Information Addiction

Occasionally, Gillian wonders out loud about my time spend online. Am I an Internet addict? I described myself as an information addict in my online profile in a couple of places, quite facetiously, before I learned that there was a movement to include “Internet addiction disorder” in the next edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

I do wonder. As with all things, I strive for balance, and this obsessive-compulsive world of ours, it is hard to strike balance with anything.

I am online for a living. Every day I am at my computer, sometimes all day. I may be using applications that are not connected to Internet activity, but in the background I am listening to Pandora and have my instant mail program going in case anyone needs to reach me. I usually log into Facebook because inevitably I will run across and article or web page that I want to share with my friends. I’m always logged into Ma.gnolia because I discover new sites that I want to save and share every day.

The computer has become an indispensable and incredibly useful tool. I couldn’t do my work without it. Like the telephone, it is just another utility that we all use everyday to help us communicate. But there are other useful applications for personal organization, which becomes more important the more information is thrown at us. Frankly, we need these tools so that we can sort through everything to find the really important stuff that is going the help us.

I admit to having days where I get sucked into the vortex of research, finding one site that leads me to many others. Down the rabbit hole I go. It is perhaps not the most efficient use of my time, and there has been more than one occasion where I really didn’t know when to stop. I convince myself that if I just keep on trying, if I am persistent enough I will find the piece of information I am looking for, even if I get distracted by shiny objects along the way.

Yes, I do want to find a more healthy balance for virtual life and real life activity. But I have been saying for years that I strive to find balance, between the professional and the personal, spiritual and civic, and it’s all connected. The Internet has facilitated staying in touch and getting in touch with old friends in a way that never would have happened without it. For me there is no separation. Virtual life is real life.

I’m sure there are people out there who really do need help balancing their life between time spent online and managing important issues in their life. I feel for folks who are neglecting paying their bills or doing their laundry or taking out the trash or spending time with their spouse and kids because the just can’t get off line.

However, I can’t help but wonder about the trend in our culture to diagnose every dysfunctional behavior. Does everything have to be an illness? Can’t we just take responsibility to change our own behavior? I think it’s pretty funny, perhaps paradoxical, that there is an Internet site and online community for Internet addiction. I scored 13 on the test, so I think I’m in good shape…but did I answer truthfully? I could be in denial. Honestly, I don’t worry about it, and I do feel that the Internet is something that impacts the quality of my life in a positive way.

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