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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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A Tale Of A Recovering Internet Addict

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What exactly is the definition of an Internet addiction? Just how out of control does one have to be to qualify as having a true addiction?

I don’t know the answer to that question but if I don’t have an Internet addiction, I have something close to it. That’s why I can never go online for any reason even for a short time. I can’t go online for the same reason a recovering alcoholic can’t have even one drink. I have no control and once I start…

My Internet habit began years ago when we got Internet access in our home for valid reasons. One of the first things I got involved with was a small frum e-mail discussion group. We were a small group of women living in various locations across the globe, who were forming a bond with each other in cyberspace. The more I met with them online, the more I felt a kinship with these new friends whose faces I didn’t know. It quickly reached a point where they were my first waking thought, and I could barely wait to get together with them.

Sadly that discussion group closed, but I soon discovered other e-mail lists. Eventually I was on more than one. Unlike the first which had few members, now I was involved with e-mail lists that had many members, and many e-mails to read or delete. This took a lot of time, leaving me with less time to attend to things in my real life.

After a while I discovered message boards and chat-rooms. I couldn’t tear myself away. On a typical day, I’d start by going online and checking my e-mail. Oh those pesky junk mails! Delete, delete, delete. I would respond to e-mails and send out new ones.

Then I’d go to one of my message boards. After spending way too much time there, I’d think to myself, “Maybe by now somebody responded to my e-mail.” I’d go to check my e-mail again. After spending time on my e-mail, I’d think, “Maybe by now someone responded to what I wrote on the message board.” Thus I went back and forth between my e-mail and the message boards.

My relentless checking for responses didn’t necessarily end when I got off the computer. I would find myself repeatedly going back for another quick check to see if anybody e-mailed or responded. It was as if I were tied to the computer by an invisible leash.

Chat-rooms were even harder to tear myself from. How can anyone tear themselves away from an interesting conversation going on in real-time? How could I leave in the middle of the party?

I had no sense of time in cyberspace. Hours would go by without my accomplishing anything. By the time I finally got off the computer, my shoulder and neck were aching. I also found if I’d stay on the computer too long, I’d feel nauseous and dizzy and I had to lie down. I believe this was due to prolonged close-range exposure to computer glare, but I can’t say for sure.

These negative consequences, the time wasted, the muscle aches, and feeling ill were certainly reason enough to try and kick this habit. But the problems didn’t end there.

I was getting too emotionally involved with strangers I met online. For example, sometimes someone on one of my e-mail lists or message boards would share a personal problem, asking for advice.

When I got off the computer, I couldn’t just put the suffering soul out of my mind and go on with my life. I would spend time and emotional energy on the person’s problem, while my own problems were left on the back burner.

Then there were the kinds of people I met on the Internet. Truth to tell, I did meet some wonderful people, some of whom I’ve formed relationships with and have invited to my simchas. But there were many other people I deeply regret having come across.

I didn’t form relationships with these people but I did read their comments online. “Intellectual” atheists who look down at us silly wishful-thinking believers from their science-educated pedestals. In my naïve pre-Internet days, I thought atheists just weren’t thinking at all. I actually thought if someone would point out to these atheists that nobody in their right mind could believe something as complicated, orderly, and purposeful as nature could create itself, they would wake up from their dream.

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