Recently, TobyJoe and I were discussing the role of the Internet in our lives. It seems that every holiday or vacation or similar break from our daily patterns leads to an awareness of how much time we spend online and how little it really does to better lives.
My use of the Internet borders on an addiction. I can’t help but wonder what purpose, if any, it serves. I can’t help but wonder about the potentially negative side-effects.
I hate the phone. I have a cell because we have no landline. I have lived without my cell phone for periods in the past and didn’t miss it one bit. I washed one and tried to dry it out using silicone and the freezer. It worked, but only halfway: I could hear callers, but couldn’t speak. Eventually, after 4 long weeks, I gave up and purchased a replacement. I lost that one within a week to the back seat of a cab. Never saw that again. The cabby probably gave it to his niece or girlfriend since it was hot pink. Living without my phone was kind of awesome, to be honest. I made plans the old fashion way. No one called during inopportune times. I received phone calls at work. My nights were free from ringing. I enjoyed it. I barely answer the phone to begin with. I am not sure why we pay for it. It’s actually a huge waste of money.
But the Internet – ahhhh, the Internet. I noticed today that it’s slammed. Sites are slow as molasses if they are running at all. It took me 2 hours to post to MamaPop today. (TypePad was down.) Flickr’s been iffy at best and Twitter is stumbling like it normally does. Even my site was down for most of the morning. After nearly 2 weeks away, it seems the entire world is catching up on their long lost lover: the Internet. I am guessing by the slowness of things, there aren’t many people out there whose New Year’s resolutions included giving up the Internet. God forbid anyone live without the Internet. And that got me thinking: could I quit the Internet?
I gave up smoking. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever given up. Ever. I hate it now. I hate that people do it. I hate the smell. I actually think it’s one of the dumbest things anyone could ever do to themselves. I kicked it good and hard. That habit is gone forever. I realize that smoking would have killed me had I not quit, which is why it became urgent that I do so. But how about incessant surfing? How about refreshing the same old Web sites over and over again? What does that do to a person? What does all this refreshing, button mashing, blog posting, comment leaving, site reading do to us? Does it fuel anxiety? Does it make us lazy, less likely to get out of the house? Go to Yoga, the gym? Does it keep us from taking our kids for a walk?
Does the Internet attract people who already have anxiety or does it create it for people who may feel perfectly OK otherwise? Does the Internet attract the depressed or create the depression? When will there be psychiatrists who suggest people spend less time on the Internet; groups for people who need support; doctors who ask how much time one sends on line? When will this catch up to us?