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My Addiction To The Internet

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This year I decided I’d treat myself to some time off over my birthday. Nothing major, nothing extreme. I’d just not sit down at my desk for a full day’s work for a few days – I’d update social media, maybe dip in to edit or schedule, but mostly I’d be away from the internet, I’d relish in people and experiences and the old kind of life I remember.

You remember that sort of life? We’re the last generation to really feel it – to know what it’s like to live a life separate from the internet. To see friends, to have lunch, to go on holiday, to do amazing things without stopping to upload the moment to social media to prove it ever really happened. And then to sit back and wait for all the positive affirmations to roll in and prove we’re worthy as a person. Yup, it’s a grand old life the internet has helped us create, ahaha.

I was 14 and in year 9 when the internet first started becoming an important part of who I was. We spent hours (or days during the summer holidays because omg six weeks without boys to flirt with during lunch break is dire) on MSN Messenger and Myspace constructing these visions of who we wanted to be. Communicating with people in a boundary-less way.

I was shy and quiet at school, I lacked confidence. And then suddenly there was this way that I could be the girl I wanted to be – the outgoing girl, the fun girl, the chatty girl, the charismatic girl, the girl boys wanted and the girl girls wanted to be.

It’s addictive isn’t it, suddenly having this new-found freedom to say and act however you like without the terrifying reality of eye contact and facial expressions and body language? To be the version of yourself you’d always dreamed of being without any social awkwardness holding you back.

And, as much as social media has come on leaps and bounds in the decade since then, the joy of those early days was that you could switch off. You’d go on holiday and bye bye MSN Messenger for a fortnight and hello fun in real life. You’d go to school and you’d be away from the internet all day, you’d have real conversations, you’d have thoughts that weren’t constantly a roundabout of comparison towards every person you followed on various social media accounts.

OMG I SOUND LIKE A GRANDDAD.

But you know what I’m trying to say. The internet wasn’t this thing that controlled who you were or how you felt, it was just a thing. Like, I dunno, The Sims or Nickelodeon or something, just a tiny fraction of your overall life.

Anyway, there’s very little I miss about my 16-year-old self, but I envy her lack of reliance on the internet.

The first thing I do when I wake up is check my social media accounts and emails and blog stats and comments, and it’s the last thing I do before I fall asleep. But back then it was different. Sure, I’d probably check my phone but it was only for texts, it wasn’t time consuming or energy consuming or soul consuming. I didn’t just sit and while away the day refreshing things and re-reading the same statuses over and over again because omg plz someone hurry up and upload something new. I’d check my phone and then oh look, a cute text from Virgin and nothing else, now I’ma put my phone down and maybe do some art or watch Crystal Maze re-runs.

So for my birthday I wanted that kinda time. The kind of time where my mood wasn’t dictated by whether a stranger was telling me I looked fat in a fashion post or whether every other single person in the whole damn bloggersphere had been asked to take part in some paid campaign that I wasn’t part of. I wanted to switch off from that, remember the way it used to feel before my iPhone became the most important and mood-controlling thing in my life.

And y’know what happened? Y’know how it really felt to be sat at home on my own without my blog and my work and my online community and blogging friends?

IT FELT HIDEOUS.

I felt so flat. I think I cried about four times over three days.

I am so addicted and obsessed and entwined into the internet that I don’t know how to unravel from it, and actually, when I try to, it makes me feel worse. I don’t know how to be a functioning human being without the internet.

Now, isn’t that sad?

It’s the main reason I kind of went FUCK IT, I’M VLOGGING MYKONOS AND UPLOADING EVERYTHING TO SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTERNET INTERNET INTERNET. I was so underwhelmed by how it felt to pull away from my online life over my birthday that I realised it would make me more miserable to attempt to go cold turkey on holiday.

The internet is me, it’s who I am, who I’ve become.

Twitter makes me feel like I’m part of a really fun, chirpy group of people at a house party, it makes me feel like I’m surrounded by cool people working in an office even when I’m at home alone. Instagram makes me feel like the popular girl at school and the likes translate to people liking me and it gives me a positive self-esteem boost, and people reading my blog and commenting makes me feel like I’m good at something, like I have a skill, like I’m worthwhile, that I’m doing something that helps people.

Without that combination of community and positivity I feel so dull and uninspired. I have come to rely so heavily on those invisible pick-me-ups and affirmations to give me strength and motivation for everyday life.

How did people feel good about themselves before? Without the likes and the retweets and comments and favourites? Did we communicate to each other in real life and shower each other in compliments and happiness?

My mood is constantly a rollercoaster, dictated by whichever emails have landed in my inbox and how many new followers I’ve received, rather than what’s going on in my offline life and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to switch off from that and flip it round.

Chris and I have our phone-free date night once every couple of weeks but by the time we roll into bed we’re both gagging to get our phones back in our hands to play catch-up with our feeds and find out what we’ve missed from the ever-constant online world. There is no real way to peel yourself away from this addiction, to feel normal without your phone in your hand.

Unlike with drugs and alcohol, the internet is something that we cannot survive without. It has become a fundamental part of not only our every day lives, but our working lives and out careers and our livelihoods.

I’m not sure where this post is going but HI. Basically I enjoy the highs the online world gives me too much to ever pull away properly, if even for a few days, no matter how hard the lows can be.

Whatever happens and however my relationship with the internet changes, I’ll just forever be glad that I can remember a life before it. It may be all-consuming and a right little bitch to try to get away from because flippin’ heck I could spend hours editing my photos to perfection on VSCOcam but at least I can remember playing chubby bunnies with my friends at sleepovers as a kid without frantically wondering if my Insta grid looked on fleek.

And on that note, I’m off I’m off to squirell myself under the bed covers with a notebook and a good bit of old fashioned hand-writing.

 



27 comments so far.
  • Josie

    I literally let out a sigh of relief while reading this Hannah, you are most definitely not alone! I can so so so relate to this and currently thanking the lord that it’s not just me.

    Josie xoxo | Fashion Mumblr

  • And you know what? It’s not just you that feels this way. It’s 99% of our generation who are stuck behind a screen of some sort for most of the day. Even waiting for a bus, we have to be scrolling twitter or instagram or keeping up with something online. It’s the way the world has gone, which in some ways is kinda sad but then like you say, the friends I’ve made on here are amazing and I wouldn’t change it x

    Sam // Samantha Betteridge

  • I feel this way too, I take more breaks now from the internet then ever before (largely because of the killer migraines I get from too much time online) and boy it’s hard. I panic and feel like I should be updating everything, every hour of everyday and even so when I’m working in the pub. I can’t wait to find a spare minute to quickly check out my phone! what a generation we’ve become, this post was very interesting!

    Emmie || http://www.carpediememmie.co.uk/

  • Lauren

    I can see how quickly addictive the internet is becoming but I actually enjoy time away from my phone. I went on a cruise last year and I didn’t have signal the whole 8 days, it was liberating! x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

    • I can imagine that after the first few hours of OMFG WHAT AM I MISSING OUT ON you sort of calm down and get over it and it’s actually pretty amazing!

  • I think everyone feel’s this way at least a little bit. I get guilty pangs if I don’t post something for a few hours, and it does cause so much unnecessary anxiety in modern life. I actually think it would be great if the whole internet could just go down for a few hours, so people could have a break and not feel like their missing out.

    • You’re 100% right, how nice would it be if it just broke for a few hours (or, ahem, a few days). How do we go about making this happen? I can hear the millennium bug calling.

  • Kb

    I can definitely relate to my mood depending on the e-mails and opportunities I’m getting, what a palaver!

  • This. ALL THE THIS.

    You are soo not alone on this one girl! I’ve always been an internet lover, ever since I was 13 and first discovered it. From MSN to myspace to fanfiction to facebook, twitter and now instagram and blogging: I’ve always been pretty obsessed with it!

    My sister, on the other hand, is really not bothered with it at all. I think it’s just the way some of us are wired and, as long as it doesn’t affect you emotionally or mentally to the point that you find yourself in a downwards spiral, I really don’t see anything wrong with it :)

    Little Miss Katy | UK Lifestyle Blog

    • i just assumed we were all tuned this way so really interesting to hear that your sister isn’t. I feel like most of the time mine isn’t unhealthy but I can’t deny that it does drive me insane and put me in downward spirals every now and then. It’s just hard when it’s my full income, if i pull away from it, how will I make money?

  • Liz

    This is a really sad post to read. Sitting refreshing a screen waiting for strangers to like you is not any positive way to live your life. A few people have mentioned this to you before but maybe you need a part-time job or activity away from the Internet? It’s really depressing to read about such a waste of time – think of the difference you’d make if you spent even 5% of your internet time volunteering at a charity (and no, this does not need to be instagramed!)

    • Annie

      Seconded. Volunteering is good for the mind, requires no specific qualifications or skills (usually), and is a great way to meet new people and learn new things. Some charities ask for just a few hours a week but it makes such a difference. Surely there’s a local cat shelter or something nearby? (Obviously it helps if you’re passionate about the cause you’re volunteering for.) And, perhaps, you could use your blog as a platform to publicise the good work the charity does. Maybe something to consider.

    • Having an addiction to anything is not a good thing. If you feel bad when you’re away from it – for me that’s a sign to be more mindful of how you’re coping.

      I only say this because I’m similar to you in a lot of ways. People have said it to me a lot, even the doctor, a therapist. I use the internet as a tool to curb my anxieties. I have suffered from mental problems and the internet lets me escape into a world and while i’m online I feel a bit better. However, it isn’t a way of coping that’s healthy.

      I think you’d feel like less of a roller coaster if you tried to do activities that are based in the real world, of course, the internet is bloody awesome and it’s part of who we are. But it’s important to step away – to do things that are not online. To let your brain refresh. It’s so important to give your brain and mental health a break from any repetitive activity.

      I like the comment above about volunteering. Or maybe it’s just taking up a new skill you teach yourself – something creative.

      One part of therapy for depression/anxiety in CBT is that you force yourself to do activities. It’s called Behavioural activation –

      “The goal is to identify depression loops. A depression loop is when a temporary coping method increases the overall depression, such as the temporary relief provided by alcohol or other drugs, escape or avoidance or rumination.[12] When patterns of dysfunctional responding, or loops, are identified alternative coping responses are attempted to break the loop.”

      Obviously the internet is like our drugs. Anyway, I don’t know you personally to know if you see it as a huge problem, but I guess because you wrote about it – it must be a concern. And for me it has sometimes made me worse in the past.

      Hopefully it might help you to look into ways of coping without. And deffo have a google of behavioural activation. I think if you can break the cycle, life becomes happier and maybe you can have a couple of days away from the world of twitter without crying :)

      x

      • Volunteering is definitely an interesting idea. But I feel like it’s one of those things that scares me a bit, y’know, ‘cos it’s out of my comfort zone and so new. I feel like I’ve already got first day nerves without even doing research. I think it’s something I need to think about and be a bit brave and just take the leap because I know, I KNOW, the emotional reward will be incredible.

        I’m going to take myself off on a walk today and do some writing whilst not connected to the internet and I have some serious Scrabble plans for this evening. I think I need to plan for non-internet related activities for my downtime because it just feels like me and my boyfriend just end up sitting on the sofa refreshing all our social apps which just makes me feel worse.

        WAH.

  • Oh you are good Hannah. I have a younger sister and sometimes it really gives me a wake up call to how different our childhoods have been – I remember a pre internet world where I learnt how to do cartwheels, played sims for a few hours, went to town and entertained myself other ways; my sister now spends all her time on internet related things, living a life of communicating over instagram and fearing real life phone calls with friends because ‘no one does that omg’.

    I had an unintentional week off blogging a month or so ago, and it was HARD you miss so much and you feel disconnected, that everyone has forgotten you. How did we get like this?! Regardless, I feel the internet has allowed me to be a person I want to be so I hope it translates into real life (I’ll probably still be awkward, that will never change)

    I think this went off on one, but anyway, I really want to enjoy those non-media times, to soak up life and enjoy things, but at the same time I’m so glad it’s let me meet likeminded and awesome people :) although, I would like to read a book sometime soon….

    Lauren x
    Britton Loves | Lifestyle Food Beauty

  • I definitely rely on the internet sooo much, it took about 3 months for Sky to set up my broadband when I moved to a new place and the only reason I got through it was because I was away on trips for one of those months and I could access a BT WiFi hotspot. Everyone thought I was being so chill about it but nah, I really wasn’t.

    Laura | WhatSheWroteBlog x

  • You are my damn hero, Hannah! I spend all day on the Internet – working, keeping in touch with family and friends (I tend to move around a bit). I’m glad I remember the days of dial up!
    http://collecintlabels.com

  • I know where you’re coming from. The internet wasn’t a thing until I was in college and even then it was crappy dial-up that would cut out if people picked up the phone, so i know what’s it’s like to live a life away from a screen. But I also see why everybody loves the internet – because it’s huge. Whilst I was growing up I was shy, i lacked confidence and i hadn’t found my tribe of weirdos whom i could truly relax and be myself around – and with the internet i found those people – geography may have separated us all but it also united us and gave us the communication to meet up with one another and the internet makes distance feel smaller and much less lonely. I only tend to go on the internet when i have something i want to do (read blogs, write blogs, online shop) but i do enjoy my time on social media in-between those things and i think sometimes people get addicted because of their real life location. When i was living in a big city it was easy to detach away because everyone wanted to go out ALL the time. Dinner at 9pm? Drinks at 11pm? SURE. But now i’m in the countryside people don’t want to eat dinner past 8 and there’s pretty much nowhere to go at night.

    They say your vibe attracts your tribe, but sometimes there’s thousands of miles standing in the way of connecting with those people in real life and the internet is there for when that happens and you just need your peoples. I don’t really know where i’m going with this comment if i’m honest, it seems to have gotten so very long, but basically i juste wanted to say this: I FEEL YA GAL xx

  • Jodie

    This is just our generation today it’s not just you that feels that way. I wish I could put my phone down and step away from it but you constantly use it, checking Twitter while waiting for a bus, scrolling through Instagram when laid in bed. 99% of our generation are stuck behind a screen for most of the day. It’s the way the world has gone, yet it was so different when I was growing up.

    • Jodie

      Also it may not be of interest to you but I’d love to see a post on your favourite apps or whats on your iPhone :)

  • You’re certainly not alone!! It took 6 weeks for us to get internet installed in our house so I just had to go round to my Mums every other night to steal her wi-fi!!

    http://www.ohsobecky.com

  • I feel you! I spend 8 hours a day on the internet in work then go home and go on the internet!! :-(

    Terry | http://www.beachcow.co.uk

  • Lisa

    You really should spend time volunteering or join a club or something – it sounds like you have way too much free time that you do nothing with.

  • You look fab in your pics but you need to tell your boyfriend to stand up when taking them!! It’s never a good angle going from down to up, not that it stops you being fab :) Just get him aff the couch!

  • The most interesting and relatable blog post I have ever read, honestly! I’m sO glad I am not alone! However, you have inspired me to see if I can manage a few days without the internet…wish me luck! x

  • I so get this. I’ve always been an internet lover, especially during high-school, it helped me survive it to be honest. I only got my first decent smartphone this year, and didn’t realise just HOW out the loop I was. I thought I didn’t really need one, that I wouldn’t want to check much during the day, I was happy checking later on. HOW DID I LIVE?! I’m never off it now, constantly refreshing everything

    x
    http://www.siobhanrothwell.com

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