The Internet Smog Check Station is Now Open

I’ve seen other bloggers coming up with gimmicks to get you offline, such as “Don’t Blog Day” and other nonsense.  The point of these special days is to make you go outside and smell the fresh air, maybe even do something “green,” like get you to water a tree.

This post is not about the environment.  Let someone else write about that.  Go outside and spray pesticides if you want.  I’m not concerned about the health of our planet right now as much as I am about the mental health of those on the blogosphere. 

Including myself. 

I first wrote about this “Internet Smog Check” a month ago.  I had just brought in my car for the yearly test, as is required in California.  I wondered if I should also test myself once a year — making sure that the internet wasn’t turning me into a crazy person?  I wanted to prove to myself that all this virtual “smog” from this online world wasn’t affecting my brain, and my soul.   Sure, I had fallen in love with 28 different women in a six month’s period, and had taken photos of myself bare-chested, parading around in the bathroom, desperately crying for attention.  But, it could have been worse.  I have never ONCE sent anyone a photo of my private parts.  I didn’t embarrass my family… too much.  I’d engaged in pleasant, but nonsensical, conversations with people of all races and religions without ever resorting to ethnic slurs like “Whitey,” “China Doll” or “Yarmulke Head.” 

Clearly, I am normal.

But shouldn’t I test myself at least once a year to make sure I don’t have a small addiction to the internet?  I thought about this for a day or two, and then dropped the idea completely.

On Sunday, I was in Manhattan, walking around aimlessly, window-shopping.  I had an appointment with some friends later that afternoon.  At a certain point, I stopped in at some ritzy coffee bar on Lexington Avenue.  As I was drinking my coffee, I watched as some Hunter College student was reading her Gmail on her Macbook.  I could feel the energy and jealousy build up in my body.

“I want to check my email!” I screamed to myself.

My mind drifted to a state of worry and yearning. 

“I wonder if anyone wrote me an email today?  I wonder how many people wrote comments on my blog?  I wonder if one of the comments is stuck in the spam block and the blogger is going to be pissed at me, thinking I erased it?”

Sadly, I am too cheap right now to own a blackberry.  I use my phone… as a phone.  So I had no access to the internet like some of you junkies who walk around checking your email every five seconds.

After my cup of coffee, I kept on walking, still thinking about the virtual life that was going on in my parallel universe — this online world that was suddenly more real and exciting to me than walking around Manhattan.  Sure the girls looked very pretty as they left the Guggenheim Museum, but not ONE of them took off her bra and threw it at me!  Don’t these girls know who I am?!  Don’t they read any blogs?!  Women online are so much more… uh, EASY…

I hoped that I would stumble upon an “Internet Cafe.”  Did they still exist?   Here I was in the middle of NYC — a city with thousands of things to do — and my mind was pondering what Schmutzie wrote on her blog today.  That’s right — some blogger from Saskatchewan!  F**king Saskatchewan.  That place would not even make a dot on that “New York” map/view of the world.  If I had asked a passing New Yorker to tell me about Saskatchewan, one would answer —

“Isn’t that the bridge that goes to Jersey?”

My mind drifted further —

“I wonder if Finn is on Facebook chat.  I wonder what Mr. Lady is bitching about on Twitter.” 

I walked past a Kinko’s/Fed Ex/whatever it is called now.  Bingo!  They had a “business center” where you can pay six dollars every ten seconds to go online on one of their germ-covered PCs.

So, I did.   The Kinko’s PC quickly grabbed my VISA card.   I then promptly spent the financial equivalent of a decent lunch on the Upper East Side to spend ten minutes on the Citizen of the Month administration page and delete three spams about “sex nostradamus sexy video.”

It was then that I accepted my internet addiction. 

I asked my, “Could I go offline for 24 hours without jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge?” 

I answered, “I’m not sure!”

I tried a test run on Twitter yesterday, and let me tell you — it was hard.  I rushed back online as soon as I could, and blabbed to everyone how superior I was to their addicted, flabby asses.  That was, until some hotshot noticed from my profile that I had only left Twitter for 23 hours!  Jerk.

The uber-talented Secret Agent Josephine made these badges.  Normally, bloggers want the masses to use their “badges” because of the link love.  I am a bit of an idiot who forgets about these rules, because I am going to make it SO difficult for ANY OF YOU to get one of these badges.  In fact, I bet only 1% of those reading this right now will ever be allowed to have one.

In order to get one of these beautiful badges, you must stay OFFLINE for a full day — from when you wake up in the morning to the next morning 24 hours later.  No email.  No blogging.  No Google.  If you need the internet for work, tough.  If you go online to check your bank statement, you screwed up.  It is that hard.  No pussies allowed.

If you don’t want to put up the badge, no problem. 

How do you get a badge?  You email me, telling me exactly what you did all day, proving to me that you did not go online ONCE during that 24 hour period. 

Only then can you announce to the rest of the blogosphere that you are not a addict who needs help.

And believe me, most of you NEED help.

Now, excuse me while I catch up with your blogs on my feed reader.  You are my crack.

Update:  Read this:  Would you quit interacting on the internet for ten million dollars?

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48 Responses to The Internet Smog Check Station is Now Open

  1. Mr Lady says:

    I am *this* close to devastated that you did not feel the overwhelming need to check MINE.

  2. I don’t check my e-mail every 5 seconds.

    With a Blackberry you can set it to vibrate when an e-mail comes in, so you just KNOW without checking.

  3. Neil says:

    Mr. Lady, I added you into the story just to stop your bitching.

  4. Mr Lady says:

    OOooooh, snap. Now I shall never throw my delicates at you.

  5. natalie says:

    i wonder if i could stay offline for a whole day. i have no idea. my addiction stems from being all the way over on the other side of the world i believe. the internet is more like my lifeline to sanity. if i had to go without it for a day i could. but i don’t think i would choose to go without it. i’ll have to think about that one.

  6. it’s easy to stay off line, all you need are three active kids, a husband, a dog and be my age, because i still don’t really understand what the internet is all about and what people are doing on it for hours. i’d take that badge but i wouldn’t know how to post it on my blog.

  7. Caron says:

    Staying off line for one day – meh. How will that really change things? You’re going to spend the entire day pining and thinking about it non-stop, and then go back on with an even a greater lust.

    I think it might be harder to limit yourself to 1 hour of internet a day for 24 days. You’d have an hour to tend to anything vital, and 23 to find out how nice your old pre-technology life really was.

  8. ingrid says:

    I hear you. Earlier this year I tried to reduce my internet time to less than an hour a day. I used a timer. (This doesn’t say much for me, I know.) I found myself doing things online as quickly as I possibly could. I spread out the “fixes” into six 10 minute increments. (This is reminding me a lot of my attempts to quit smoking…)

    Weirdly, those were two incredibly productive weeks. At the time (and now when I think about it) I was amazed by how freed I felt despite my obvious addiction. I might go back to the internet “fast” … at least for a couple of weeks.

  9. Kyra says:

    “Women online are so much more… uh, EASY…”

    ;) Awww Neil, maybe you should have stood on a table, ripped off your shirt, and started chatting up the locals.

    I actually have to agree with Caron, one day off is easy. One hour (or less, really an hour is probably too much – maybe 30 minutes?) per day for a month would be seriously tough!

  10. Well, this seemed easy until you mentioned the rules. My calendar is on my computer! What if I need a recipe! A phone number! Ack! Can I do it? I honestly don’t know but I sure as hell will try.

  11. BTW, is it fair to announce to your blog, your email pals, twitter, etc that you are going offline for a day? To me, that seems a teeny bit like cheating b/c it relieves you of the anxiety of wondering if people are waiting for your reply to a question.

  12. Neil says:

    Fairly Odd — I think this is so difficult for most of us, the rules are even easier than you think. You CAN go on your computer. You can work. You can use your desktop. The computer is an integral part of life now.

    You can not go ONLINE. The modem/wireless needs to be off.

    And I would definitely announce that I am going off. It would be too much anxiety without it. I’m not a monster. I am here to help.

  13. “Women online are so much more… uh, EASY…” made me laugh. I might add “virtually” to that…

  14. *pixie* says:

    Just the thought of staying offline hurts a little.

  15. gorillabuns says:

    Usually, I’m offline all weekend. I’ve always assumed most people were off themselves.

  16. Lady Jaye says:

    Since I’m unemployed and have pretty much zero social life not getting online would be torture for me. I will attempt it soon though.

  17. Jan says:

    Neil, I do this all the time.
    I hope this will not be a problem when you come dancing.

    *maniacal laugh*

  18. Miss Britt says:

    If the Internet is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!

  19. Finn says:

    I stay off pretty much all weekend, every weekend. Where’s my badge?

  20. Angella says:

    My work requires the Internet, so maybe when I am done. When I am not working I try to keep the Internet at bay on the weekends.

    I did take that entire WEEK off when we went to Mexico, save when I logged in to post a photo of us basking in the sun.

  21. anymommy says:

    I have been worried about how much I’m on line since I realized the big blog world was out there. (Only five months ago, how sadly behind the times am I?) But, I just took five days off while we traveled without keeling over. I don’t have any travel devices either – not even a cell phone(!) I know. My kids will make fun of my some day.

    Don’t get a blackberry, Neil. I think life is better without that kind of instant demand/connection to cyber everything.

  22. anymommy says:

    My kids will make fun of me some day. Urg. Does it annoy anyone else to insanity when you publish a typo or am I just obsessive compulsive?

  23. Iron Fist says:

    I’ve already failed. I’ve had this post open in my browser all night waiting for me to get to it in the morning.

  24. I am Memarie Lane’s cousin, a doctor of behavioral sciences with Sealand University. I wrote on my cousin’s blog earlier this year regarding internet addiction. While I applaud your efforts to rejoin the physical community, I must urge caution. In my studies I have found that subjects attempting immediate and sudden detachment from the internet umbilicus suffered from serious withdrawal symptoms; including tremors in the extremities, intense sensitivity to daylight, and erectile dysfunction.

    I highly recommend weaning one’s self incrementally. First cut the Twitter, then turn off the email notifications, then limit visits to your stat counter to once per day, etc.

    I would be happy to offer my support to you during this time, but I’m off to the Galapagos for several weeks to research the mating habits a rare phallic crustacean that’s been discovered there recently. So the best of luck to you and yours!

  25. Noelle says:

    I have an easy solution for this: I’m at a swim meet all weekend. And there ain’t no way I’m bringing my shiny macbook to the pool. So learn to swim, there’s your anti-drug!

  26. TRO says:

    Can’t I just steal the damn badge?

  27. sizzle says:

    I’ll never earn that badge and much like how I never earned my fire badge in girl scouts, I can live with that shame.

  28. Neil says:

    TRO — that is between you and your God.

  29. Hello. My name is Apathy Lounge and I have an internet addiction. *Hi, apathy lounge*. Looks like I’ll never get one of those stinking badges.

  30. AnnieH says:

    Neil, do you really know what you’re asking of us?? Do you you have a deep centered understanding of what “a real life” really is?? I’m off work today and have a list in front of me–“evaluations due June 24, buy B’s text books for summer assignments,send out thank you notes,put away suitcases from vacation, make fruit salad for Holly’s goodbye breakfast(Goodbye and Good Riddance,bitch),reschedule B’s orthodontist appointment,take B to Target to get her ‘pool ready’,send wedding card and present to Rachel, bathe dog, plants for backyard, what’s for dinner??” Look, I walked the dog last evening and stopped to smell one of the neighbor’s roses. It was fantabulous. But stop with the alluring shiny trinket of blog badges.I don’t want to make no freakin’ fruit salad. I want to download more of Cyd Charisse dancing on You Tube.Please don’t judge me. Can’t we all just get along?

  31. John says:

    My name is John and I’m an addict.

    [Hi John.]

  32. paintergirl says:

    It’s like checking phone messages. remember rushing home to see if someone called.

  33. Lynda says:

    I am pretty sure I am not your crack. lol. I also can get one of those badges next week. When I am driving all day in the car. Cause we will be traveling. Maybe.

    I will have my laptop with me….

    Damn it! This will be harder than I thought!

    Don’t ask me to go a week, ok?

  34. Christine says:

    I canNOT believe you weren’t aching to play Pathwords with me on facebook. Or to tweet with me. Fine. FINE!

    The fact that my feelins are crushed just shows how addicted I am to the interwebs. Whatever.

  35. Annie says:

    I went two days last week without, oh wait I did check emails I guess that counts :-). Maybe I will do this next week, I NEED my blogs this week.

  36. TRO says:

    “That’s between you and your God.”

    I asked him and he said it was okay if it annoyed Neil. He did say to double-check with Sophia though.

  37. ali says:

    i don’t think i could do this. i’m having a panic attack just thinking about it…

  38. Elisabeth says:

    I’m going to do it for TWO days.

  39. aka_monty says:

    I once went a whole week without the internet… when the ice storm knocked the cable line down.

    It was HORRENDOUS and I almost had a nervous breakdown.

  40. 24 hours without the internet … hummm. My (real) job is internet based, so count week days out. Maybe in October when I am in Maui and I have to pay $10/day for internet connection in my room.

  41. Lisa says:

    Last year I went three entire months without the Internet and had anxiety attacks about turning the computer back on for fear that I would get sucked back in.

    I’m going to take you up on this…tomorrow ironically. Yes, it will have to wait a day.

  42. Nedra says:

    I just came across this “Internet Addiction Test” – if you dare, you can find out just how bad you have it.

    http://www.netaddiction.com/resources/internet_addiction_test.htm

    Luckily, they have an online internet addiction support group so you can justify the time you spend online.

  43. Kristabella says:

    I usually am offline for a majority of the weekend. I get so burned out by being on the computer so much M-F, that come the weekend, I need a break, even if that means my feed reader jumps to 1000 unread posts.

    Also, you can easily get unhooked from Twitter if work blocks it. I haven’t been on in awhile.

    So I will take your challenge, sir!

  44. Katherine says:

    I have already beaten your challenge, sir!

    I came home from work early on Friday due to a head cold and after checking my email & Twitter, I went offline and watched two horrible movies, fell asleep, woke up the next day at noon, watched two more bad movies, three hours of Japanese cartoons, and some syndicated TV, fell asleep, woke up at 10:00 AM today, watched three hours of Burn Notice on my Tivo while I knitted, went to CVS, came home, ate some Ramen, watched US Diving nationals, and here I am.

  45. Neil says:

    Katherine, you are the very first person eligible to tell the world that, “No, I am NOT an internet addict. I can stay offline for 24 hours.” Be proud. Do what you want with your badge of honor. Just remember, you need to come back here next year to do it again. I will send you a notice via email when it is time for you to renew.

  46. Velma says:

    I am planning to be offline for over a week starting next Saturday. Unfortunately, I can’t claim any moral superiority – I’ll be in rural Ireland with no internet access.

    I’ll miss you all, though!

  47. Karl says:

    Bah, I can go without the Net for a day. *cough*sputter*shiver* Actually, I’m going to NYC on Friday and will NOT be bringing my laptop. I SHALL be Twittering, however, from my cell. Does that still count?

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