It promises so much: “World…Wide…Web.” The whole world at your fingertips.
But like any addiction, all the promises of the WWW fell flat when I got addicted and it came back to bite me on the bum.
I came to the Internet party late. The year was 1998. The first time I went online was at my technical college and I was so cult brainwashed, I thought the instant I opened the browser, pow! There’d be porn in my face. And I wasn’t even sure what porn was.
I remember being “interrogated” at home that evening. What had I seen online? Anything naughty? When we finally got the internet at my house, it was all bleep-screech-ding dial-up modems, constant drops and the incessant waiting for the bleep-screech-ding dial-up to maybe (or maybe not!) log us back onto the Internet.
Not much fun. No addiction possible.
So it was 2011 before I actually discovered that the Internet can be a pretty fun place to hang out. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. eBay. Even met my husband online. The Internet has given me so many happy, endorphin-squirting moments. In the throes of hypothyroidism, it gave me a way to be productive, busy and support my family without leaving my chair.
Then it happened: addiction.
According to CRC Health:
For those who are at risk of developing teen Internet addiction, the rush of playing triggers a release of endorphins (brain chemicals associated with pleasure) that mimics what occurs in the brains of individuals who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs, or to behaviors such as gambling.
It’s not just teens and it’s not just gamers! The Internet is addictive and I hate that I’m addicted to it.
At one time, it promised and delivered so many endorphins. Now? Not so much. Yet, I can’t take my eyes away from this glowing, lit-up screen where things move, things make noise and maybe, just maybe, I might get a little squirt of endorphins. Maybe I’ll get into a great DM conversation with a dear friend or family member. Perhaps a reader will make a really insightful…or even nasty…comment on one of my articles. All of it is dramatic and interesting…even the nasty stuff.
But is it making me happy?
This….this….screen that used to promise and deliver so many endorphins no longer gives me that high. It promises so much and delivers so little. So why do I stare at it anyways?
I’m not proud of that.
Part of it is the promise implied: World. Wide. Web. As Veruca Salt sang in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “I want the world, I want the whole world” and the Internet promises the whole world. The promise itself is addictive.
In the final analysis, and I’ve analyzed it a lot, the Internet can only do so much. It’s a wonderful servant but a bad master. You can procure goods, services and foods at great prices. Travel the world. Interact with friends and family. Learn, read, research and marvel at information, knowledge and beauty you probably couldn’t experience as well via any other medium.The Internet gives so much vicarious happiness.
It’s also wonderful for those who are housebound and too ill to go out much, like Michael. On the Internet, he learns, learns, learns and indulges his interests vicariously through his beloved How-To and DIY videos…the ones I don’t have the patience to watch.
The problem happens when you become addicted to the endorphins. Suddenly, the roles are reversed. You don’t use the WWW. It uses you. It gets the upper-hand.
Perhaps you aren’t wired like me and if so, I envy you. If your computer is your servant, not your master, kudos! I also envy those of you who love reading books on your Kindle, etc. You’re lucky. I love reading but hate reading books on a lit-up screen.
The plethora of information on the web is wonderful but overwhelming. I’m like the man who visited a library for the first time and, in a state of utter overwhelm, sank into a chair and told the librarian, “Alright. Bring me the first book.”
Naturally, as Narcissism Meet Normalcy and Reluctant Cook, Cheap Foodie are online blogs, I can’t go Cold Turkey. Nor do I want to!
Instead, I’m trying to ration myself. Do my online work and then close the damn laptop. It’s unbelievable hard to do. I feel like some wonderful endorphin-inducing thing is happening online and I’m missing out on it. If I can’t muster the self-control to slam it shut, I found it helpful to wean myself off by putting up a six hour video of a flowery meadow kissed by sunshine and butterflies. I soon grow tired of the scene and pick up a book, do some journaling or wander off to wash the dishes.
Actually, I’m much happier with an actual paper book in my hands. That may be old-fashioned and outré but there it is. Gimme a dog-eared, much-loved book with stains and stranger’s scribbles in the margins and I couldn’t be happier.
As the New York author of 88 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff, wrote to her friend and longtime book-supplier, Frank Doel, in London:
(It feels witless to keep writing “Gentlemen” when the same solitary soul is obviously taking care of everything for me.)
Savage Landor arrived safely and promptly fell open to a Roman dialogue where two cities had just been destroyed by war and everybody was being crucified and begging passing Roman soldiers to run them through and end the agony. It’ll be a relief to turn to Aesop and Rhodope where all you have to worry about is a famine. I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to “I hate to read new books,” and I hollered “Comrade!” to whoever owned it before me. [emphasis mine]
My sentiments exactly…and a big “Thank you!!” to reader, A.H., who thrilled me yesterday with a surprise gift of books (among many other things.) It’s wonderful to know she read the books before me and I’ll always think of her fondly when I read them!
I hope 2020 is the year I break my addiction to this cloying, fascinating, irritating Screen that feels like it owns me. The year that I treat it like a slim encyclopedia. Pick it up; learn a little something; put it down again.
How about you? Are you internet addicted too? Is it hurting the people around you but, most importantly, is it hurting you???
My little fuzzy family will be all the happier for having me paying attention to them and the Real World instead of a lot of mindless “uh-huhs” with my eyes glued to The Screen of the Virtual World. I’ll be so much happier too!