Jared B. Keller summarizes some research on Internet addition:
The cognitive-reward structure offered by services like email and social media are similar to those of a casino slot machine: “Most of it is junk, but every so often, you hit the jackpot.” This is a symptom of low-risk/high-reward activities like lotteries in general. As researchers found in a 2001 article in International Gambling Studies, systems that offer a low-cost chance of winning a very large prize are more likely to attract repetitive participation and, in turn, stimulate excessive (and potentially problematic) play. Although the stimuli are different (the payoff on the Internet being juicy morsels of information and entertainment rather than money), Stafford says that the immediacy and ubiquity of Internet “play”—i.e. being able to check your tweets or emails on your phone with no major transaction cost—only increases the likelihood that someone will get sucked into a continuous cycle.
If you answer yes to five or more of the questions below, you may be addicted to the Internet:
01. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
02. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
03. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
04. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
05. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
06. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of the Internet?
07. Have you lied to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
08. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
Oh come on, #5? I am sure that has happened to everyone. Every day.
(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)