Joe Lavin

September 13, 2005

Step Away From the Internet

As much as I joke about it, it turns out that I'm not actually addicted to the Internet. You see, I learned this by taking an online test at the Center for Online and Internet Addiction at (Ways to know you're an Internet addict #49: You find yourself taking online tests about Internet addiction.) Unfortunately, I scored only a 29 out of a possible 100 on this test, making me -- Gasp! -- normal.

"You are an average online user. You may surf the Web a bit too long at times, but you have control over your usage," the stupid test told me. How very disappointing. Here, I thought I was a computer geek, and it turns out I'm nothing but average. Personally, I blame the Internet. If it were anywhere near as good as it could be, then I'm sure I would be totally addicted.

I also blame the test, which was full of silly questions, some of which were almost impossible to answer accurately. How often do I find that I stay online longer than I intended? Well, never. I happen to have unreasonably high expectations of myself, so it's almost impossible to stay online longer than I intend. How often do I try to cut down the amount of time I spend online and fail? That's easy. Never. I don't try to cut down the amount of time I spend online. How often does my job performance or productivity suffer because of the Internet? Never, except for the small fact that I've written much of this article from work.

Actually, I couldn't answer "never" on any of these questions. It wasn't an option. The best option on each was "rarely." I guess they figure that if you're actually taking this test in the first place, you've already got some problems and wouldn't need a "never" option.

I could have especially used "never" when I got to question 10, which is about the time my status as a geek began to falter. "How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the Internet?" I was asked. Um, soothing thoughts of the Internet? Exciting maybe, but I can't say that I find the Internet all that soothing. It's not like I'm sitting on the freeway boiling over with stress and calm myself by thinking, "Ahhhh, the Internet."

The weird questions kept coming. One wanted to know whether I feared that life without the Internet would be joyless and empty. No, life would probably be about the same, except that I would have to begin paying for the stuff I now read online for free. Another wanted to know whether I ever fantasized about being online. The question wasn't on whether I fantasized about what I saw online. No, I guess they simply wanted to know whether I have fantasies of sitting at my computer holding a mouse. Sorry, I don't think so.

Of course, there's more to the Center for Online and Internet Addiction than just addiction quizzes. (They also have games, photos, streaming video, audio, and so much more that you'll never want to leave!) There are many services here that can help the burgeoning Internet addict, including even consultations with an Internet addiction expert. (Ways to know you're an Internet Addict #34: You're an Internet addiction expert.)

These days, Internet addiction is a big thing. Get ready to e-mail your lawyer, because apparently it's also a "legitimate mental disorder." This means that if you're fired for abusing the Internet at work, you might actually be able to sue your employer for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. After all, your company's the one supplying the bandwidth, so why shouldn't they be responsible? It's only a matter of time before excessive personal phone calls at work and taking extra sick days when you're not actually sick will also be covered by the ADA. We can only hope.

My absolute favorite service at the site is the $95-an-hour chat room consultation with the Internet addiction expert, which, in addition to being pricey, seems a lot like holding an AA meeting in a bar, but no matter. After all, if you're running an Internet addiction business, it's always important to take your business to where the customers are.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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