Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Evolution of a Computer Addiction

I've had a computer longer than most people I know.  I had one long before Windows appeared and used to go online by using the National Capital Freenet on a dial up system. There was no high speed internet back then. You clicked a button, and you waited.  

I found I liked to get into conversations with others, and joined several forums on Freenet. Then I discovered the Bulletin Board Systems, and found there were several BBSs within my dialing area. I joined many of them, so that if the line was busy trying to get into one, I could just dial into another one. To me, a BBS was more fun than Freenet, as often others were online at the same time as I was, and the conversations flowed much more quickly.

I still joined groups based on subjects of interest to me, and got online daily to read and respond to what was being said.  I made several wonderful online friends in those old days, and have kept in touch with many of them ever since.  They have helped me learn things, solve computer problems, and other problems and have occasionally even sent me interesting and valuable stuff by snail mail.

I spent time with these virtual friends every day, and if the conversation got really lively, I spent more time than I likely should have.  You have to remember, that without high speed internet, if I was online, nobody could reach me by phone.  At some point I did get a handy little application (before apps were even spoken of) that let me know if someone was trying to call in.  

Eventually a Windows based computer opened a whole new world to me. I still liked being social on the computer, but I found lots of other interesting things too.  I signed up for newsletters, and later contests, surveys, coupons and samples.  I opened separate e-mail addresses so that my requested "junk mail" didn't get mixed with my personal correspondence. In those days though, people did have a tendency to pass on a lot of jokes by way of e-mail, so there was still lots of junk in my regular inbox too.  Thankfully, most people have stopped doing that, now that we have Facebook.

Facebook used to be a simple thing, much like Twitter is today. You went on and made a statement, or a comment about your day. There were no pictures, no jokes or news items to pass on. There were also no companies using it as a way of interesting you in their products.  Now, of course, everything can be found on these social media sites, and others as well.  I don't really need my newsletters anymore, as most of that info gets posted on social media, but I've tended to hang onto them, anyway.  There is so much on social media that I might miss something, after all.

I was given a tablet for Christmas a few years ago, and can now get online as soon as my eyes are open in the morning, without even getting out of bed. I check the weather, the news, my e-mail and Facebook most days, before even having breakfast.  Are you getting the picture here?  That's the time when I used to read books or magazines.  I still do, but I've already proven that I accumulate reading material faster than I can read it.  Maybe that wouldn't be the case if I wasn't on the computer as much.

I've occasionally admitted to being a computer addict.  I feel disconnected when I'm on vacation, away from the internet (though that doesn't really happen anymore as the tablet goes with me).  I'm also overwhelmed by how much e-mail piles up when I can't get at it on a daily basis.  Mind you, I'm not talking about personal correspondence.  There's actually less of that now that most people I know share their lives on Facebook and such.  Somehow, just trying to keep up with what's coming in could take all day, so I have to turn the darn thing off and go do something.

I'm not saying I don't have a real life.  I do.  I have lots of social outings.  I spend time with Real People most days.  However, with the knee problems I've had this past year, I've spent even more time sitting in front of a screen than ever before.  Sitting, of course, is dangerous to our health.  I have scheduled regular walks, when the knee allows, and now, of course, it's gardening season, so I'll be outside doing that too.

I do need to find the time to weed not only the garden, but also what arrives in my e-mail.  I get entirely too much of it these days.  Even just going through what has come in and deleting things I don't have time for that day takes more time than I'm currently willing to spend.  I've got to step away from this machine.  I have so many other things to do, and I don't move as fast as I once did.  I need to recapture some of the time I spend online.

Excess screen time has snuck up on me.  At least I don't have a smart phone.  I don't want to be constantly connected online like so many people are today.  It was bad enough when I caught myself about to  check the tablet recently when I actually had real company.  The gadget dinged and while I'm rather hard of hearing, she heard it and asked what made that sound.  "Oh," I said "something has just arrived on the tablet."  A few minutes later it dinged again and once more she was curious as to what that little sound was. I flipped open the cover and showed her that new e-mail had arrived and mentioned that it would make a different sound if someone was actually trying to chat with me.  Once I had it in my hand I found it much harder to ignore.  That's when I understood the draw cell phones seem to have on people, even in the middle of a conversation.  No, I don't want to get that bad.

I've now chatted with you about this problem, and how it came to be.  I need to find ways to reclaim some time, but I'm not willing to go cold turkey.  Computer use may take up too much of my time but much of it is enjoyable, educational and even productive.  I would love to hear from any of you who have found ways to reduce your online time, or even just tame the influx of e-mail.  Give me a hand here.  Tell me your stories.  

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