I can quit the Internet anytime I want – just not today

Written by Harry Butler

August 6, 2009 // 10:10 a.m.

Tags: #addiction #facebook #internet #quitter

Those of you who listen to the bit-tech and CPC podcast (and if not, why not?!? You can even win games, you know) may know that I got married recently.

Along with taking the plunge and enjoying the perks involved therein I elected to take the opportunity of a honeymoon in Canada to see if I could go a full two weeks without hitting the internet. Working for bit-tech and CPC I practically live online (in fact, barring the two hours a day I spend commuting I’m online pretty much 24/7) and was relishing a little time 'off the grid'.

What I discovered, hardly surprisingly, is that I am a hopeless internet addict.
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Being online, and having information and services available anytime has become so intrinsically entwined with my life that unplugging was a difficult experience. I have a large list of websites, from technology blogs and e-tailer “deal of the day” pages to the BBC’s football coverage that I’ll check numerous times a day, in a ravenous quest for the latest tech announcements, bargains or Premier League transfer rumours.

Having this continuous stream of information and feeling connected to such a varied array of sources is undeniably empowering and disconnecting, while initially painless, gradually began to nag at my mind.

Seven days in to the honeymoon, I found myself almost subconsciously checking to see if there was an open WiFi network with my mobile phone. I began to become a little paranoid about the status of my bank account - I hadn’t checked my online banking after all and even became a little anxious about whether there were any big issues at work that I’d been emailed about. Of course, I wasn’t totally out of contact, having taken a mobile phone, but the feeling of disconnection from the world I inhabit on a day to day basis was palpable.

I started coming up with more and more excuses and reasons to quickly pop into a web cafe (“postcards are slow, email is faster,” and “I really need to sort my Windows7 pre-order"), but was determined to complete my two weeks of cold turkey disconnection.

While I wouldn’t credit myself with being iron willed, I like to feel I possess plenty of self control, and wasn’t going to let my nagging need for news of Real Madrid's latest spending or rumours about Apple's new touchscreen wotsit defeat me. I resolutely wandered past the overpriced web cafes, snubbed the free hotel WiFi.

I can quit the Internet anytime I want – just not today
Ok, so I'm not as addicted as this guy

Ten days in though, it wasn’t I that cracked, but... well, the new Mrs Butler felt the irresistible need to visit a web cafe, the lure of Facebook wedding photos simply too strong to resist. I pulled up a PC alongside and within seconds I’d checked all my favourite blogs, looked at my email and made sure bit-tech hadn’t burnt down in my absence.

Five minutes later and I’d even sorted my Windows 7 pre-orders, and was pondering at the list of high-profile Premier League transfers. My itch had been well and truly scratched; I’d had my fix and was back in the loop.

Throughout the trip though, I was palpably aware of how much I’d come to rely on PCs and portable media. With me at least, my PC is not only my primary entertainment tool, but also my means of putting food (and new computer bits) on the table, as well as being my source of news and, via Skype, email and MSN, my principal method of communication. Unsurprisingly then, I’m not planning on checking into rehab any time soon.

However, I have to wonder if my longing for connectivity and my PC while away was an addiction in the normal sense, or more a feeling of homesickness. Could it be the personal computer and the internet have simply changed the way that I work and play?

Saying I’m addicted to the Internet and my PC is arguably the same as saying an F1 driver is addicted to speed or a pilot is addicted to flying. I love what I do, and with that in mind, are my feelings when away from the Internet for an extended period really addiction or more a case of culture shock rather than dangerous dependancy?

Either way, I’m happy to be back, plugged back into internet and firing out content again. In between refreshing FML and the BBC’s Ashes scoreboard that is.

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