June 30 2021
A week off from computer work. The story I was telling was that I was taking a month off from computer work. I succeeded in one week, but a call brought me back online today.

I feel a sense of compulsion when I go online—my hands open a series of websites without my conscious input. It seems a challenge to stay focused, to keep on task. And the task is unclear; how much does posting one tweet change things? How online do I need to be?

On my phone, I blocked news and social sites, but still the desire to scroll broke through, and I spent mornings scrolling through Metafilter. I’ve read that the act of scrolling is in itself a form of auto-hypnosis; often I am reading a book when the phone pulls me over into scrolling. Something about searching, about the possibility of discovery, is hard to resist.

I didn’t replace my computer work time with much other work; instead I moved slowly through the day, spending afternoons walking, at the pool, or reading. I missed the sense of accomplishment that work brings, and often felt a bit sad at the end of the day.

It felt like I should rather go away on a trip if I was not going to work; that hanging around Montreal was not as transportative or rejuvenating as a journey further afield might be. Is the desire to use time effectively a product of our culture or an innate human desire, to maximize the time we have?

I went cruising more often; perhaps cruising replaces the sense of exploration and accomplishment that I otherwise achieve through work. I met the same guy two nights in a row; a pleasant occurrence.

Coming back to the computer after one week, I was disappointed to see my old habits emerge, almost stronger than they were before. Time away from the computer did not help make these habits disappear and perhaps made them worse. Perhaps spending time with the computer strengthens the resolve; the temptation for distraction is always there, and we learn to focus with the constant possibility of distraction.

What I’ve never figured out is how bad my computer addiction is relative to others; am I more compulsive than the norm, or are the problems and issues I face the same that others face? Or is it a lack of defined tasks that makes it difficult for me to focus?