April 24, 2018
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Confessions of an Internet addict

Julia Bayly
By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — Hello, I’m Julia and I’m an Internet addict.

Phew! Just writing it makes me feel a bit better, and certainly must be the first step on the Internet highway to recovery.

Now, to be clear, it’s not like I’m out on street corners or in back alleys trying to score free Wi-Fi, but it is time to assess just how connected I have become to connectivity, and how I got this way in the first place.

Near as I can tell, it was a dangerously slippery slope.

Once upon a time I was content with my clunky PC with its sporadic dial-up Internet access allowing me to check the few emails that came my way and play the occasional game of online solitaire.

Of course, those were the days when fax machines were considered cutting-edge and we had rotary dial phones here on Rusty Metal farm.

OK, so the truth is, I still have a rotary dial phone and consider fax machines high-tech.

Cellphones? When they first burst on the scene I remember scoffing at those people who rushed out to purchase them and then spent inordinate amounts of time pulling them from pockets or purses to make a great show of checking how many “important” calls had possibly been missed.

“How pretentious is that?” I remember thinking with great “that will never be me” scorn.

In 2007, that changed. OK, maybe not the self-righteous scorn, but that was when my late husband was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly we found ourselves needing to bump up our level of connectivity.

There were nonstop appointments, consultations, tests and a myriad of other cancer-treatment-related activities that required constant schedule juggling. So we purchased the most basic, simplest phone we could find.

That, we said, is all we would ever need.

We hated to admit it, but that cellphone came in handy. Still, we counted the days until the cancer would be vanquished, the phone no longer needed, and we could run it over with the tractor.

Of course, the story did not end that way, and neither did my relationship with that phone.

At first, it was all about safety.

Suddenly finding myself living alone, my friends were concerned lest I get injured. And regular readers of this column know how justified those concerns were.

So the phone stayed, and over time, that simple single-function device was updated with a more sophisticated gizmo that not only could make and receive calls, but connect to the Internet via the world’s smallest keypad.

That, I said, is all I would ever need.

And it was true, right up until the day I met my first smartphone, with its snazzy screen and applications accessed not by a keypad, but by finger swipes opening portals to the Internet and my emails and activating a built-in camera. It could even make and receive calls.

This, I said, is certainly all I would ever need.

Until a friend got a Kindle eReader that also connects to the Internet.

Much as I had done with the cellphones, I scoffed at the notion of a device to read books electronically.

I managed to hold out for several months before buying my own and have been downloading books at a dizzying pace ever since.

There, I said at the time. I am done with new technology — because now I have all that I need.

And that was true, right up until Apple came out with the new iPhones.

A longtime Mac computer user, I had managed to resist iPhones, but when it came time to update my existing phone, I weakened and made the plunge a month or so ago.

Next came the apps, helpful applications made available by Apple and designed to improve my life.

Right off I downloaded the 5K training app — designed to get me ready for a 5-kilometer running race.

Now I have my very own, albeit rather bossy, coach I can access at any time.

As soon as the weather improves and the roads clear, I will put the similar road cycling app into action.

Next came the “Cluck-u-lator,” an app that has information on all things chicken-related, from best breeds for northern climates to a calculator that estimates how many eggs each chicken will produce in a year based on age and variety.

Now, it seems not a moment goes by I am not logged in to something. In fact, there have been days that the laptop, Kindle and phone have all been simultaneously logged on so I could engage in virtual multitasking.

There is the overriding compulsion to constantly check and re-check my email. Or update my Facebook status. Or see what my friends have added to their statuses.

Technology is taking over my life and I am not alone.

Doing some research — where else? — online, my Google search on “Internet addiction” yielded 109 million hits. There are sites on how to determine if one is addicted, how to seek help and how to recognize the condition in friends and family.

Some sites advocate Internet “fasting” by totally cutting oneself off from the World Wide Web for a period of time, the thought of which, I am ashamed to say, sent shivers down my spine.

Could it be? Have I gone past the point of no return? Is it time for some sort of informational intervention?

Possibly, and I’ll let you know just as soon as I’ve checked my email, updated my status and logged off.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who writes part time for the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.


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