Friday, May 28, 2010

The Internet, My Life

Once a pathetic internet addict, the online world was literally my life support system. And this is not even a joke.

The first time I had discovered the internet was when I was about 10 years old, almost a decade ago, in my uncle's shop. Then we got it at home. But we had no broadband then, only prepaid dial-up. Going online was expensive at that time, comparing the speed with the cost per minute, so my mum limited my usage. Soon I was going online longer than I was allowed to, and the prepaid credit diminished to nothing in just a few days. Then came broadband, which was much faster and cheaper. I was immediately hooked to the net.

What do I do online, you ask? I did everything. Blogs, games, software downloads and even plain surfing the web. Till today, I still do not know what had intrigued me so much that I couldn't get my eyes off. I was so obsessed that I clicked everything that blinked, played every game I came across and joined every forum I see. I did not know that I was addicted, until a few things struck me.

At the start, I noticed that I had this urge to go online every once in a while, for no apparent reason. Then I noticed a feeling that I'd rather spend time online than hang out with my friends. Then my results started deteriorating and I lost interest in my studies. The breaking point for me occurred when one day, the lightning striked the modem and it stopped working. It was during one of my long year-end school holidays and I had to wait for a week before we can get a replacement. For days, I felt so angry and frustrated that I actually balled up in a corner and cried, and cried. I was kicking furniture and throwing my books around. This was not a tantrum that a 14-year-old sane person would throw. I was literally gasping for air. My life support was taken from me.

I did not really understand the word 'addiction'. Until then. The lightning strike incident was literally a cold-turkey withdrawal from the internet addiction I did not know I possessed. The funniest thing is, I don't even have to touch the computer. I just need to know that I'm connected to the internet. That, is sufficient to keep my heart beating. Yes, it is that serious. After that incident, I came up with my very own internet addiction withdrawal programme. I restricted myself from going online for one day a week. I then gradually increased the number of days to two, three, four and I finally can go for a whole week without the internet. As easy as it may sound, I must say that it was a painful process. It's like taking away a blind man's walking stick, like taking away a skydiver's parachute, like taking a fish out of the water. Nevertheless, I continued my silent battle towards killing my addiction. Silent, because nobody knew of it.

The greatest obstacle in my journey would be when I was chosen to participate in the compulsory 3-month National Service programme. Three months, I thought to myself. Three months where kicking furniture will only get me sent to the firing squad. I was surprised that I survived there for three months, without an urge to go online. We do feel like we were out of technology's range, though, but that's totally unrelated with my addiction.

As of now, even though I do go online very frequently, I am proud to say that I'm no longer an internet addict based on the fact that I can survive long intervals without the it. Some of you may find it funny, some may think that this whole story is a joke; but I can assure you that this is an addiction that really exists, because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone else.

How many hours do you go online everyday? What do you usually do in the online world?

It really depends on what day it is and what I am online for.

School day, back at 2pm: 3pm to 7pm, 10pm to 11pm = 5 hours
School day, back at 6pm: 8am to 12pm, 6pm to 7pm, 10pm to 11pm = 6 hours
Non-school day: 10am to 7pm, 10pm to 11pm = 10 hours
Saturday: 10am to 5pm, 11pm to 1am = 9 hours
Sunday: 11am to 7pm = 8 hours

= [(5+6+10)/3*5 + 9 + 8]/7
= 7.4 hours per day

Oh. My. God. This is the first calculation I have made and I am officially declaring that I go online too much. But, I am glad to say I am not all for games and other 'time wasting' activities. I do lots of reading on my areas of interest like website coding and I have recently started reading on internet marketing. In times when I need to study, like now, I will mostly look up notes (British sites have awesome notes!) to help me study.

I used to play a lot of downloaded online games but I have totally cut them off now. Web-based games are all I play now which makes my online times more productive. Oh, and, I used to hack games through packet-editting and almost got myself banned :(

When you go online and interact with other users, do you use any nickname/alias profiles online? Tell us why you use it or don’t use it.

I still use my first name, Angelina, when I register for any forum, site, email or game. Because a first name like mine is rare in Malaysia and people tend not to believe that it is my real name. Often times, conversations will go like this:
Random person: Hey, nice to meet you. What is your name?
Angelina: Hey, nice to meet you too. My name is Angelina.
Random preson. Yeah, I know. But what's your REAL name?
Angelina: My real name is really Angelina.
Random person: Why won't you tell me your real name? :(
Yep. They think I'm being anonymous when I'm really not.

Have you become good friends with people you first met online? Tell us stories of how you make friends in the online world. How do you know whether to trust them or not?

I have met hundreds of people online, but only a few remain as good friends. And most of them are guys because hardcore gamer girls, like me, are rare. I'm not one who start conversations because I am an introvert online and off, so usually they will start a conversation if they see I have equipped awesome equipments on my character. We would start by chatting about the game and doing quests together for some time before we start talking about our offline lives. Some have already been my friends for more than 5 years. Although, I have never met anyone of them before because our intentions are not to become real life friends, just to have a good online friend to talk to you whenever you feel happy, bored or down.

The issue of trust seldom comes to mind when I am chatting with them because it's not like I'm going to give them my address or phone number and neither are we going to meet up. Of course, there are those who pester for numbers, which I will eventually block all contact with because well, everyone knows why. In the past, though, I have to admit that my stupidity made me give my number to a few people, but they never call (either that or I will never answer). Normally, we'd still remain online friends because I always check their background thoroughly, ensure that they are nice people, before I give it to them. Nevertheless, I am thankful that I am still safe and sound and now that I have learnt about the dangers, I will never ever give my number out again. Ever. No matter how thorough my investigations are.

Tell us if your parents monitor what you access online? Is it effective, or do you know ways around the controls? What do your parents think about you going online all the time?

My mum doesn't monitor my online activity, mainly because my computer skills have surpassed hers a long time ago! Even if she did monitor my activity, I'd probably still know ways around it (not that I have anything to hide, I'm just answering the question).

She doesn't really mind my going online all day because she knows that I have self-cured my addiction. Although, she'll nag at me once in a while when I play games. By the way, I don't think games are a waste of time. I feel that games can stimulate our brains and make us smarter.

You know what, we should all participate in a global plot to make adults addicted too, so they have no good reason to nag on us. Muahahaha, MUAHAHAHA! Ahem. Kidding.

Do you think the online world has made you to become more disconnected with your friends?

If you read my story above, the answer to this question is 'yes', at the start. However, as of now, I think it actually helps keep us bonded. After secondary school, most of us will go our own ways with all the different colleges/universities, different courses and I'm sure we will all meet more new friends of the same interest there. Without an online portal like Facebook, we may have totally lost all contact already due to our new and busy lives.

I guess that is all for this entry. Take care peeps!

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