How many times have you been on your phone for a minute, only to look up and realize that an hour has passed?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

If you're worried that you might be using the internet too much, you're not alone.

One study found that over 12% of people were at high risk of suffering from internet addiction.

Common Warning Signs To Look Out For

  1. Excessive internet use

  2. Preoccupation with the internet

  3. Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when not using the internet

  4. Prioritizing the Internet over other parts of your life

  5. The internet causes serious distress or negatively impacting your life

Let's go over these warning signs in more detail.

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1. Excessive Internet Use

Most Americans use the internet every day, and almost 30% say they are almost always on the internet.

You might be using the internet too much if you:

  • Find yourself using the internet for longer than you intend to

  • Want to use the internet less, but find it hard to stop yourself

Even though most people use the internet every day, internet use is only excessive when it causes us significant distress.

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When should we be worried that someone's internet use might be a problem? When their internet use...

2. Being Preoccupied With The Internet

People suffering from internet addiction might:

  • Think about the internet when not using it

  • Think a lot about what they are going to post and when to post it

  • Care a lot about what people on the internet think about them

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Being overly preoccupied with likes, comments, and follows is one warning sign.


Katie is an avid social media user. What might be a sign that Katie is struggling with internet addiction?

3. Tolerance And Withdrawal Symptoms

Tolerance means that you find yourself wanting or needing to be on the Internet for longer and longer periods of time.

Think about how long it takes you to scroll through your social media feed. Ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour? If you find this number getting bigger, that may be a warning sign.

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Withdrawal symptoms might happen when you aren't using the Internet. They might include:

  • Feeling distressed, anxious, or jittery when you haven't been online lately

  • Having fantasies or obsessive thoughts about the internet

  • Returning to the internet to make uncomfortable feelings go away


Which is a sign of a healthy relationship with the internet?

4. Changes In Priorities

Is the internet one of the most important things in your life?

Being addicted to something makes us believe it is more important than our:

  • Physical health

  • Relationships

  • Jobs

  • Hobbies

  • Education

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Signs that someone is prioritizing the internet in a harmful way include:

  • Sleep issues

  • A loved one has voiced concern about their internet use

  • They have trouble getting places on time

  • Lying to others about their internet use

  • Their grades or productivity at work have suffered because of their internet use

What To Do If You Recognize The Symptoms Of Internet Addiction

  • Tell your loved one that you are concerned, but don't be pushy. They may not want to talk about it yet.

  • Offer support. Let them know you are there if they ever want to talk.

  • Suggest activities that don't involve the Internet (like going for a walk, listening to music together, or playing board games).

Flaticon Icon In this text chat, the sender suggests to their friend Paul that they go for a walk outside first instead of defaulting to playing video games.

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If you think you might have an Internet addiction issue, you aren't alone.

Reach out to loved ones, your doctor, or mental health practitioners for support.

Take Action

Assess yourself

How would you rate your relationship with the Internet? Have you experienced any of the warning signs?

For the next day or two:


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This Byte has been authored by


Silvan Spicer

higher education instructional designer