Internet addiction is something we don't talk about anymore, being that everyone has a smartphone and chooses to look down at it and play as opposed to smiling, meeting the eyes of strangers, of forcing oneself to speak in awkward situations. Think about it: how much do you use the internet, text messaging, facebook, every day? I'm willing to bet it's a fucking boatload. I know it's a fucking boatload. I gave it up.
I've been on the internet since 1996, when I was 13 years old. Back then we had Usenet to be social and web hosting sites like Geocities, Tripod and Angelfire to build profiles for ourselves and link them in out Usenet signatures so that people may see grainy scanned pictures of us and a list of favorite bands, books, movies, and other randomness. Out of that grew fansites - those who became savvy of the html language would build websites, basically shrines, to those whom they obsessed over on Usenet. My own biggest haunt was alt.fan.conan.obrien and my shrine to hime became so big that I signed contracts with NBC at the ripe old age of 16 and ran an official "fan network" site for them. (here. here's the page. shut up.) Yes, I was obsessed with Conan waaaaaaaay back before he became a hipster favorite, and way before that sexy, sexy beard.
Eventually, Conan O'Brien on the internet consumed my life and I ducked away, realizing that I was getting nowhere. Now of course I regret that, wishing I could be part of the amazing Team CoCo, but hey. Can't live in the past.
Then came blogs. I had one, everyone did. Back then blogs were more diaries than news or entertainment, and it was thrilling to get a glance into the everyday lives of people you had never met, never will meet, don't particularly even care about. And it's thrilling to have people come from all over the world to see you, complimenting your graphics, your code, your opinions, your writing style. I became stuck on the blog, updating daily the most intimate details of my life, until I realized that was dumb and backed off, once again.
Then... came social networking.
I never did Friendster. I saw it as ruining the 'net for what it was - and intricate web of intelligent people sharing everything with each other - because it was user friendly and invited everyone else in. But then, THEN came MySpace, everyone on the planet was on it, and in 2005, I signed on to spy on my employees talking shit about me in a group they'd created for the restaurant we worked in.
I became obsessed, once again.
We all know the story. MySpace eventually graduated to facebook. Nobody can really say how it happened, it just sort of... did. And I became VERY obsessed with facebook. Not with friending, like some people, but with Pages, with Fans, with Likes, and, most of all, the Illusion.
What's the Illusion, you ask? Why, you know very well what it is. It's the little embelishments you add on to your posts to get people to comment or like it. It's the life you build for yourself and present to these people whom you "know" but never see, and who in all actuality could not give less of a fuck about what you made for dinner. It's posting about how dinner came out amazing, and everyone ate every bite, yum yum, and six or seven people "like" that and a friend comments "yay, way to go" and you sit on the computer and wait for this because that's why you posted it in the first place. It's getting angry at someone who says "so what, you cooked dinner, big fuckin' deal?" and unfriending them, deep in the Illusion that such a thing should matter. It's your other friends gathering around you and morally supporting you when you announce the unfriending, because what a bitch, why say such a thing, how could she?
This is, of course, a broad scenario. replace "dinner" with, essentially, any situation and you get the heart of facebook. And those who become obessesed get bored with this and turn to Pages. Arguing with strangers, getting yourself in trouble. I lost a job once because of a local gossip page. on Pages you get all walks of life - and all of them willing to fight. That old flame war adage (this has been around for a LONG time) "Arguing on the internet is like running at the special olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded" is tasteless, offensive, and, well, true. People back arguments by information they find on Google and Wikipedia, not by using their heads. The obsessed, like me, eventually become bored with that, and seek power: a Page of their own.
I went as far. I started a comedy page of my own and was mildly successful, with a total of about 30,000 fans. Then I convince a group of friends of mine to start a page with me, and it took off overnight, we were hugely successful, and although the Page belonged to me and seven other women, I spent pretty much all of my time getting new fans and catering to the Illusion, this life on the internet. Things went kind of bad for me, in my life, and a big, big chunk of it unfolded on facebook. Embellished, of course.
I gave up facebook, one of the hardest things I have ever done, and things immediately began to calm. Instead of spending my days checking, reading, and updating my facebook and my Pages, I spend my days cleaning, cooking, playing with my son, enjoying time with my husband, even BAKING for fuck's sake. I'm very happy to do it.
You can only go so far when something is holding you back. Find that thing, and you will be better. For me? It was the internet. I spent so much time obsessing over the little world I created on facebook that I forgot about the bigger picture - and now, with it gone, I have no choice but to be happy. Funny how that works, huh?
If you are reading this, and you feel like your life is closing in around you, and you don't know how to get out, pick the one thing you spend most of your time on and DUMP IT. Get rid of it. Odds are that thing is hurting you, even though it may be (and I've heard people describe facebook and such like this, even myself) "all you have" you will soon discover that without whatever that thing occupying your life is was all you had because you made it that way. Do you have kids, a lover, a home, dinner to cook? Dishes to do? Do that instead, and enjoy life. Not your obsessions.
If that "thing" is facebook? You don't have nearly as many friends as you thought you did, and even fewer people who are willing to pick up a phone or even shoot an email your way. Facebook friendships are friendships of convenience, nothing more. Just like your life on facebook is just what you make it, nothing more. I, for one, shout to the world, ENCOURAGE people to give up that facade. Take a step out, blink, see the world for what it really is, and your relationships for what they are. You don't have 300 friends. You have maybe 2 or 3 who would call you if you didn't have a facebook.
Now I'm simply writing a children's book for my son, attempting to illustrate it. Something I never thought I would be able to do.
I still, of course, love the internet. It's a powerful tool and a fun place, but I, like any addict, must learn to take it in moderation. And facebook? Well, it's been 4 months, and I do miss it. I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of things - pregnant friends, marriages, pictures... but I remain strong. I won't go back. Occasionally I still log in on my husbands profile, check out my old page, peek at people's lives, but mostly it makes me sad, that I got so deep in the Illusion, and how deep some of the people I love are in it. I've become a black sheep, ostracized by my lack of social sharing and thumbs up. If you choose to give up facebook, you will find that the people still on it, and especially those ones deep, deep in the Illusion, might even be aggressive toward you, defensive, as is facebook is theirs and theirs alone and you giving it up insults them. When you run into those people, tell them to go hug their kid or do the dishes, put down their phone and smile at a stranger, take a chance on getting lost and, for fucks sake, nobody cares that you made dinner.