“My morning starts with checking social media and chat updates. I chat with my female friends, check the chat with colleagues, family chat, chat of volunteers of the animal shelter I am a member of, and communicating with a couple of fans. My husband also scrolls the chat all the time. We can goof on in a bed with phones for 30 minutes before we get up. During the day I’m constantly posting and receiving dozens of messages. While working, my phone is always in silent mode. But every 5-10 minutes, and sometimes more often I check my updates. When I don’t see any new messages, I feel some chilled and anxious. To get rid of this feeling as soon as possible, I write a message with a question to someone, send a funny picture or post. I get a smile in response and for a short time I calm down, and go back to work…”
– Tatiana, 24, receptionist at a beauty salon
If your morning starts the same way as Tatiana’s, you should read this article to the end. The development of the Internet and mobile technologies has opened up a new era of communication, the standards and norms of which are constantly forming and shifting. The use of these technologies and their danger to human and society are an issue of interest to many scientists and professionals. Biologists predict changes in the development of the skeleton and musculature of the person due to long periods of time spend at the computer or the use of gadgets.  Cinematographers create fantastic movies about the influence of “black mirrors” that seem frighteningly real. People who have lost the ability to maintain live communication with others are increasingly turning to psychologists in increasing numbers.
Why doesn’t virtual communication enrich us as individuals? How to get rid of the obsessive desire to communicate online with someone? Read more.
The term “pathological use of the Internet” referring to the pronounced propensity for hyperactive communication in chat rooms and forums, gaining the features of addiction, was introduced by the German psychologist Sylvia Krusther in 2008. According to Sylvia, the pathological craving for the Internet communication is a consequence of abnormalities in the psyche. Sylvia and a group of scientists recruited 61 persons to this research. They studied patients on an outpatient basis diagnosed with “internet addiction”, and volunteers found by ads. The persons underwent several stages of interviewing, testing and special Internet diagnostics, after which they were divided into two groups: those who use the Internet pathologically, and those who use the Internet resources rationally. In the first group, 27 out of 30 persons were diagnosed with mental disorders. In the second, only 7 of 31 persons were diagnosed with mental disorders. When restrictions on access to forums and chats were placed, mentally ill people showed signs of depressive syndrome, fear, and anxiety. 
The first large-scale research on Internet addiction was conducted in 1996 by psychologist Kimberly Young, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Young identified five forms of Internet addiction, one of which was cyber communication, i.e. addiction to social media, chat rooms, and multiplayer games. A person suffering from cybercommunicative dependence prefers virtual “live” communication to real “live” one.
“After the divorce, I did not allow men to approach me for a long time — I couldn’t pick myself up after that breakup for two years. One day I received a message at VKontakte from a stranger from another city. Something got me interested in him, and we started talking. After a few weeks I was convinced that he was perfect for me, in communication he resembled my father, whom I endlessly respected and loved. A few months later we were talking non-stop and considered ourselves as a couple. He even sent me gifts for all the holidays and flowers just because. But we never met in real life. The virtual love affair was terminated on his initiative. Now I am worried again because of the breakup, even thought the relationship was not even real”.
– Elena, 37, Financier
Like any form of addiction, dependence on communication thought the Internet develops because of psychological instability of the individual. In Elena’s case, it was personal trauma — the divorce pushed her to a dependent relationship with a virtual interlocutor. As the history shows, this did not solve her problem, but on the contrary, increased the depth of trauma.
The table below shows some of the causes and possible consequences of online communication addiction for children, adolescents, and adults.
|Risk group||Causes of addiction||Consequences of addiction|
|Children||Unreasonable actions of parents — when parents hand the gadget to their child to distract him/her and free up time for their own affairsThe phenomenon of an “imaginary friend” — when a child finds an interlocutor who is ready to respond to a message or signal almost at any time (send a smile in response to a smile and the like).Difficult situation in the family, quarrels between parents, the appearance of a younger brother/sister — children/teenagers seek to protect themselves from the conflict environment, to get rid of the feeling of not being needed.||Scattered attention, learning difficulties, difficulties in socialization, and loss of interest in mobile activities.|
|Teenagers||Difficult situation in the family, quarrels between parents, the appearance of a younger brother/sister — children/teenagers seek to protect themselves from the conflict environment, to get rid of the feeling of not being needed.The desire to discuss sensitive, personal or forbidden topics that are not commonly spoken of out loud.||Lower self-esteem, narrowing of interests not related to online communication, desire to limit real communication, violent reaction of protest to prohibitions and restrictions on the part of parents, proneness to conflict, anxiety, frequent mood swings, delays and skipping classes at school, dangerous acquaintances, risk of falling under the influence of mentally unstable interlocutors and joining the “death group”|
|Adults||Mental disorders, traumatic situations, stress – encourage alienation from real communication with people.The ability to find new social contacts more easily and quicklyThe ability to idealize the interlocutorThe desire to satisfy sexual fantasies||Reduced stress resistance, loss of ability to soberly assess reality and solve crises, evasion of responsibility, violation of sleep and wakefulness routine, conflicts with loved ones, the appearance of anxiety and aggression, if for some reason it is impossible to access a certain website or check the media|
From the statements below, choose the ones that are typical of your behavior or the behavior of a loved one.
1. I’m pretty often online for more than two hours.
2. I have an irresistible desire to scroll the social media pretty often.
3. I often check my phone for updates on social media and chat rooms.
4. When I’m online, I often update the page to see if there are any new messages and likes.
5. I’m worried and annoyed if, for some reason, I can’t log on to the social media.
6. I’m harsh and rude when someone tries to distract me from a conversation online.
7. I often go online to distract myself when I have difficulties with solving work and household tasks.
8. To start a conversation, I often send messages without special meaning, need, and interest (“How are you?”, “How’s the mood?”, “What’s new?” etc.).
9. I more often communicate with people online than in real life.
10. It’s easier for me to make small talk with people online than in real life.
11. It’s easy for me to add friends and start online correspondence with a stranger, whereas in real life I’m unsociable and shy.
12. My loved ones are offended when I switch all the attention to the phone in their presence.
If 8 or more statements are true for you, it’s a time to consider how to learn how to control your Internet addiction.
It is quite difficult and in some cases, unfortunately, impossible to get rid of addiction to forums and chat-rooms without the specialist’s help.
If you realize that it is impossible to overcome the addiction to online communication without help, it is best to consult psychologists. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is one of the most effective ways to work with changing psychological mindset. The method is based on the theory of reflexes of I.P. Pavlov and the theory of the operant conditioning of B. Skinner. The duration of the behavior modification program is 6 weeks only. At the same time, the course is remote: you can practice at a convenient time in a comfortable environment. Throughout the course, you will communicate with a personal psychologist. You can keep in touch with a specialist by any convenient communication channel: by phone, online chats or by e-mail. It is available for both adults and teenagers.
To live in the real world, to communicate with people face to face, to learn to overcome differences in live dialogue — all of this is necessary for the harmonious development of the person. As soon as you learn to maintain a balance between virtual and personal communication, you will immediately see how the quality of your life will change!
1. Uchenye: Gadzhety meshayut normalnomu razvitiyu kostej i myshc detej (https://rg.ru/2016/07/03/gadzhety-meshaiut-normalnomu-razvitiiu-kostej-i-myshc-detej.html
2. Prorochestva «Chyornogo zerkala» (https://www.svoboda.org/a/28970804.html).
3. Is “Internet Addiction” a disorder of its own? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17546534).
4. Yang, K. S. (2000) Diagnoz – internet-zavisimost // Mir Internet. # 2. S. 24-29