Although you may consider your constant Facebook updates a harmless habit, what if your mild obsession with the Internet was actually affecting your brainpower?
It turns out being addicted to the Internet can actually alter the volume of your brain, reports a recent study published in PloS One. Researchers recruited 35 individuals and quizzed them on their Internet usage to determine if they had Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).
Post-quiz brain scans showed that those with IAD had a reduction in volume in certain areas of the brain (specifically shrinking your grey and white matter). And the longer you're addicted (in terms of years), the less volume you'll have in those certain areas of the brain.
So what exactly does it mean for those with IAD? Although having this disorder isn't life-threatening, the areas of brain that were affected are thought to govern emotional processing, working memory (your brain's RAM), and brain function. Further research needs to be done to see if this has any serious repercussions.
Curious if you're getting close to "addict territory"? Check out the following questions from the Young's Diagnostic Questionnaire for Internet addiction. If you answer "yes" to five or more, you may have a problem.
1. Do you feel absorbed in the Internet (remember previous online activity or the desired next online session)?
2. Do you feel satisfied with Internet use if you increase your amount of online time?
3. Have you failed to control, reduce, or quit Internet use repeatedly?
4. Do you feel nervous, temperamental, depressed, or sensitive when trying to reduce or quit Internet use?
5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
6. Have you taken the risk of losing a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
7. Have you lied to your family members, therapist, or others to hide the truth of your involvement with the Internet?
8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving an anxious mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilty, anxiety, or depression)?
So what do you if your results say you have IAD? Work on disconnecting throughout your day (you know, like putting DOWN that iPhone every once in a while). During your free time, try spending less time on the computer and attempt to go sans-cell for a while says Laura Stack, president and CEO of The Productivity Pro and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. Stack suggests starting small (such as 30 minutes a day), and working you way up to an hour or more as time passes. During that time, that means no phone. No email. No Facebook. (Trust us, you'll survive.)