Breaking Your Daily Internet Addiction

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Q: I often find myself locked into a perpetual loop between my inbox and Facebook. How can I force myself to break the cycle and disengage?

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A: The instant connectivity and wealth of knowledge delivered by the Internet are empowering, but also fairly dangerous. Internet addiction -- the inability to control one's Internet use -- is a very real disorder, one that afflicts thousands of people worldwide. Recognizing an inability to pull yourself away from your screen can help you stave off what could potentially be a long, slow decline into an antisocial world spent on the Web.

Lucky for you, there are tools out there that will keep you from becoming an empty shell of a human being. Freedom is one of the best: with a few keystrokes, the program disables your Internet access for up to eight hours at a time, allowing you to get some work done or (God forbid) go outside and get some fresh air. Should you desperately need to see what @TheAtlantic is tweeting, you can reboot your computer, disabling Freedom, but for those who don't want to deal with the hassle of a restart, Freedom is a great tool for increased productivity and less distractions. The program works on both Mac OS X and Windows and costs a mere $10.

If it's just your email that's proving to be a huge distraction, Google offered an add-on for Gmail called "Email Addict" which locked you out of your inbox for a short period of time. Sadly, they retired the feature in February. Freedom, for now, is probably your best bet.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Jared Keller is a former associate editor for The Atlantic and The Atlantic Wire and has also written for Lapham's Quarterly's Deja Vu blog, National Journal's The Hotline, Boston's Weekly Dig, and Preservation magazine. 

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