08 April 2008

Addictions to Things Inescapable

People addicted to cocaine, it seems to me, have an advantage over people addicted to food. It is feasible that someone could construct his life in a way that let them avoid cocaine altogether. It is impossible to avoid food. I don't intend to trivialize drug addiction, but there has to be something uniquely challenging about scaling back on a necessity.

The computer has become a necessity. The little company I work for employs about a half dozen programmers and a half dozen of us consultants. We're spread across the US, from Connecticut to here in San Diego, from Portland to DC. There is no way we could operate this company as we do without email and on-line tools and our work with clients is computer-centric.

This blog has become my voice, the one place where I can speak uncensored about topics that may or may not relate to what is most important to me - my family, my work, or my beliefs. I can write what strikes me as silly and absurd or profoundly important, history or future - any topics that interest me. Blogs – my writing and reading – all take place on the computer.

Through emails, I've kept in touch with friends from every stage and area of life. Through my blog, my list of friends has grown. I love my contact with friends and family and would never cut off from any of it.

As the world goes digital, the internet is the simplest way to get information. Video of Keith Olbermann pointing to the idiocy behind George Bush's latest policy, articles by James Fallows explaining social trends in China, or Robert Wright interviewing Karen Armstrong about God in the 21st century are all examples of things that can be easily accessed on line and represent brain stimulation I could never find in the local media.

But is it too much of a good thing? My wife thinks so. And I can't argue with her. Particularly when a batch of travel coincides with her spring break, my gravitating to the computer to catch up on news, favorite blogs, and emails is trying for her. As the world becomes digital, more of our life seems to stream in through the same monitor window. Our mind might perceive variety, but our butt does not move.

To make this worse, my life has been characterized by serial obsessions. I don't do well with prolonged moderation. I prefer moving from peak to peak - whether it is immersing myself in computer chip design with one client and then drug development a couple of years later with another client, or systems thinking one year and neocons in another. For me, context is essential and immersion still seems the one way to gain that.

Now, I'm trying to moderate what is inescapable - at a time when my work schedule has peaked and my knee-jerk reaction is to spend even more time on the personal side of the computer to make up for its displacement by the work side. Rumor has it there is more to do off the computer than get calories eating and expend calories exercising.

So now I'm dealing with what might be addiction but is certainly a habit. (A habit defined as anything one needn't consider before doing.) I'm actually glad that Sandi has pointed this out. She often calls me Mr. Variety and I've generally worked to stay away from habits - preferring to change the rhythms of what I eat, how I exercise, who I socialize with, etc. (You've probably guessed by now that I do a miserable job of observing rituals or traditions.) The internet is, for me, such a varied place that it seemed to me that I was getting my dose of variety - even while continually coming to the same physical place and position again and again.

As much as I appreciate the push to reconsider this habit, I wonder if the underlying cause is my addiction to thought. I’ve learned that sans writing, my thoughts tend to become circular, or at least, repetitious. Writing allows me to stretch my thoughts over a broader canvas than they’d expand with only talk.

It is not my intention to drop off the computer – just cut back a bit and lose a few virtual pounds, so to speak. I’ve never done well with balance, but maybe it’s time to learn.


cce said...

She's right, you know. I can feel this one acutely as My Better Half is entirely computer and information obsessed. My son laments the fact that his father chooses to "be with his computer" on the weekends rather than with him. I nod my head in recognition. However, in scaling back and regaining balance, please don't abandon us. We only require a little attention (Oh, ok, some of us require more than others). Leave just a little for us while attending to your good wife's needs. That's just a shameless plea. Take it or leave it.

Dave said...

As addictions go, thought isn't a bad one to have.

jennifer h said...

I've been trying to figure out how to moderate this habit, too. The laundry is piling up. I'm trying.

Ron Davison said...

Two things worth mentioning. I think that I've made some progress since she's pointed this out. And, I will not abandon the writing and reading of blogs - just the frequency and time spent.

Thanks for assurance. This certainly leaves me more clear headed than the time with the crack pipe. [Note to homeland security - that was just a joke!]

jennifer h,
see, that may be one of my problems. I seem to be in such good company in this (could you find a more articulate, egnaging, and informed group of addicts?).

nunya said...


"brain stimulation I could never find in the local media."


The_SRV said...

I would blame most of the world's drug addictions on the American government.

Under President Carter the CIA started exporting drugs out of Afghanistan and cocaine began being flown out of S. America in a big way by CIA and military transport when Reagan needed to pay for covert operations and assassinations.

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