Like the air we breathe, the internet touches almost all parts of our lives. We connect with friends and family. We conduct our banking and pay bills online. We get directions. We ask questions, do business, and find entertainment. If we cannot be with someone in the flesh, we may join them by video. If at any time we want to communicate with someone far away—or across the table—we send them a text message. Technology has made the world a smaller place. It has also made us more distracted and less present in the moments of our lives. How involved can you be in an activity when you’ve stepped out of it to take a picture? Or two? Or ten?
Human beings long to be connected to others. One study of college students in Taiwan showed that students who used the internet heavily tended to be more lonely or depressed. Those who used the internet less were happier with their studies. Presumably the quality of their relationships made them more satisfied. Being able to work through issues personally with your professors or coaches will make you feel more competent and empowered to help yourself in the future. Another study looked at the motivations that college students have for using the internet. It found that students who were creating social networks were better adapting to their study abroad experience as opposed to those who mainly wanted to stay in touch with family and happenings in their home country.
From this, we see how powerful technology is to both connect and disengage us from life. This is not to say that you cannot use the internet a lot or that you cannot stay in touch with your family. You need to maintain a balance in your life. You should care about your friends and family at home. But you also need to participate in your own life where you are. Even when you have a bad day are frustrated with your new culture, you will be able to work through it better with friends. If you only use the internet to escape life, you will continue to be unhappy with unsolved problems. So make the internet a tool that supports your life, not something that keeps you from it.