The online world is littered with jokes about how some people get up in the morning, immediately turn on the Internet, and then do little else until the wee hours of the morning. I certainly was never THAT bad. I at least made a coffee before settling in for my online fix. Some people are habitual gamers, some sit and pass countless hours on YouTube, others are enslaved by Facebook or MySpace … me, I was (am?) a discussion board addict.
It started out simply enough. While searching for some info online, I stumbled across a discussion room affiliated with a company whose services I had used. It had a variety of forums, many with helpful information on how to use the services offered by said company securely and a few that were set up for more social interaction. I read a few threads and since I find it hard to keep my opinions to myself, I entered into a thread and put in my 2 cents worth. The next thing I knew, someone replied to me. After a few comments back and forth, I got up the courage to respond on other threads and the rest, as they say, is history.
It was refreshing to have a ready-made community that had no preconceived notions about who I was or what I looked like, to be able to say what I thought about certain things while respecting the rules and parameters of the site. I soon discovered an online community of people who all shared an interest in this particular site, although there were distinct subgroups of friends or cliques if you will. I discovered it was very much like real life except that I could log in and participate at any time, day or night, and at my convenience. All I needed to connect was my username and password (I now suspect it's no accident they refer to it as a user name).
Over time I discovered good things and bad things occur in the online world, and depending on my mood, it could be quite addictive. The positive fun that people had was inspiring - people offering advice, help and support, and sometimes even arranging gifts to others they had only met via the discussion board, all simply because someone asked for help or discussed a challenge they were having in life. Auctions organized to raise money for those in need, charities and other causes that hit home with the community. Secret Santa exchanges were organized by some, friendly card swaps arranged by others and in the midst all of this, the occasional troll who disrupted the fun with nasty comments and overt insults directed at other community members. The infighting between different persons and factions was better than any daytime soap opera, and while I truly feel it often provided intriguing insight into human nature, I must confess to deriving a few vicarious thrills from watching the cyber dramas unfold.
After participating for a while, a strange thing happened. In addition to being an outlet for personal expression and downright silliness, I also started to develop a personality unique to my online self. My username was a specific insect and my imagination took over at times…responding to threads as if I were indeed said insect and not a human. I wrote from the perspective of being smaller, with six legs, and being concerned about things like where to lay my millions of eggs, which was my own euphemism for writing posts. It was a blast. I was friends with a Kitty, a Purplepeopleeater, a Turtle, Freekiefroggie, and a host of other online personas, including one Batman and one Superman. (If I ever thought I was loosing it talking about my eggs and six legs, well at least I don't think I drive a Batmobile!).
Soon I found I was spending more and more time logging in and laying my imaginary eggs…I thought of myself AS that person, imagining I was scuttling to the kitchen for a caffeine fix rather than walking, like something out of Kafka. Had someone called me by my online nickname on the street I'm fairly certain I would have responded without missing a beat. I began to realize that I was spending more time being that insect who was me and yet, not me (as far as I know, I don't really have 6 legs or antennae) and while enormously entertained, real life was passing me by. Dishes weren't done, my home was a mess, and I was behind on keeping up with my real-life friends and obligations. How embarrassing. I couldn't explain I was merely enjoying being an insect and if they wanted to reach me, they could find me online. I made a decision to lay one last batch of Internet eggs, and quietly logged off with the intention of not logging in again.
Quitting cold turkey (or in my case cold insect) was harder than I thought - who knew that being addicted to the Internet was so, well, addictive? It took a while, but with some dogged determination and the occasional fall from the cyber wagon I can now pop in and read a little bit to keep up on my favorite characters from the discussion room without feeling compelled to respond to every thread…and using a timer to limit myself is a great way to control how much time I get to be an insect in my day. I still occasionally have the urge to lay a million Internet eggs, but I am content with just one or two, carefully laid and hatched.
Editors' note: While the subject of this article is in fact a real person and not a fabrication, he/she wishes to assure the reader that his/her current life is now a well-rounded and satisfying one and as of this writing he/she has not exhibited any physical insect-like manifestations.