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The internet is a platform in which the individual feels disinhibited thus this creates an interesting forum in which individuals can play out different roles. This creates a situation in which for example individuals who feel anxious or depressed on a constant basis can play out fictional roles. Where they create and play out alternative characters to the ones which they exhibit in non-virtual life. This can be one of the factors which contributes an individual to spend an exorbitant amount of time on the internet, pretending to be someone who s/he is not. This is done as a way to self-medicate their problem or rather to detach from their real selves, as their online self is much more comfortable engaging with others.

Thus the baseline condition of excessive internet use can stem from some mental health condition which further exacerbates itself in compulsive internet use. This release, however, is only temporary and masks the true problems that will continue to persist in their everyday lives if left unaddressed.

If you feel like you tend to be a heavy internet user which is not deemed necessary for work purposes or other reasons which require heavy use of the internet, which serve a purpose in your non-virtual life; here are some practical tips:

  1. Create a schedule in which internet time is permitted and commit to it, rather than not having any rules to internet use. If possible internet use should be restricted to only those activities that are necessary such as; career or academic purposes. If social media is important to you allow yourself to spent intermittently one hour per day.
  2. Set external stoppers such as a reminder on your phone
  3. Try inform someone close to you about your plan in order to try and get other people involved in your plan to increase motivation to stick to the plan.
  4. Create a personal inventory of activities or other obligations which you are missing out on due to your internet useage. Creating this list can help objectify the problem and help you understand that you could be missing out on important activities in your life which are more meaningful to you rather than spending your time on the internet.
  5. If you think that there is an underlying baseline mental health condition which you feel is affecting your internet use. Try seek professional help as it is imperative that you address this issue before trying to curb heavy internet use in order to avoid disappointment and continue to serve a vicious cycle of disappointment.

Karl Grech is a counsellor. He offers counselling to both individuals and couples within Willingness. He can be contacted on karl@willingness.com.mt.