Dec 15, 2009

Dreaded Disorder

I guess it's time to let the cat out of the bag.

I've hidden this secret far too long.

I have IAD.


This dreaded disorder is something that can steal your heart and soul, it can ruin your relationships with loved ones, it can keep you housebound and unable to participate in a balanced life, it can turn you into a lonely, miserable, shriveled, dried-up, no-fun person. Simply put, it's a wretched thing.

And I have it.

So, what exactly is this IAD thing?  Internet Addiction Disorder. There's some debate among the professional community as to whether this is really an addiction or a compulsion, but in either case it can sap a person of energy and the ability to live a real life outside the cyber-world. This disorder is spread like a virus... you find a website or a blog... which contains a list of other sites or blogs people are reading... and then each of those has a list of more sites and blogs... and on and on... and before you know it, you're hooked. There are more sites and pages to check out than there are minutes in a day.

The disorder strikes young and old alike. Young people are often "gamers" or incessant "texters" -- you know, the ones walking around face down with a permanently bent neck resulting from the constant interaction with their smartphone or blue-berry or other handheld device. You see them in malls and on the streets... wandering aimlessly as they focus their gaze on the little screen just 18 inches from their down-turned face... fingers flying across the little keyboard as they send and receive nonsensical micro-messages to and from one another:

"Hey, whad U duin?"

"Nothin. Whad U duin?"


"Wanna du s'thing"


"Whad u wanna du?"

"I dunno. Whad u wanna du?"

"I dunno"

(Editorial Comment:  Very Wide Long Yawn -- Urge to Fall Asleep!!!)

And on and on and on... all day long. I've read where some of these youngsters send and receive hundreds of messages like this each day and throughout the night. Besides the damage they're probably doing to their necks and spines, what damage are they doing to their minds and their social skills?

Older people are often bloggers, e-mail forwarders, and incessant denizens of forums, chat "rooms", and social networking sites. The common thread is people with a lot of free time -- in some cases, wwaaayyy too much free time.

There's no doubt about it. The technology of near-universal wireless communication has made living the nomadic lifestyle of a fulltimer so much easier, and more possible, than just a few years ago. Cell phones, aircards, wifi, and, for some, direct satellite internet have made staying in touch with the world so easy and so normal that we can now function in every respect like those still tethered to the world by wire. Unless we stay in some remote wilderness areas of the West, we're almost always "connected". But this universal "always-on" connection with one another through the internet is so powerful it can suck you in... like a pit of silicone quicksand.

It's easy to rationalize and justify excessive internet use because we think we're just socializing in an alternative way. But the difference is the lack of immediacy, the lack of physical proximity, the inability to hear the inflection in the other person's voice, or see the scowl on their face, or the twinkle in their eye. If you prefer the cyber connection to a personal and physical one... if your time is spent on the internet at the expense of in-person time with others... if you are sitting in front of a computer screen instead of hiking, or biking, or experiencing the real world in some way... YOU, yes YOU!, are probably suffering from the disorder too.

There are many people in the RV fulltiming community that are surely suffering as I am. It seems almost everyone living our lifestyle has a blog. There are thousands of blogs out there where people keep one another up to date on the important, interesting, and critical things about their daily activities: what time they got up, how many cups of coffee they had, how long they made $10 last at the casino, what they had for lunch at the all-u-can-eat buffet, what their cute little pets are up to, what they thought of the restaurant where they had dinner last night, and what reality TV shows they're watching. It's really all so interesting it's easy to get hooked. And then, of course, after writing a blog post each day, it's necessary to read the blogs of everyone else they've ever run into along the road... often dozens and dozens and dozens of them. And then it's not enough to just read these other blogs, they've got to add comments on each blog post too. It can be an endless cycle of writing, reading, commenting, and writing and reading some more. Then these same people show up on RV forums and chat rooms, commenting on this and than and the other thing. You recognize the same names over and over again -- often passing themselves off as experts and authorities on the subjects at hand. Experts or not, they can't have time to do much else, can they? I don't think my addiction is as bad as many of theirs... but Dar is convinced I'm just in denial.

Ok, I have IAD. So what am I going to do about it? Complete abstinence is out of the question. The resources and capabilities available through the internet are too valuable to shun them completely, aren't they? There are very appropriate and necessary uses that are critical to our staying in touch and to functionally accomplish necessary tasks like banking, like e-mail, like advanced research of routes and camping spots, like weather info. So what can be done? What can I do to straighten myself out?? I'm not sure. Maybe it's a little like an alcoholic trying to cut back to only one drink per day... maybe it can't be done.

Pondering the problem...

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