By Rick Rogers
The idea sounded ridiculously easy. In fact, it hardly seemed like a challenge at all: Go one Sunday without the Internet.
Years ago I ditched my TV for better ways of spending my time. No problem. Never miss it except during football season, and even then there are workarounds.
Why even bother going Internet-less?
First I read the average person spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook and then that Americans 18-64 spend more than 3 hours a day on social media.
Isn’t that pathetic. Who would voluntarily waste so much time tethered to a machine for such purposes when we’re already yoked to a computer at least 8 hours day five days a week?
No wonder many of us are overweight, don’t know our neighbors and haven’t read a book in ages. We’re too busy hunched over keyboards checking emails, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pininterest accounts with intermittent forays to CNN, FOX and Bleacher Report.
I was feeling pretty smug until I considered my own Internet use and my relationship to it.
The Web isn’t a thing so much as a kind of friend. It teaches me things. Lets me explore. It’s an anonymous comfort. It informs me of the world — all from the comfort of my chair.
It keeps me up with former classmates, entertains me with videos of cute furry animals and, most importantly this time of year, fills me on how my Steelers are doing at training camp.
I’m not addicted to it. I don’t need it. I just like it. We’re collaborators of sorts.
Then came the harder questions: How much time do I spend year in and year out writing and researching and emailing and such? How much of that is legit work and how much less defensible?
I might be an extreme case, but not uncommonly I spend seven days a week up to 15 hours on the net. Almost all of that time is spent researching and writing, but I do seem more preoccupied with non-essential Internet use than I once was.
I wondered if I had unconsciously become something of an Internet Addict. Until that moment the thought had never entered my head. It startled me. I wasn’t even sure such a thing existed until I looked it up online – how rich is that? – and found that such people exist.
I’m not talking about Internet porn fanciers – though the implications of that could well be an extinction event – but the more prosaic and insidious creeping malaise that sneaks up on you without any obvious warning signs. The soft sell you never notice until you’re already in the soup.
So Sunday I took the test.
The computer bongs on at 8 a.m. I turn it off and feel the slightest ripple of separation anxiety. Then I head to the gym after taking some chicken out to thaw.
Upon return, I realize my recipe is online. I search for an alternative but find none. I rationalize and logon at 1 p.m. to gather instructions for old-fashioned chicken and dumplings.
Once the seal is broken, I check out several Steelers websites, CNN, Stars & Stripes and Facebook among others, chalking up the transgressions to the obligations of citizenship and fandom.
Catching myself I shut down at 2:30 and promise not to return until Monday morning. Then I remember a film I want to see, but had some how forgotten that I needed to login to see it.
Around me lay books unread: Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” and “Boomerang” and Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”
I ignore common sense and login feeling slightly beaten and much less smug. I watch a wonderful documentary on the theory of relativity and wonder if I’ll be up to the challenge next Sunday.