Over the past few decades, I’ve watched society get turned upside down by the introduction of various forms of technology. Television and internet are two obvious culprits. There are now more ways than ever to become addicted.
Do you ever turn to the internet as a source of distraction? The internet, for me, is a digital black hole, capable of sucking up vast amounts of my time. I can sit down to quickly research an issue or look for a piece of information, only to come up for air hours later. If I want to be distracted from an unpleasant thought or emotion, I’ve got millions of places I can go to push those right out of my head and heart. The internet has virtually no limits.
For those who are tired or disappointed with life, the internet is a place to hide away from their own lives. It is a bedroom window into the private lives of others. Unlike social media, when you explore the internet, you can be as disconnected from other people as you want. There is no need for posting or replies. You can look, but don’t have to touch, scrolling through pages and pages of data.
What is your relationship with television?
Even with the excessive use of internet and diminished interest in traditional broadcast media, it’s still possible to be addicted to television. This occurs for the same reasons television has always been compelling. Television is an engaging way to become unengaged. My generation called it “vegging,” as in “vegging out” in front of the television—sitting virtually motionless for hours.
Quiet can sometimes seem intimidating. Noise and distraction are familiar. Few things provide noise and distraction like television, which is a passive form of entertainment. The only thing you need to do with the television is turn it on and maybe turn the channel. If you don’t want to think about something, the television is right there.
We have become a sedentary culture in our work, but we’ve also become quite sedentary in our leisure. According to a recent study, Americans watch an average of almost five hours of television per day.  I imagine that over the course of the next twenty years, that number will change. Older generations will leave the stage, and younger techy generations will alter the percentages. While the hours may switch from a television screen to screens in general, I don’t think this large amount of screen time bodes well for our sedentary natures, or our propensity to want to zone out from life.
Habit or Addiction?
Do you turn on the television out of habit, without any specific desire to watch? When you think about doing something unpleasant or uncomfortable, will you put that off by turning on the television? How many hours per day do you spend watching television? How much of that is spent sitting? How often are you frustrated when you realize you could have been doing something else instead of watching television?
Perhaps one of these is problematic for you. I believe you can recognize the patterns of addiction. If you are spending too much time watching television, or constantly using the internet as a source of distraction, you may feel personally convicted and seek change.
I have found through personal and professional experience that knowing about addictions isn’t enough to avoid them. You need to know why one behavior has no effect, while another is a hidden trap, waiting to spring. You need to know your personal voids and which behaviors you are most likely to seek to fill those voids.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.
 James Titcomb, “Which Country Watches the Most TV in the World?” The Telegraph, December 10, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news /12043330/Which-country-watches-the-most-TV-in-the-world.html.