Recently, I wrote about how TV addiction is retarding personal growth, and so, perhaps naturally, I got a few questions about computer addiction as well, after all, they both have a screen—interestingly, there were no questions about being addicted to radio transmissions or vinyl records 😀
Yes, my name is Jacob and I am addicted to the internet. At least insofar that I know, because once I got on the net, back in 8th or 9th grade, I never got off. I am online pretty much from when I get up in the morning to when I go to bed, somewhere between 12 and 16 hours a day.
I directly credit me getting online with a lot of personal growth. For me the internet is mainly about meeting new people and finding new ideas.
For instance, when I was 16, I was a slightly above average student. School was incredibly boring and I wasn’t trying too hard. Why bother? Then I met T_ in an online forum. He was one year older than me and I was amazed at how many things he knew beyond what “we learned in school”, that is, beyond the curriculum. That got me started on reading college text books instead of computer game magazines. Mind you, this happened in a country that NEVER EVER does advanced placements, etc. In other words, egality and conformity rules.
The internet also allows much easier access to like-minded individuals. A majority of humanity can in principle just go over and talk to their neighbor and they will find that they think in the same ways, and so they care about the same things. Conversely, if you belong to a very small minority in terms of how your brain is wired, living can feel very much like being the only sane person in the asylum. Indeed, you get used to it, but it’s not optimal. There is a good reason why INTJ and INTP types are about 10 times more prevalent on the net than in the real world. It is not just that the net makes it easier to “find intelligent life in the universe” and reach critical mass in terms of interests, but also that it allows a deeper discussion that is based on arguments and thinking rather than consensus and pleasantries. If we go back again, there was a direct correlation between the quality of my essays and me getting into newsgroups arguing politics and science. My essays pretty much doubled in length and detail.
It would seem that my mind is primarily a vehicle for transforming information into coherent theories. Input goes to output. Switch off the internet, and you cut me at the source. In my humble opinion, I know a lot, and you could say that with the internet I know even more, but the same is true for a library of a set of encyclopedias. However, search engines can leverage the knowledge I have in ways that the classical methods simply can not. It is the fastest way, bar none, to finding things out—this is why I keep it on all the time—googling something is not a distraction as much as it is breathing information. This tags into the discussion in the previous paragraph. If my neighbor wanted to know something, it is very likely that his neighbor knows what he wants to know, say, who won American Idol. I would have to walk pretty far to get the same satisfaction in terms of what I want to know and who I could ask. Possibly further than a library or an encyclopedia.
I discovered peak oil on the net years before it became a mainstream phenomena. That discovery changed my life. I discovered simple living years before anyone knew what a blog was and before new books on those subjects came out every month. This too changed my life. Before I discovered pf-blogs, I thought that I (along with a bunch of dot-com millionaires) were the only one with a six-figure net, that is to say, I thought it was incredible rare, but apparently it is not that rare. Now, I even know that I’m not the only one on the extreme early retirement track.
There is one thing I do not use the internet for though. Basically anything that you find in old media. News, celebrity gossip, sports, … I skip that.