for five or six hours a day here — that time really adds up when you stop paying attention.
Our heart rate is actually going up a little just thinking about it.