Personal: Hitting Bottom

How do you know when you’ve “hit bottom” with tech-addiction?

Consequences. Like an alcoholic who crashes his car and wakes up in a gutter or jail, tech-addicts find their bottoms by running into painful consequences. Unfortunately, the pain isn’t quite as clear.

I recognized that my first addiction was to my iPhone in 2007. Ironically, the phone slipped into the Atlantic as I bent to retrieve some trash. Initially I felt a pang of grief for the valuable device, but soon after, I went into tech-withdrawal from the absence of the information stream. Disconnected from the flow of text messages, news, and emails, I felt scared, isolated, and totally alone. For days, I continued to habitually tap my pant pocket, unconsciously responding to phantom vibrations. In full denial, my mind manufactured the sensations.

But that wasn’t enough to get me tech-sober.

My bottom arrived when I almost failed out of grad-school because of excessive internet use.

After weeks of unrelenting depression and seemingly harmless self-soothing video, I began tracking the number of hours of video I had watched using (which does an excellent job of tracking everything you do on a Mac or PC).

In the final week, it turned out that I watched 54 hours and 40 minutes of Netflix and Hulu, and neglected almost all of my obligations. Until I saw the numbers, I thought that my internet use was not the primary issue. Without tangible evidence, I could delude myself into thinking that I was just watching video until I felt better; once I knew that I had spent more than a workweek watching, it became clear that videophilia (more on that later) is one of the ways my tech-addiction presents itself. The symptoms include compulsively controlling the stream of information, numbing painful experiences, and isolating myself from society and nature.

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