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CONFESSIONS OF AN INTERNET JUNKIE

Let’s get something straight. I have never texted while driving. I check my-email at stoplights, though. Particularly when the light is red.

My name is Linda, and I’m an Internet junkie. This is not supposed to be happening to me. I am 64 years old. This is something that happens to kids. Stupid kids.

I had to learn about WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads to promote my book, Incomplete Passes. But this goes farther. I admit it, I’m obsessed.

When I was a kid, computers took up entire rooms. Today I’m besotted with one that fits in the palm of my hand. I would rather leave my house minus underwear than without my smartphone.

When my husband and I go out to dinner, I fidget throughout the meal, looking at my phone repeatedly. I note what our son has posted on Facebook and relay it to my husband. Our son lives 2,000 miles away. This is how we keep up with him. Dinner is meant to be family time, right?

I check for e-mail and texts. Ten minutes later I check again. Someone might send me an urgent message. My husband falls asleep waiting for me to come to bed. I’m down the hall surfing the ‘Net. My name is Linda …

My friend Marilyn is a psychologist specializing in addiction. “It’s easy to tell if you’re addicted to your computer,” she told me. “Check the list in my book.” So I pulled out Addicted? by Marilyn Freimuth, Ph.D. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008).

Marilyn named eleven criteria for computer addiction (I’ve abbreviated them to conserve space).

1. Experiences gratification when on computer

2. Preoccupied with computer activity

3. Needs to spend increasingly more time on computer to change mood

4. Fails repeated efforts to control activities

5. Restless and tense when not on computer

6. Needs to return to computer to escape problems or relieve mood

7. Neglects social, familial, education, or work obligations

8. Lies to family members, therapists, and others about extent of time spent on computer

9. Threatens or loses significant relationships, job, etc., because of computer usage

10. Physical signs, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, backaches, dry eyes, etc.

11. Changes in sleep patterns

If five apply, you’re addicted. I got eight. Sheesh! How many did you get?

I haven’t even mentioned Words with Friends. I play with my friend Carla, who lives in Wisconsin. She plays on her iPad and I play on my phone. Recently I was driving on an errand, maybe ten miles, and I stopped twice because my phone dinged and I had to check out Carla’s move. At least I pulled over.

But I can justify this. Carla, who’s my age, says she plays Words to keep her mind sharp. That’s it! All this Internet stuff is keeping my mind sharp. If I stay on the ‘Net, my mind will stay sharp and in fifteen or twenty years, I won’t have to go to a nursing home.

… If I do go, they better have WiFi.