It started with restlessness- a gnawingly empty, itching idleness in being without- but overall, I thought I could survive its absence. Then panic and confusion set in: I am lost at sea; all around me seems to be the same, unending dark. It is an eternal, incessant, mind numbing ticking of a clock. Drops of my life squandered through a leaking faucet. I am not whole. A week passes. Parched for knowledge, betrayed by delusions of LAN, I am afflicted with cabin fever. Then, when I can stand it no longer, home: Time Warner sends someone to repair my broken cable and internet.
I never thought I was one to be tempted by the sirens of technology- always priding myself as the gen x’er who toys with the machinery of the past (33, 45, 78- oh my!) Yet here I was, maddened by a week of communication’s cold turkey. Or, in keeping with the poultry theme, wishing for the sweet twittering of a soggy, Siren grave. What enchanting tune dragged me from the lofty heights of obstinacy and righteousness to the watery depths of full blown internet addiction? Where is sanity in the age of the internet?
I’m not the only one ravaged by internet addiction. The associated press recently reported the opening of ReSTART, a $14,000 center in Washington that offers a 45-day program to help people wean themselves off detrimental computer use. Though internet addiction is not recognized as an official disease by the American Psychiatric Association, those afflicted with it can suffer from loss of hygiene, loss of career, even loss of life. As such, similar centers are popping up in China, South Korea, and Taiwan. It seems our generation of techies has created its own Achilles’ heel.
Day 6 at sea: wallowing in self-pity, feeling lost for an embattled generation of forgotten addicts, yet to the outside world wearing a mask of “indignant and thoroughly annoyed,” I wile away time at what turns out to be a comedy of errors performance of Rinde Eckert’s And God Created Whales. The play explores one man’s battle for immortality via magnum opus and in the face of fading mind, memory, and wit. Nathan, the artist, is his own white whale- chasing a work that constantly eludes him, never seeming to find the resolution his cognitive side so desperately seeks. The play is a masterpiece, technological goofs included, and Mr. Eckert’s humor and zen-like cool amidst his technical foul ups only punctuate the message behind the medium: we are always looking for a home, though it is never what we think we will find. In my precarious situation, I couldn’t help but ask: when it comes to technology, is the white whale of internet addiction a reflection of our own white whale selves? If so, what happens when we finally quash the beast- do we find home? In Eckert’s Whales, Nathan is given a fitting, respectful ending: we never see his final fade through dementia; never see the maddening end of a man choked by his own fever; Eckert’s Time Warner cable employee drops by, too, to save the day. One can only hope that in our time of webbed communication and global media, our generation figures out how to navigate the seas of our own destructive vices, towards home, before we are wholly consumed by ourselves:
“Once he hears to his heart’s content, sails on, a wiser man.
We know all the pains that the Greeks and Trojans once endured
on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so–
all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!”