Help! I’m a digital addict!

I may not be a digital native, but I must be a naturalized citizen.

As I write this, I have just spent ten days away from home, visiting friends and family on the west coast. It was a great time, and I loved seeing everyone, but I’m ready to come home.

Flying standby can give you lots of time to think… especially if flights that had plenty of open seats a few days ago are, on the day of departure, suddenly overbooked. After arriving at the airport this morning, I am hoping to finally make it onto a 5:45 flight this evening. In the meantime, here I sit.

Trying to make good use of my time, I hopped on my laptop and tried to log on to the airport wi-fi. Hah, not so fast. Apparently, this airport has no free internet access, and I am not about to pay.

OK, this is not the end of the world. I’ve spent the majority of my life offline, unable to connect to an internet that did not yet exist. But, how can I check my email?

No, I won’t whine. I’ll go find a book to read. (I finished the one I brought on the flight here.) What? Paperbacks are $15 and up? I’ll wait until I can get to a library at home, and read that for free. I’ll just update my blog calendar… or not. I forgot—it’s online. That’s ok. I’ll just go to my website and edit the draft articles I wrote the other day… er… right. Not that, either.

Maybe I can catch up with the kids. I have my cell phone. I can text them. And so I do… but they’re busy, and that only takes up a few minutes. Only four-and-a-half hours to go.

Like trying not to think of pink hippopotamuses, my mind quickly flies through a list of possible ways to pass the time, and just as quickly rejects every one. They all require internet access. Can’t chat. Can’t make a witty response to anyone’s Facebook status. Can’t send or receive email. Can’t make any progress on the topics I’m researching. Can’t even check the status of my possible flight home.

I think, “This is really pathetic!” When did I get so dependent on the internet? My friends don’t have this problem. The first home I stayed in didn’t have a connection I could use, and I wasn’t able to get online at all. That worked out because I was actually there to visit someone else, and they had a wireless network. It still felt strange, not being able to check my email whenever I wanted, or read the funnies in the morning… or the news.

The other home I visited boasted one computer for a family of four. Imagine, four people sharing one computer. How did they manage? The two kids monopolized the machine, first taking turns doing their homework and then playing games. The mom checked her email once in the week I was there. I never saw the dad use the machine at all. Amazing. I didn’t realize families still lived that way!

Since they did have a wireless network (although I’m not exactly clear why this was so), I was able to go online and more-or-less stay connected all day. Finally. After retiring to my guest room the first evening, I was busy sifting through the dozens of emails I’d accumulated, planning to chat with my husband in a few minutes, when suddenly the network vanished. What in the world? Pulling a sweatshirt over my jammies, I padded downstairs to find out what was wrong. I met my friend coming out of the computer room. She told me they turn their network off every night after their kids go to bed. I was speechless.

Maybe my frustration in the airport here has been exacerbated by my inability to get online much since I left home. Is my annoyance the sign of a bigger problem? Maybe I’m actually becoming addicted to the web. Maybe I need to go cold turkey, and shut off my computer for detox. Maybe I … wait, what was that? A message just popped up on my screen. My computer has detected wi-fi in the area. There’s a network listed that didn’t show up earlier. Maybe it’s free. Maybe I can connect! See ya.

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