What does it mean to be Chronically Online?

Read Time - 5 min

What does it mean to be Chronically Online?

How did this happen?

The digital world has unlocked a world of possibilities.

It’s easier than ever to connect with friends and loved ones. We can tackle important daily tasks, like ordering groceries or calling a cab, with the swipe of our fingers. We can even work from home. 

If we think about it, it’s pretty impressive.

But along with these technological advancements, come some challenges that we may not have expected. Including the latest trend–and dare we say syndrome–of being chronically online.

So let’s explore the phenomenon of being chronically online and whether or not you might have fallen victim.

What does it mean to be chronically online?

Being chronically online means you spend the majority of your time connected to the internet. This might include scrolling through social media, browsing websites, playing online games, or just being glued to their devices in general. 

Someone who’s chronically online might find it difficult to pull themselves away from the digital world. Even when they’re offline, they may find themselves referring back to their online experiences impacting their ability to navigate and engage with the real world.

We might go as far as calling it a phone addiction.

While this might feel far-fetched. The truth is, this is more common than you might think.

A 2022 study found that almost half of US internet users (48%) find themselves somewhat addicted to their digital devices. While they may not have reached the full-fledged level of being chronically online, it’s a sign that many users are well on their way.

What are the signs and symptoms of someone who’s chronically online?

With our world becoming increasingly digital-first, it can be difficult to distinguish between normal device use and being chronically online.

The biggest sign? When it starts to negatively impact your life.

Here are some signs and symptoms to look for.

  • Constant Device Use: If someone is constantly glued to their phone, tablet, or computer, and you rarely see them without a screen in front of their face, it's a sign they may be spending too much time online.
  • Difficulty Disconnecting: Someone who’s chronically online might struggle to disconnect from the digital world. They get anxious or fidgety when they're not glued to their devices, always needing to check their notifications, even in social situations or while doing important stuff.
  • Neglected Responsibilities: Digital addiction can also cause people to neglect daily responsibilities, such as work, school, household chores, or personal obligations. If someone consistently chooses their online activities over real-life responsibilities, it may be a sign of excessive online engagement.
  • Impaired Sleep Patterns: Someone who’s chronically online can easily find themselves burning the midnight oil with their digital consumption. Whether it’s staying up all night scrolling on social media or struggling to put their phone down, the lack of sleep can not only mess with sleep patterns, but overall health.
  • Social Withdrawal: Spending too much time online can make it easy to forget about people in the real world. A sign of being chronically online might be someone who is constantly flaking on plans to stay plugged in online or to engage with digital relationships.
  • Poor Self-care: Like any other addiction, with someone who’s chronically online self-care can easily get thrown out the window. This might include exercise, social relationships, nutrition, and even personal hygiene.
  • Changes in behavior or mood: Someone who is chronically online might exhibit behavioral changes. For example, they may be more anxious, irritable, or in a bad mood–particularly when pulled away from their devices.

Are there consequences to being chronically online?

No matter what you’re doing online, it’s possible to negatively impact your well-being. Being chronically online can create some serious consequences, both mentally and physically.

Let’s look at some consequences that can emerge from spending too much time in the digital world.

Strained Relationships

If you're addicted to being online, you may unintentionally push away the people who matter most. Your loved ones can feel neglected if you're glued to your devices all the time. 

It's important to find a balance between your virtual life and real-life connections to keep maintain healthy relationships with friends and loved ones.

Health Issues

Sitting for hours on end and staring at screens all day might be taking a toll on your body and mind. Being chronically online can contribute to weight gain, muscle stiffness, and other health issues. 

Constant screen time can also strain your eyes, give you headaches, and mess with your sleep.

Decreased Productivity

The internet is a vast and captivating place. It’s no wonder it’s so easy to get lost in it. Especially with new apps that are designed to keep you entertained. (Yep–TikTok addictions are real!)

Being chronically online can result in decreased productivity, as you may find yourself procrastinating or getting easily distracted by the constant barrage of notifications, memes, and endless scrolling on social media.

It's essential to set boundaries and create a focused work environment when needed.

Information Overload

The internet is full of a wealth of knowledge. But there is such a thing as too much information.

With the whole internet at your disposal, sorting through all the information can be a real struggle. There's just so much news, opinions, and data coming from everywhere, it's hard to know what to trust. And let's face it, it can really mess with your head.

If you’ve ever found yourself doom-scrolling, you know the feeling–it can leave you confused, anxious, and even disconnected from reality.

Social Comparison and FOMO

You may have heard that social media is a highlight real, and it’s definitely true. 

Seeing the highlight reels of others' lives can sometimes make you feel inadequate or left out. It's important to remember that social media often presents a distorted version of reality. A social media addiction can leave you in a comparison trap that can be difficult to climb out of.

Loss of Privacy

Being constantly online means you're leaving behind a massive digital footprint.

Digital information storage isn’t all bad, but if everything you do is online, you can find yourself losing track of your personal privacy real quick.

What are some ways to reduce the time I spend online?

Whether you feel like you’re showing signs of being chronically online or simply want to avoid the possibility, the best thing you can do is take steps to reduce the time you spend online.

Unfortunately, in this digital age, screen time isn’t always avoidable, but there are some ways to make digital overload a thing of the past.

Set Clear Digital Boundaries

Establish specific limits for your online activities. Decide how much time you want to spend online each day and stick to it. Some ways to improve digital boundaries include:

  • Device-free zones: Create zones in your house that are device free, so you won’t be tempted to use them. For example, keep the bedroom a screen-free zone to promote better sleep, or set aside dedicated device-free meal times to connect with family and friends.
  • Digital-free times: In a similar tactic, set aside specific periods during the day when you can completely disconnect from your devices. Use this time for self-care, relaxation, or engaging in activities that recharge you mentally and physically.

Use timers or apps, like Clearspace, that can help you track and manage your screen time effectively.

Avoid Mindless Scrolling

One of the easiest ways to get lost in the digital world is mindless scrolling–whether it’s through social media or other platforms.

Prioritize avoiding mindless scrolling and stepping away when you find yourself doing it.

Consider the purpose and value of your online activities to avoid mindless scrolling and unnecessary screen time.

Find Offline Alternatives

One of the best ways to get off your devices? Do something else that you enjoy.

Whether it's working out, diving into a good book, exploring your hobbies, taking in nature's beauty, or catching up with friends in person, there's so much to do outside of being online.

But don’t just look for hobbies. Take the time to nurture relationships and connections in the real world. 

Don't just wait around for real-life connections to happen, actively go out and seek them. Meet up with friends, join clubs or local groups, and get involved in events that match your interests. Finding the right balance between online and offline socializing can create some amazing relationships that really matter.

Reduce Notifications

Notifications can be super helpful but they can also create unnecessary distractions and draw you back to your device.

Take back control of your time by disabling or limiting notifications from apps or platforms that just suck it away. This way you decide when and how you engage with online content.

Try New Productivity Techniques

If you’re finding your devices are impacting your productivity and ability to focus on other tasks, try time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for a set amount of focused time and then take short breaks. This can enhance productivity and give you designated time away from screens.

Take A Digital Detox

Finally, sometimes it’s just easier to step away from your device completely. Get away for the weekend or put your electronics away for a few days at a time.

The first couple of hours might feel tough, but once you get used to it, you’ll find you’ll feel much better when you aren’t tethered to your device.

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