I'm addicted to IMing with my friends, and it's a problem. What should I do?
Instant messaging or IMing is a fast-growing soft addiction. Soft addictions are the seemingly harmless habits like watching too much TV, overeating, shopping, surfing the Internet—everyday activities that we so often overdo that keep us from lives of full satisfaction and prosperity.
People report to me that they are turned on to the excitement, the "high" of instant gratification when they see who is doing what, when and where. I can't tell you how many people have told me they are IMing people in the same room rather than talking to them directly! Executives are complaining that their staffs aren't talking, so they don't get the nuances of interaction and their problem-solving abilities are challenged. College students, couples and career women express concern about IMing leading to poorer-quality communication and relationships.
The good news is that you recognize that it is a problem. You don't have to stop cold turkey but you do need to take some steps so that you are in charge of your time and your life. It's important to communicate, but in ways that really help you connect to others: face-to-face and heart-to-heart, not just gadget-to-gadget.
All soft addictions have a positive intention, but the behavior doesn't deliver what you really need. One of the ways to overcome a soft addiction is to look at the deeper needs that you are trying to fill with IMing. What is it that you are hungry for when you are IMing? Chances are, you are hungry to connect, to belong, to feel special or important. Maybe it reassures you that you matter, that you are part of something, that you know what is going on or that you are connected.
Once you realize what you are really hungry for underneath your IMing, then add other things to your life that really meet those deeper needs activities that make you feel connected, special, that you matter and that you belong. With those things in place, it will be easier to subtract your IMing. Set up lunch dates with your friends. Call them on the phone. Get together and hang out and really talk. Set up a movie date and talk about the movie afterward. Start talking more heart-to-heart. Then, set some limits on how often and how much you will IM, and you'll find it easier to let it go.