Take a deep breath and dive down below. At first that sensation of that last deep breath feels great – you have something that nothing else around you does. Slowly your body, expecting another breath, finds you don’t have the means to do so. While you try to explore underwater, looking around you and distracting yourself, one strong thought pounds inside your head: “Come up for air.” This is the image I have in my head when I think of my relation to the internet.
That, my friends, is addiction…
…Because that’s what is it; an addiction. The Internet is still very young. Think about the early years of tobacco-smoking – it improved your health, it got you women, and there were no side effects. I don’t mean to say that there are side effects to using the internet – or cell phone waves for that matter – I just mean that we have not yet been exposed to it long enough to know how to manage our use.
The image of the 1950’s is that of The American Family sitting around the TV set, the children’s eyes almost pressed up against the screen, the parents looking on happily at their united family. Nowadays, we are taught that too much TV is bad for your eyes, it’s rotting our brains, it’s the boob tube, etc.
Is the Internet headed in the same direction…
We have established basic interaction policies with “managed habits” like television, smoking, and watching porn – these are things that, in moderation, don’t necessarily kill people (I know I know, “Fumer Tue”). I have begun to wonder what kind of Best Practice cultural habits people will develop for Internet use:
- Keep a safe distance…: We never sit too close to our television or laptop screens, because the doctor said it hurts our eyes (Why do we feel compelled to be six inches away from something we can clearly see from three feet away?). I don’t see any direct health effects (other than lack of social interaction) that come from Internet Use at the moment, but I imagine that if any unhealthy side effects develop, the actions that cause them will be discouraged.
- Only 3 hours a day? With cigarettes, porn, and TV, we manage our intake so as to not fall into an unhealthy lifestyle – one in the morning, one after lunch, one after dinner. Can this be applied to the Internet? Will Internauts be content to check their emails at 9AM, at Noon, and then just after dinner? Perhaps it’s just a matter of habituation – many will argue they already do it now, but what if you are waiting on that important email expected at 2PM? Can you really hold off until 8:30PM?
- Designated Smoking Sections: We have banished our smokers to the outdoors, we have isolated our TV set to our living room (or bedroom, if it’s your computer), and we only watch porn in our bedrooms, so perhaps there will be designated Internet “HotSpots.” This habit has already developed in Cafes, which have taken on the task of crowding internauts together – but is it so hard to imagine a restaurant that decides they don’t want phone calls or emails being checked inside? What if they begin to block all cellular and Wi-Fi access within their doors, just to create an atmosphere free of vibrating phones conversations and “No I’m not busy” phone calls.
- Not in front of the Kids: In the same vein as designated smoking sections, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a delay of introduction of children to the Internet – especially after the inevitable study comes out that shows that kids whose parents gave them a cell phone at age 9 developed dependency issues. Afterall, are there really skills to be developed in children at 9 on the internet that cannot equally begin at 12, 14 or 16?