Does Your Valentine Need the Gift of Your Presence?


The theme for Women’s Learning Studio this month is Online Overload—naming it and taming it. As I thought about Valentine’s Day this week, I began to consider how online overload and overuse can affect relationships and how people can ensure that relationships do not suffer because of the time spent in a virtual world.

We have all seen people sitting together with each of them focused on a mobile phone or laptop. Maybe we have sat at a restaurant table as a companion answers “just one more email” on his cell phone.

With some research, I found that in 1995 Ivan Goldberg, M.D.1 proposed “internet addiction disorder” as a satirical hoax. However, since that time, some researchers have taken it more seriously. They refer to the problem as problematic internet use  (PIU)2  or compulsive internet use (CIU)3.

This is not to say that spending large amounts of time in front of a computer is a sign of mental disorder. However, like any behavior that can transport us to another world, it is useful to consider how it affects the rest of our lives.  To assess your own internet use, ask yourself the following questions regarding your time online:

  • Are you sharing things with followers or online friends you are not sharing with your family, friends, partner or spouse? Do you communicate as effectively offline as you do online?
  • Are you taking adequate time for yourself and your family? Are you present with friends and family when you are physically with them?
  • Have you thought seriously about what you want from relationships in person and online?
  • What is the quality of your relationships? Is the time you spend online a symptom of relationship problems? If so, what is the source of the problem? Are you using time online to avoid interaction?
  • Do you have and use strategies for dealing with online tasks such as email, work commitments and surfing the ‘net?
  • Does your time online interfere with normal daily living and a more enjoyable life? Are you growing intellectually and emotionally? Are you missing out on opportunities  that make you healthier or more well rounded?
  • What kind of person are you online? Is that the person you want to be offline?  (And vice versa.)
  • What do you want to accomplish in your life? Does the time you spend online add to or detract from that mission?
  • And, finally, are you treating others the way you want them to treat you?

Are you satisfied with your responses? If you answered these questions thoughtfully and found that your time online is creating problems, it is definitely time to reevaluate the quality and the amount of time you spend both online and offline.  You may want to check out these Women’s Learning Studio articles, 10 Digital Messaging Tips for the Online Overloaded and Focus to Work Effectively Online. You may also want to begin developing strategies to make your time with other people as rich as the time you spend online.

What have been your experiences with online overload?  If you discovered problems in this area, how did you solve them? What other questions may you want to ask? Please add your comments below. 

1 Suler, J. (1996) Internet Addiction Support Group: Is There Truth in Jest? The Psychology of Cyberspace. 
2 Moreno MA, Jelenchick LA, Christakis DA (2013). Problematic internet use among older adolescents: A conceptual framework. Computers and Human Behavior. 29, 1879–1887.
3 G.-J. Meerkerk, R. J. J. M. Van Den Eijnden, A. A. Vermulst, and H. F. L. Garretsen. CyberPsychology & Behavior. February 2009, 12(1): 1-6. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0181.
Photo Credit: Jamie In Bytown via Compfight cc
3 replies
  1. Doris Reeves-Lipscomb
    Doris Reeves-Lipscomb says:

    Lyn, thank you for helping us think about the impact of ICT–good and bad–on our lives and relationships. Your questions really made me think and zero in on a report from the Pew Internet Research Project on how internet usage might negatively affect couples, especially YOUNGER internet users. The report may be found at

    Look at these statistics for young adults who “who are more likely to report tension in their relationships over technology use.”

    42% of cell-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together (25% of all couples say this).
    18% of online 18-29 year olds have argued with a partner about the amount of time one of them spent online (compared with 8% of all online couples).
    8% say they have been upset by something their partner was doing online (compared with 4% of all online couples).

    So almost one out of two young couples report problems with one partner preferring computer mediated connections over face-to-face interactions a little too much. Interesting, huh?

    • Lyn Boyer
      Lyn Boyer says:

      Doris, Thanks for the additional information. The numbers are very enlightening. Sometimes, I wonder if we can ever go back to real conversation and interaction. On the other hand, I wonder if the devices were not there, other factors could or would distract.

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  1. […] Bower of the Women’s Learning Studio, wrote an article on internet overload and overuse called, Does Your Valentine Need The Gift of Your Presence that caught my eye. I’m borrowing her title to talk about sex and […]

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