When I was about to re-read over 3000 pages of a webcomic for the sixth time instead of making a template for homemade armour, it finally hit home. I had a problem.
The internet is a two-faced attraction. It holds vast quantities of information and entertainment. When used responsibly, it is a useful and fun addition to life. However, it is easy to slip into the trap of the internet BECOMING your life. Spend too much time online due to unhealthy motives, it becomes a soul-sucking void that feeds on forgotten hopes, dreams, and plans. I fell into the trap of spending hours online for all the wrong reasons.
It stems from many factors, but the seeds had been planted when I was in my early teens, living where I still live with my parents in rural Virginia. I was very lonely. I could not transport myself, and my closest friends were at least an hour away. This made regular visits for unstructured hangouts a burden on my parents they could not shoulder on top of taking me to structured activities. When I asked to have friends over, there was always an excuse, usually the fact that no one bothered to keep the house clean. So I turned to books and internet to tune out the loneliness of being at home and the fact that I could change nothing about it. I lived other peoples lives, largely fictional ones, and found it preferable to my own situation. It was easy, turning to the internet and instant entertainment to numb whatever I was feeling that I couldn’t handle; from pain of being rejected by various crushes, to distracting myself from the nagging feeling that I should be doing other things.
As I turned to this solution more, letting the siren song of the internet suck me in, I slowly lost interest in things I love doing in favor of spending hours on games and TV series and websites. While we all age out of certain activities, there are also those core passions that stay with us that can’t be outgrown. Those are the things I stopped doing as I spent more time online. The addiction to being distracted, always finding new things to consume, moved in. The questionable coping mechanism turned into a sneaky, terrible habit. My computer became the first thing I reached for in the morning, sometimes for hours before I’d eat anything, and the last thing I spent time on before bed. Over the last few years, I stopped doing everything during my free time from school/work that required more effort than sitting on my ass in front of the computer, clicking away until my brain went numb. It even started to affect my relationship. It made me miserable, being unable to feel the love I knew in my head was still there. This wasn’t the transition from infatuation either, I had already been through that. This is a love that has weathered time, distance, and many hormonal mood swings without losing its passion, and it was being smothered by the goddamn internet.
When I was overall unhappy with where I was in life, from adolescence until the last couple of years, I couldn’t see the problem. Now that I’m slowly building the life I want, the habit remained and where I should have been happy I’ve struggled to enjoy life these past several months. It started to come out as surprise to myself when people would ask me how I was doing and I realized that on paper, my life was amazing. Shiny new job, wonderful significant other, excellent friends. So why did I feel so bored and unfulfilled, with nothing new to talk about? And why, if in theory I loved doing so many different things, did my life boil down to work, driving, and computer?
It wasn’t a fun night when I realized what had happened. Lots of tears. When I finally made the connection, everything clicked into place in my mind and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before. I can look back now and see the deterioration clear as day. It’s alarming how much I’ve stopped doing, how much time I’ve lost. But projects and hobbies are forgiving things. They’re still there, waiting for me. And I am returning with a vengeance.
My initial reaction towards all computer use after this discovery was fear. I was afraid that if I so much as glanced at it, I would go right back to what I was doing and never start fixing the problem. But fear isn’t helpful either. So instead, every time I hit the power button on the computer I’m going to start questioning my motives. Am I doing it because I have things to do that I can only accomplish through the internet? Completed real-life things and sitting down for an episode of a show I enjoy or some progress on a game? Or am I feeding the habit of tuning out my life in favor of that easy flow of entertainment?