It sits in the corner of the room. An occasional blue light flashes innocuously. I head directly towards it. Am I addicted to the internet?
Should I keep the habit secret? Some people are obsessed with online betting until they lose everything. Others still are fixated with online porn, placing the pleasures of the screen before the pleasures of the flesh. Me, I am just addicted to the internet.
How do I know this? If I come into a room and see either of our laptops lying around, there is a unbearable desire to open it up, press the necessary button and get going. A meal on the table ready to eat, a phone call from family or friend, even Heroes Series 3 on the TV, none can get in the way of my instant endorphin rush.
It is not as if I know where I will end up when I get start. Will I come up with an idea for a blog posting that will attract an extraordinary bounce in traffic? Will I come across a new blogger who just seems to say the things I want to hear that night. Or will I see a new app on someone’s blog that I just cannot wait to cut and post the embed code on my own blog?
The addiction has already changed my media. I still read the Guardian on a daily basis. But TV has become a backdrop as we sit with our laptops flashing in the semi-darkness. Favourite series are now watched on BBC iPlayer. Only as I grabbed a magazine in the supermarket recently did I realise how I had not looked at something that has obsessed me all my life. And books might fill the shelves but I am not, for the first time in my life, aware of what I will next take on holiday.
But is it addiction? The more I become engrossed, the more I realise that it is not addiction. It is instead the web that was always promised. It just so happens, that through a series of coincidences, it has become MY web. It is no longer some flat thing from which I read the news or, at most, book a ticket. Instead it has become a wonderful, interactive place which recognises my arrival and presents me with my content. The more I interact, the more it comes back for me.
Addiction or not, is it good for me? A recent book, iBrian by Dr. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan, argues that the progress of the web is changing the way behave. Indeed like a continuing advertisement for Darwin, it is those who explore, absorb and respond to the web who will do better in the future. In a review in the Sunday Times, under the heading Keep clicking and you’ll be a snappy thinker, Gary Small, director of the memory and ageing research centre at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues:
The next generation, as [Charles] Darwin suggests, will adapt to this environment. Those who become really good at technology will have a survival advantage – they will have a higher level of economic success and their progeny will be better off.
It means that you should do all you can to educate your family and friends to get up to speed. Translate that to the workplace and it is not just cyclical (ie financial) and structural (ie readers moving online) reasons for becoming digital. But now we know. It is a matter of survival. Survival of the fittest.