The grind of the 21st century throws up obstacles at every turn. Nikolaus Oliver is on hand with advice to guide you through. This week: why the internet is bad for our health. It's 25 years since a company called Symbolics registered an internet address ending in .com - the first in history. What it started has become a global phenomenon. It took from 1985 until 1997 for one million dotcoms to come into existence. During the following two years the number rose to 20 million. The past decade has added a further 57 million and dotcoms are continuing to pile up at a rate of about eight million a year.
Personally, I sometimes get sick of the internet. Mainly, it's the advertisements that pop up everywhere and the spam (spam makes up 90 per cent of the world's e-mail traffic). Above all, it's the unpredictability: the random outages and disconnections, the way things abruptly grind to a halt and the site you've been searching for freezes while you can only sit and fume. And then there's the fact that every search risks bringing you into contact with mountains of irrelevant and eccentric material put up there by the socially maladjusted and underemployed.
But there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the internet can damage your health. Apparently, 1.2 per cent of web addicts are addicted and this manifests itself chiefly in depression. What's worse, internet addicts suffer much deeper depression than those of us who inhabit the real world. Five times deeper, I'm told, although I've no idea what the unit of depression depth is - surely not fathoms?
The question is, does the internet sap your spirits and make you feel gloomy or is it that when we're depressed we turn our backs on real life and try to lose ourselves in the virtual world and then feel even worse? We just don't know. Some experts go further and suggest that the internet is actually changing the human brain - that we are ceasing to be human in the traditional sense and are rapidly evolving into Homo Interneticus, a creature who is isolated, lonely, distracted and has an index finger that is permanently clicking invisible mice.
Nonsense, obviously, but it shows that the internet causes certain people (scientists, technology buffs etc) to lose their grip on reality. The path to health in the virtual world is not to take things too seriously, and not to let the virtual world interfere with genuinely important things like work, family and trying to get a ticket for next year's Formula One.