I spent a restless fortnight when my laptop crashed a couple of months ago. I spent more time in the library and read a good book that I wouldn’t have looked at otherwise. I also learned a new craft. I still wanted my email and when I became irritable at the drop of a pin, I wondered if I was having withdrawal symptoms. This episode got me thinking how dependent I have become on the internet.
My day starts with the email and e-paper and ends with watching a DVD movie on the laptop. There are a hundred things I do on the internet in between. What did we do before the internet came along and got us hooked on to email and e-news and e-weather?
When I was growing up, we didn’t have a phone at home. I was allowed an hour of cartoons on the TV after doing my homework, and we all had dinner together at the table and not in front of the TV. We used envelopes and stamps to keep in touch with friends and relatives and sent out paper greeting cards on important occasions. When I was nearly twenty, my dad taught me how to use the internet. I was not interested, but he persisted and got me an email ID that I use to this day. It is something I can’t live without today. I did not have a personal phone for the past two months and I missed chatting with my family and friends. The email helped me keep in touch with them and have instant chat sessions. It feels good to see their latest photos and know what they have been doing, almost instantly, no matter where in the world they are. If not for the internet, I would have to wait at least a week to receive mail from my parents in the post, being that they are halfway around the world.
We can do so much on the internet today. We can get degrees online, we can conduct conferences with a group of people in different locations across the world, we can manage our bank accounts and get our shopping delivered to us, we can plan vacations and make bookings, and we can do all this from our living room couch. The world runs so much faster and has become so much smaller and more connected today. However, we need to keep in mind that this connection is only virtual. Humans are social animals, and social contact is necessary for their development.
Internet dependency is classified as a clinical disorder today, officially titled Internet Addictive Disorder. There was a study on internet dependency leading to depression and suicidal tendencies conducted in adolescents in Korea. Medical professionals are being trained to recognize signs of this disorder and to manage it appropriately. The internet has been called a “socially connecting device that is socially isolating at the same time.” Ironically, more information about internet dependency can be found on the internet itself. It is not yet widely recognized, but studies have been conducted to show that it exists.
I don’t know if I was nearly one of the statistics on the internet addicts list, but the time I spent without my laptop in that fortnight got me connected to my own self and the world around me in a better way. Everything happens for a reason, they say. I strongly agree.