Occupied: Internet Addiction and Accessibility

Locking yourself in a bathroom conjures up images of a melodramatic mental breakdown or an even less pleasant, but often tweeted about, natural phenomenon. However, that’s precisely what one man in New York City did to quit Internet addiction, citing it’s the only place in the city that he could think of where the time-guzzling distraction would not tempt him.
Mark Malkoff, a 34-year-old comedian does have a reputation for similarly odd sleeping arrangements for publicity, but his most recent hi-jinx sheds light on the different between the digital haves and have-nots, digital addiction and digital access.
For a week this past July, I traveled to the northeastern corner of Montana on the Canadian border known as Glacier National Park. The idea of escaping news and daily commitments was enticing, alluring and positively magical with one of America’s most beautiful natural spaces as my backdrop. At least until day 3.25. On a day trip outside of the park, my iPhone picked up signal and I drowned in a monsoon of e-mails, texts, voicemails – all ranging of importance from bills, landlords, loan applications for school and general ‘hello’s”. After a few deep inhales, the sweaty palms dried and rational thought returned. It could all be handled upon my return home. The world was not ending, but the anxiety of answering a few of these concerns would definitely have been eased by a broadband connection.
In contemplating my level of Internet addiction versus the healthy norms, I took a test on the netaddiction.com website. I answered 20 questions related to my interpretation of my online usage to a total of 48 points, a rating of ‘normal.’ According to the site, I am an “average online-line user. I may surf the web a bit too long at times but I have control over my usage.” Phew!
But wait!
Survey takers who earned more than 50-points are of a different category all together! They “experience occasional or frequent problems because of the Internet and should consider their full impact on their life.”
How often should individuals check smartphones, laptops or tablets for new e-mails, Facebook updates and news feeds? How can we moderate, but also maximize, individual usage of the Internet? What does this do the relationships in our immediate vicinity? What un-connected voices are we missing?
It’s difficult to image the world without the connectivity options today, but twentysomethings may be the last generation to have lived in both worlds. Allison Louie-Garcia created a video available on Vimeo called, The decade according to 9-year-olds. These children, born in the year 2000, fail to identify the sound of a dial-up modem, but were logging into computers and using iPods by the age of 3, but have never heard of Napster. They know only a world where  Basic Cable packages include the Disney Channel; where “Please be Kind, Rewind” has no meaning.
More people with access to the Internet is good. All ages, geographic locations, skill sets, interests, etc. all benefit from information and creative outlets that this world network provides. But how is this network being used and what’s it’s maximum potential, on both an individual and societal scale? What does it mean to be have versus a have-not in the 21st century?
I intend to spend this semester using this blog as an outlet to explore the intersection of Internet access, usage and the balancing act of moderation lest we all revert the grotesque necessity of locking ourselves in a bathroom.
Lauren Barnett

Lauren graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2008 with a BA in Mass Communication. Upon graduation, and at the suggestion of a friend, she moved to Philadelphia to explore the 'real world' outside of academia. Ousting herself out of her comfort zone and plopping herself in the middle of a diverse city with thriving culture, she found work in a pizza restaurant, which was quickly followed by a return to the academic world, with a position on a peer-reviewed science journal. Simultaneously, Lauren worked closely with a youth literacy, after-school program, participating in the local art scene, hoping to one-day return to an academic setting separate from images of dissected nude mice. As a first year student in the CCT program, Lauren's interest currently include from net neutrality, education and technology, and the new role of journalism in the era of the Internet.