Two recent—and unnerving—events made me realize I’m a bit of communication addict. First, I took my old laptop to the shop to add more RAM and the counter person told me it would take about two hours. I went home cooked and ate dinner, then waited for the call. By eight o’clock, I was jumping out of my skin. When I called to ask about it, the tech guy said my laptop wouldn’t be ready until the next afternoon. My heart rate escalated, I started to hyperventilate, and it was all I could do not to yell at him. The idea of being without my computer for a day was horrifying! I already felt like I had been walking around without arms for four hours.

But it was the second incident that made me realize what more specifically what I was hooked on. Two days ago, I received a text while nearing a stoplight (that familiar little beep) and glanced over at my phone to see who it was. I nearly got into a minor fender bender. It was an alarming realization that I’m addicted to communication, particularly, the incoming type. Hearing from friends, readers, and discussion groups (and occasionally publishers and production companies)—at steady intervals throughout the day—is like a stream of endorphins…or little hits of feel-good. Those communications come in various forms; emails, tweets, Facebook/Google posts, blog comments, texts, and phone calls; but almost all are satisfying… and thus addictive.

When I haven’t heard from anyone in awhile, I start to feel anxious and a little bit lonely. Considering that awhile might only mean twenty minutes, I realize the situation has become a little needy and weird.

Admitting I have a problem is the first step, but what to do next? I have no intention of cutting myself off from friends and readers. But I have started turning off my phone when I’m driving and I think I’ll start closing the internet for periods of time when I’m writing. It will be uncomfortable at first—withdrawal always is—but I think it will be mentally healthy in the long run.

Having friends online keeps people like me (who work at home) sane, but the abundance of social networking opportunities and the convenience of cell phones may have tipped the balance too far. So I’m going to practice doing something I used to be good at: being alone and happy in my own thoughts.

Anyone else with this problem? An anecdotes you’d like to share?

  1. I agree completely, it can be a lifeline and a bane. I also wonder, for truly good work to come about, can we write amidst a thousand voices?

  2. I like to think we can. When my kids were young, my office was in the family room, and I’d write with my three boys playing Nintendo five feet away. So now, my office feels rather quiet. But I am more distracted than I’d like to be. For example, right now, I should be writing and instead I’m communicating. 🙂

  3. You had me laughing so much in that first part. I actually have two cell phones (long story) and rarely have them on or with me. I prefer my land line for talking, but i love being on my computer all day long! I have to admit I like to play games on my cell phone too! Don’t like texting but will do it when required….usually from my kids!! I think you have a great idea about limiting your time and that it would be a good thing for you especially when writing. Don’t want any distractions when you’re putting together that next Detecive Jackson novel!!!

  4. You’re singing my addiction song. There was a time–right smack in the middle of the day, during the week–when the internet was down for six hours due to an outage/problem at the cable company level. During that time, I felt like I was on a deserted island, completely disconnected from the world. (This was back when cell phones only made calls and took pictures.) When I wasn’t wandering aimlessly around the house, I sat at my computer, compulsively hitting the browser refresh button like a rat with a nicotine lever. The pages I was trying to reload: Twitter and Facebook. I felt completely agitated that I didn’t know what was “going on” and I couldn’t focus on anything except when I’d have internet access. That’s when I knew I had a problem.

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