Habits like surfing the internet, watching TV and using social networking websites may seem harmless, but once they cross the line into becoming excessive, they become detrimental to a person’s life, according to a self-help expert.
According to Judith Wright’s book, “The Soft Addiction Solution: Break Free of the Seemingly Harmless Habits that Keep You from the Life You Want,” soft addictions are defined as, “substances or behaviors not in themselves dangerous.” A person’s overuse of that behavior or substance is what makes it a soft addiction.
Eric Wood, a licensed psychologist for the university Counseling, Testing and Mental Health Center, wrote in an e-mail that the point at which a behavior becomes excessive varies from one person to the next.
Each of the therapists working in the center has experience working with students who feel emotionally overwhelmed as a result of soft addictions, Wood wrote. Determining the cause of the behavior is an important part of treatment.
Therapists in the center look for how much distress a person feels from excessive behaviors to determine how a person will be affected, he wrote.
Wood also wrote that difficulty functioning in school or work were among the examples of external distress.
Assistant professor of criminal justice Johnny Nhan said he saw a direct correlation between students’ overuse of technology and their performance in the classroom.
Usually, students will wonder why they received a bad grade, and it turns out that they spent the class chatting with friends or checking Facebook, Nhan said.
The problem isn’t the technology, which is a neutral tool, but the students who consciously make the choice not to pay attention in class, he said.
“I like technology in the classroom, but at the same time, it’s how you use that technology,” Nhan said.
He said that some students use their laptops for notetaking, but many others will spend the class checking Facebook or surfing the internet and it’s usually easy to tell which students are using technology for entertainment purposes.
Senior psychology major Jay Adcock said that it all comes down to finding a balance between indulgent behaviors and other activities.
Engaging in indulgent behavior is a trade-off because it negatively affects students’ social and academic lives when they spend more time indulging in those behaviors than they do studying, he said.
Junior biology major Caitlyn Joseph said she self-regulates her time spent using technology to balance her studies and entertainment.
Junior fashion merchandising major Mary Crook said she uses Facebook frequently and hasn’t seen a drastic effect on her grades.
“It definitely doesn’t help my grades, but I’m not failing,” she said.
Wood wrote that for some students, excessive behaviors are the result of a pattern that became a habit, which can lead to anxiety about not being able to stop the behavior and distress about losing relationships.
Crook said her use of social media has just become second nature but she doesn’t think it’s affected her relationships.
“Sometimes when I open the internet, I’ll just automatically type in Facebook and I don’t even mean to,” she said.