This post must be written with a computer keyboard since, over the years, my penmanship has become virtually indecipherable. It doesn’t take a consummate genius to look at the title of this writing and determine that it addresses Internet addiction. However, it is unusual to fully recognize in oneself that an addiction has indeed set in, and is almost certainly going to become unmanageable, if it has not already. I consider myself quite fortunate to “suffer” from insomnia from time to time, and this morning at 2:30 a.m, I woke suddenly to the realization that I am, in fact, obsessed.
As I came to my waking senses, I slowly understood that the Internet was all I was thinking about: “When will I post this?”, “How should I deal with that?”, “Have I encountered a person of ‘questionable’ intentions?” and “Is this person genuinely what he claims to be?” The list could go on and on.
I did not consider going back to sleep.
After completing some crucial tasks-especially brewing my first cup of coffee-I turned on my table lamp, then pushed the magic button. The computer refused to start. I checked every plug and cord imaginable, and finally, in defeat, considered the options of watching the morning news or even trying to write this piece longhand (both somewhat disastrous considerations). After 3 or 4 attempts, I sat myself down, resigned to my fate, and dramatically vowed never to use the electronic beast again. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the machine come to life, and felt a wave of relief as I noticed the Windows logo lovingly distract me from my scribbling across the room.
Since I believe I am also a writer, I was relieved to think my keyboard would soon be in use, hopefully with lightning speed. As an addict, I tend to set unreasonably high standards for myself, and no strike is in sight, so the soft glow of the lamp and glare of the screen will have to suffice. Another crazed characteristic of a junkie is to approach his object of need with unparallelled enthusiasm, with leads to neglect (or abuse) of anyone or anything that gets in the way of satisfaction. “The dog won’t stop licking my leg!”, yell at the animal or kick it away. “I have to blow my nose!”, snuff it up until it hits the keys. “Damn, I’m getting cold, I need my robe!”, screw that, I’ll wait until it becomes unbearable.
Some may counter that such reactions can be reasonable, yet the degree is not. Anger and frustration with such mundane variables, in retrospect, becomes astonishingly substantial and even self-destructive.
One of the hallmarks of addiction is the predisposition to chase the object of desire into unimaginably brutal despair, or even worse. Yet, no matter the ramifications, the authentic addict will continue in his maniacal search for gratification. This type of fanatic is not often conscious of such insanity, so in this case I am lucky that the writing impulse woke me and demanded its own expression. I would argue that writing, as opposed to the essentially mindless greed of “the hunt” is a far more mindful and conscious pastime.
Rationalizing my obsession with the Internet, I began to mentally sort, one by one, the tasks I felt I needed to perform on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc., and why: “If I don’t respond to so and so, what will they think of me?”, “What if the momentum I’ve enjoyed slows, or even ceases?”
“How will they know I still exist?”,
which can lead, unfortunately, but almost inevitably, to the question,
“How will I know I even exist?”
Therein lies the “unimaginably brutal despair” I mentioned earlier. Alcoholics Anonymous’ phraseology is “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization,” which is far superior to my own, yet basically the same. My life had become defined by my addiction to the Internet, and I realized I had to slow or even stop its progression. Yearning for success, friendship, admiration, and even the elusive fame to which we all seem to aspire out of my own realm had become an exhausting, self-defeating cycle. At this realization, all I finally wanted was the comfort of my own luxurious blankets, the dear caress of my lover.
Every addict craves fulfillment, no matter the consequence. The difference between such healthy gratification and its obsessive alternative (not to imply any sort of choice involved) is to be found in the ramifications inherent in human behavior. If I can not find what I truly need in my day to day affairs, then I just may be prone to addiction.