January 10, 2000


"Are we Internet addicts?" David asked me yesterday.

We were watching an earnest-looking woman on public television explain the warning signs of cyber addiction. These include increased time spent online, less time spent with family and loved ones, secrecy, denial, disorientation, financial problems, difficulty disengaging from the computer ... increased gas with oily discharge ...

(OK. Some parts of this addiction definitely sound like more fun than *other* parts.)

"We used to be hooked on AOL, I think," I replied thoughtfully. "Back in the Boom Room days. But I don't think we qualify anymore."

True, I had spent very nearly the entire weekend in front of the computer. I've got a list of excuses as long as my arm, and they're all legit: I'm sick, I look like hell, my sinus medicine is making me cranky, I don't feel like going anywhere, I need to learn the new graphics program, I'll nap later, at least it's keeping me quiet, blah blah blah.

True, I was maintaining an Internet connection for most of the weekend ... mainly so hi! i'm one of secra's *projects!* no addiction HERE! I could instantly upload changes to the website without having to reconnect. Not that I actually wrote anything, mind you: mostly I just tinkered under the hood. But I kept the engine running.

True, I had AOL humming in the background at all times. But I kept the window minimized. And I was using one of my dorky *stealth* names, known only to God and the Tots, in case they popped online and wanted to engage in a little mindless conversation. God was a no-show, but I did get to chat with Son #Only at some length ...

Son#Only: "My hair looks like s**t."

Secra: "Nahhh ... you look great. But I think you've got something stuck in your teeth."

True, I found it extremely difficult to tear myself away from the computer at the end of the day on Saturday and Sunday, even after spending nine hours in front of the damn thing.  ("I didn't get anything dooooone," I whined to David, massaging the blood back into my fingers.)  When he fell asleep last night, midway through "The David Cassidy Story"  ("Hot Blooded" playing at a Hollywood pool party in 1973?? I don't THINK so),  I tiptoed out here to the dining room and quietly flipped the computer back on and fiddled some more with my unfinished Paint Shop Pro project. It was only when I realized that I'd lost all physical sensation from the elbows down that I finally shut down the Monster PC and crept back to bed.

And true, this morning -- my day off from work -- I am right back in front of the 'puter.

But I still don't believe that any of this qualifies as Internet addiction.

I think, in my case, it's more like "PROJECT Addiction."

Basically, it means that once I've started a project -- even if it's something dorky, like turning eighteen different dingbat fonts into .jpg images for the website ... or something purely organizational, like cataloging five years' worth of e-mail into chronological/alphabetical [ludicrously anal-retentive] folders -- I don't want to stop until it's finished.  In fact, I get darned-near FRANTIC if anybody tries to pull me away from something in mid-project.

David: "How about if we see what they're cooking on 'Iron Chef'?"

Secra: "I'll be there in a minute. I just need to rename some of these 'Space Woozies' files."

David: "How many have you got left to do?"

Secra: "Um .. all of them."

What can I tell you? If this is an illness -- which it very well could be -- then it's an illnessno waste of time HERE! no sirree bob! I've been afflicted with since childhood. (See: Nine-Year-Old Secra, sitting in front of the Remington, furiously cranking out her monthly *Terri's Fun Book* while the other kids are outside riding bikes.)  Ever since I was a Tot, I've loved having two or three or thirty-seven different creative projects in the works at once. And the simple fact of it is that most of my favorite "projects," these days, are computer-related. Most of them involve writing, typing, filing, research, graphics ...and a decent web browser.  Even the new piano has ties to the Internet: over the weekend I found a site that sells the book of Clementi sonatinas I've been looking for.

Yep. I'm a Project Junkie. I feed on the rush that comes with a new idea, and I get totally high watching it near completion. (I don't even want to tell you what it feels like when I finally *finish* something: this is a FAMILY website, forcryingoutloud.)  And these days the computer is often the conduit that feeds that addiction ... the same way my typewriter used to be, or my crayons, or my library card.

(Or my box of Gallo Mountain Chablis.)

Yes it's nerdy. Yes it's antisocial. Yes it's expensive sometimes. Yes it's probably unhealthy: I *should* be outside riding my bike with the other kids.

But at least it isn't Internet addiction. Right?

As for David ... I can't really speak for him here.

(Well ... yes I can. And I do, probably more of the time than is strictly necessary. But for the purposes of this particular website entry, I'm not going to put words into his mouth.)

David: "Thank you, honey. I appreciate that."

Secra: "You're welcome."

David: "By the way. Have I told you today that you are the world's smartest, sexiest, most talented, most beautiful, most wonderful girlfriend?"

Secra: [blushing] "Ahhhh ... you're just saying that."

Point is, I can't say whether or not he's "addicted" to the Internet. I know he loves it. I know that he is amazed and delighted by the wealth and weirdness of the information he finds there. (Our favorite *find* over the weekend ... "The Peculiar Art of Mr. Frahm: A study on the effects of celery on loose elastic.")

I know he is continually exhorting his Message Board buddies to "use your &#$% browser!," whenever they're arguing about something like the history of Kwanzaa, or unemployment rates in Europe, or how many Dole pineapple rings will comfortably fit on the average penis. "It takes longer to write your post complaining about something that turns out to be not true than it does to actually find out if Kwanzaa is a religous holiday or not!" he admonishes them. "From ignorance to knowledge in the time it takes to type a sentence!"  It's something he feels very strongly about: this ready access to limitless information.

I know that he turns to the computer occasionally when he can't sleep. Once in a very great while I'll wake up at 3 a.m. and discover that I'm alone in our bed. I'll tiptoe out to the computer and there he'll be, cruising the Bob Dylan CD Field Recordings Review Page Of William J. Clinton website. "My brain is racing," he'll say. I'll kiss the top of his head and go back to bed and leave him to his solitary surfing, until whatever is fueling his racing mind finally sputters out.

And I know that he feels a bond of love and loyalty to his old Boomer friends ... much more so than I do, sometimes. He laments over dwindling connection and communication with them. Occasionally he *decloaks* long enough to check into the chat room, or to field instant messages from a handful of old acquaintances. It's very important to him. (After all, it was on AOL -- in the Baby Boomer Chat Room, specifically -- that we discovered each other.)

But again, I don't believe that any of this qualifies David as an Internet addict. An afficionado, yes. An addict? No. I think that if anybody could recognize (and throw up warning flags about) the signs of addiction, it would be David.

(Unless that was what he was doing yesterday, when he asked the question to begin with ... ?)

self-important blurb #1 will go HERE: so how am i spending my precious day off, you ask?

what do you think?

self-important blurb #2 -- probably having something to do with the WEATHER: i don't care what the weather is like today. i'm feeling residually snotty, and i don't even plan to get DRESSED until just before david gets home tonight.

special *howdy* to: my new best friend sunny [of Sunshyn's Daydream] ... who, it appears, is living a life spookily parallel to mine. her boss is attending the same national industry meeting as my boss is, this week. who knows? maybe they'll sit together on the plane ride home. [you DID book *your* boss on valujet, didntchoo sunny?]

a year ago

here's where i'll ask a *relevant* question:
what are YOU addicted to?
if it's *grove's tasteless chill tonic* ... i don't wanna hear about it.

amazingly profound thought of the day: "There are two kinds of people: those who finish what they start, and