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

Posted on 6th Aug 2009 at 10:10 by Harry Butler with 12 comments

Harry Butler
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.

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.


Discuss in the forums Reply
Tris 6th August 2009, 10:32 Quote
I don't think dependance on a tool is an addiction - as you say its a primary mode of communication and entertainment. You wouldn't say that someone who is used to using a car as their primary transportation method is an addict if they miss it when it breaks down.
Xir 6th August 2009, 11:24 Quote
I guess it's nothing to worry about, life HAS changed.
My bank, gas, electricity, insurance and phone company don't communicate any other way than online.
If you don't check the web at least weekly...well you might really miss something. Just like the way you have someone sort out the important mail when you're on a long trip.
wuyanxu 6th August 2009, 11:40 Quote
as Xir said, it's the modern life style.

if you are not online, you are not living in 2009.

im also addicted to be connected. whenever i go, i check for free wi-fi (don't want to pay for mobile internet). at university, i am constantly connected through wi-fi and hopefully soon can be tracked via Google Latitude when a jailbreak background updater comes out.
Krikkit 6th August 2009, 11:49 Quote
I can identify with your addiction Harry, I'm terrible for it...
mjm25 6th August 2009, 13:03 Quote
well the first stage is admitting you have a problem... now you can not do anything about it!
Teknokid 6th August 2009, 15:43 Quote
Im exactly the same, Im going away to italy for two and a half weeks this weekend and I dare say one of the first things Ill do when I get there is look for a wifi network that I can get my paws into...

Atleast its not an unhealthy addiction.. like heroin.
capnPedro 6th August 2009, 19:17 Quote
Originally Posted by TFA
Along with taking the plunge and enjoying the perks involved therein
The tax break? :p
Rapp 7th August 2009, 23:52 Quote
well if you do decide to get some help don't do it in China
cyrilthefish 8th August 2009, 01:03 Quote
I can fully understand that :)

I Know i'm hopelessly addicted to not so much the internet itself, but the information it contains.

On my last holiday (North Wales this June) i distinctly remember getting odd looks exclaiming when i noticed my PDA phone picking up one of the highly rare north wales 3G areas*

Back at the flat we rented at the seafront: setting up my phone running as a wi-fi access point on the top floor as it was the only place that got signal (and at that, 2/5 bars GPRS-only signal) and surfing news sites with my laptop at a mighty 2kb/sec speed.

*when i did, i almost exclusively used the time to update the google maps local-cache data for my GPS app at appropriate zoom levels in the area, as that was very bandwidth-hungry (news sites aren't)
Furymouse 8th August 2009, 10:04 Quote
Its not an addiction if you genuinely need it........ :D

I was out of town for 5 days at the beginning of may and it wasn't until last week that I learned that Dom Deluise had died while I was gone.

See? Step away for just a few and the world goes down the tubes.
NethLyn 8th August 2009, 10:07 Quote
When I went on holiday (to Canada as well, popular place) I had to make sure the friend that I was staying with, had accessible internet. It's commonsense to check your bank balance so that you don't go overdrawn in a non-UK currency, not to mention seeing what's on where you actually are - a guidebook might have been printed six months ago and be out of date by the time you go there.

It's not perfect for everything (stupid online Oyster updates still "roll over" at midnight before they become active, or require activation at the station after you've paid) but it's just a part of life now and for me the broadband bill is the next most important after the electricity to power the computer in the first place.
Byron C 13th August 2009, 12:54 Quote
Originally Posted by The Article
In between refreshing FML and the BBC’s Ashes scoreboard that is.

Damn you. I'm addicted to reading hard luck stories on FML now!
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