Over the last fifteen years or so, therapists and counselors all over the world, myself included, have seen more and more clients whose problems have been created by or made worse by the Internet. Issues from anxiety and sex addiction to depression, marital problems, and infidelity can all at times be connected to or facilitated by the Internet.
It contributes to infidelity
The Internet, in particular social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, make it very easy to check up on and potentially connect with people from our pasts. I’ve had many clients over the years who began affairs with ex-lovers, past or current co-workers, or high school or college sweethearts that they connected with or reconnected with online. This just wasn’t possible in the past. We used to wonder what became of someone from our past, but we couldn’t find out so easily or reach out to them so easily. We can now do this anonymously and with little risk. Much of modern infidelity is fueled by and enabled by the Internet. Recently, the term “social media affair” has been used to refer to connections that begin in this way.
Online dating sites like Match.com and apps like Tinder and Bumble, affair sites like AshleyMadison, and various subtle and not-so-subtle forms of prostitution found online – like Sugardaddy, whose CEO is now worth $35 million – make it easier than ever before for people to find romantic and sexual partners. It is no longer necessary to go out into the world and take face-to-face risks to connect with people. So it’s easier than ever before to cheat on one’s partner or to develop and fuel a sex addiction.
It contributes to sex addiction
Most experts agree that the ease and anonymity of Internet sites and apps have contributed to a rise in the prevalence of sex addiction. Online porn sites, dating sites, hookup sites, etc., assist this increase. Pornhub (the largest porn site in the world in 2019) reported 33 million visits in 2018, which was 5 million more visits than in the previous year. While previous generations had to find or buy pornography, today anyone with an internet connection can access infinite free porn of every variety. Sex addiction, specifically porn addiction, has existed as long as mass-produced porn has existed, but access to online porn over the last twenty-plus years has enabled a dramatic increase in people (primarily men) with porn addictions.
Social media, which we all should know by now doesn’t always accurately reflect reality, can make it very easy to feel bad about ourselves. It can appear that everyone online has perfect lives, happy marriages, and take fabulous vacations. We don’t usually post the negative stuff, but everyone has some of it. More and more studies are documenting that social media use contributes to depression, anxiety, loneliness, poor sleep, and low self-esteem in both adults and teens.
Most of us know we need to spend less time on our screens. Often, we give ourselves screen breaks when we go on vacation. We usually appreciate these breaks at the moment but fall back into habitual screen use when we return home. My teen clients universally tell me that they end up really appreciating the forced break from screens they get when they go away to summer camp. More and more of us struggle with finding the balance between all the good that comes from technology and the bad that comes from overusing it.
For more information, visit my Sex Addiction page.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.