Monday, May 26, 2008

Of Addiction and rehab

88%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

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"Why don't you introduce yourself to the rest of us and tell us why you're here?"

My eyes span across the people in the room. There are about a dozen people and I notice a chance few. A ninja, a pin-up girl, a guy who wears a top hat, another guy with a baseball cap on backwards and a guy who I can only describe as Hobbes.

I close my eyes. How did I end up here.

I tell them my name. They greet me. I can't find any words after that. They look so ... so ... devastated. I'm stuck in a shitty basement surrounded by the sort of sad people society would call losers.

And I'm one such loser.

"Tell us. Tell us what happened. From the beginning."



"I started blogging in 2008. New Year's day. It was to be my new hobby. I had resolved to quit smoking and start blogging instead. It seemed like a noble prospect. It gained me praise. Little was I to know. And if any of you are wondering, I started smoking two weeks later."

I say that with a smile. No one smiles back. I look down at my hands.

"It was all right in the beginning. Blogging about anything and everything I wanted to blog about. A couple of my friends encouraged me. They read my blog occasionally and some of them left comments. Comments that were not relevant to the post but comments all the same. I was OK for a while."

"But then it all began. The need for more. I started reading other people's blogs. I saw the sort of readers they attracted. People with like minded mentality. People who objected and started post wars. People who just came in to say the posts made them think. I wanted all that. I wanted to be like those bloggers. I wanted the exposure. Admiration became envy in the bat of an eye and I didn't even notice it."

"I began commenting on their blogs. Some of them paid the compliment by visiting and commenting on my blog. But it still wasn't enough. Then I noticed that one of my visitors was part of a social network. A social network for bloggers. One that had a lot of bloggers. And it looked like he had a major part of his traffic coming from there."

The moderator places a hand over mine. "We are not allowed use the word "traffic" here. It's one of our rules. Its ..." she shakes her head.

I understood.

"Anyway. The site's name was Blog Catalog."

A few wince as if in the memory of pain endured long ago.

"I did what anyone would have done. I signed up. I didn't think about it. If the other's were doing it, why shouldn't I ? I wanted to be like them. I cant be blamed for wishing for the moon."

"No one's blaming you." the moderator says softly.

I nod. No this was not the place for the blame game. This was not that sort of place at all.

"At first it was all about the widgets. That was all I did for the first week. The widgets and surfing through other blogger profiles. No harm. Just some time spent."

"But then ... after the first week ... I ... I ... clicked on the discussions button."

I hear a gasp. I notice a tear somewhere.

"I cant say the rest was history. I have to tell you the horror. The madness. The desperation. I started by replying to a few threads. You know ... lurking around. Laughing at the spammers, stuff like that."

"But then I started to get engrossed in the discussions. Debate's started forming in my head. They carried on to my dreams. I was falling for the whole idea. I agreed with some, I scoffed at the others. My political views changed. My social views changed. My views on human emotion changed. When I look back at it now I realize they were all changing accordingly with the BC mob ... it was slowly changing my life."

The hand on mine again. "We are not allowed to say "BC" either."

I nod.

"Minutes became half hours. Half hours became two hours. Two hours turned to evenings. Evenings turned to midnight. I noticed none of this. I ordered food. I held my pee while pressing F5. I drank coffee to make sure I didn't sleep in the middle of a post war. I prayed for people to start flame wars. I started flirting with the women. I even called myself Casanova."

I dig my face into my hands with a moan. I can sense the feeling of attachment in this place. Everyone knows what I'm talking about. The moderator does not pat me or soothe me. She knows its not needed.

I rise. The story is not over yet.

"I neglected my hygiene. Every time spent in the bathroom or anywhere else would be a minute lost in the discussions thread. A lot can happen in a minute. Food did not fill my hunger anymore. Water did not quench my thirst. I did not stop smoking. But my blogging cut down drastically. I didn't care if I got any tr-- ... visitors on my blog. All I cared was if someone replied to my threads, my replies or my shoutbox."

"My girlfriend left me. She said I seemed to be obsessed with a particular member of the site. And the truth is ... I was. No, I am. My family tried to contact me, but I rarely took their calls. I didn't want to be disturbed. I had more important things to do. They eventually gave up ... and disowned me."

I shake my head as I consider what I just said. The futility of my past.

"People began to realize I had a problem from then on. For one I was rarely seen outside other than in my office. My work lagged as I sat on my workstation logged onto Blog Catalog. When I spoke to workers I spoke only about Digg articles I saw on the discussions thread. It was either that or politics or worse ... religion. And when I started a conversation, I would tag it with labels ... or say "hey this is general discussion" or "this is shameless my work promotion". My boss reported me to the office shrink."

"He ran some sort of mental test on me. He's the one who diagnosed me with ... with addiction. I couldn't believe it. Me ? Addicted ? I laughed in his face. If I remember correctly, I laughed a bit too loudly. I ran home and shut the doors and typed up a new thread and tried to joke it off. I desperately wanted people to tell me I was fine. You see I knew then ... that I truly was addicted. But I just didn't want to believe it."

"Then the Surgeon Generals report came out. It warned the public of the dangers and the fatality. Then the grisly news reports : bloggers found dead at their computers, a guy with his fingers stapled to the keyboard presumably by himself, a woman cackling and screaming at her screen; her fingers withered away with constant typing."

"I woke up. I was going to go crazy just like them. I started seeking help. Some of them were drastic. Doctors forced me away from the Internet. But when I sat at a computer that wasn't connected to the Internet, I hammered it to dust. They forced me away from all computers then. I turned into a hungry animal with that. They said I would go past it. They said it was a phase. What did they know ? What did they know about the craving ?"

I raise my palm for everyone to see. "These fingers. They still twitch for the keys that are no longer there."

A woman among the group burst into tears. The rest try to fight back the tears.

"Last week, the clinic recommended this group. I wandered outside this building for the next six days, unsure and scared. I didn't know how to enter or what to say. But today I just thought : to hell with it. And so I'm here. With people who were there. With people who suffered the same. With people who know what I feel."

I smile.

"With people I can connect to."

There is a short silence. But a comfortable one. Then the applause starts. Everyone stands up and applauds. I feel the tears warm and free flowing on my cheeks. I feel a sunrise inside me.

The applause dies down. Everyone takes their seats. The moderator turns to me.

"Is there a final word you would like to say."

I look at her. I look at the group.

"Actually, yes."

She gestures with her hand. Go ahead.

I take a deep breath.

"Ok, general discussion. Why is McCain in the White House a bad thing ?"


Authors note: Inspired by a delightful blog post on Sogeshirts.


legbamel said...

I think I'm the woman that burst into tears. ;) Great post, and a pretty accurate portrayal of the power of [whispers] BC.

Alex Mcone said...

It was you ? Oh poor you.

We must warn the others before they too are sucked into the void that is (whispers) BC.

Matt said...

McCains wife is HOT

John Painz said...

Tonight, we're going to open the green door -- the heart chakra...

...And you open the door and you step inside. We're inside our hearts. Now, imaging your pain as a white ball of healing light. That's right, the pain itself is a ball of healing light.

It moves over your body, healing you. Keep this going and step forward, through the back door of the room. Where does it lead? To your cave. Step forward into your cave.

That's right. You're going deeper into your cave. And you're going to find your power animal...

Hobbes or an anteater or some kind of pink thing with droopy eyes... or a horse or something.

And it says to me "create better discussions, dude."

Alex Mcone said...

@ matt - really ? now that's something I did not know.

@ john painz - the pink thing is a sarcastic teddy ! And boy you could do real well in taping meditation audio's. :D

jsinkeywest said...


Alex Mcone said...

@ jsinkeywest - I just had this vision of Jack Nicholson in Batman saying "excellent"

Hmm. I will be looking at you with a cocked up eyebrow.

Ekim said...

You've got it bad, don't you?
I always know when I am dreaming of BC, the screen is harder to read. It happens more than I want to admit.

Alex Mcone said...

Hmm ... maybe we should start a Blog Catalog Anonymous group.

searchingwithin said...

Great post, you had me rolling.

Alex Mcone said...

Thank you ... always a pleasure to know I had someone laughing.