January 27, 2011

Hi. My Name is Heather and I’m Addicted to Technology.

(This one is a bit random and somewhat off topic for this blog but it has to do with me being in Germany… I think. Yeah… okay, it does. Somewhere near the end it becomes relevant. Bear with me.)

I’ve been a fan of technology for as long as I can remember.

I was 7 years old when I got my first Walkman and I’d upgraded to a Discman by the time I was 10. My family always had a computer – nothing fancy in the beginning but I was pretty damn good at Duke Nukem and, at the age of 7, I had mastered Mickey’s 123: The Big Surprise Party (I just got the most amazing wave of nostalgia watching that YouTube video. WOW. Also, only a seven year old would have the patience for that game. Oy vey.)

I was eleven, and halfway through the 5th grade when I started using the Internet. I hadn’t really cared much for it until I found out that Hanson was going to be doing a live chat on DisneyChannel.com and I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO BE THERE. When my mom and step-dad messed up the time zones and I found out that I missed the chat, I cried hysterically and threw a tantrum on the kitchen floor that unfit for an eleven-year-old. (I hope my mom remembers that one.) I cried and cried and cried until my mom let me go on the computer to find out when the next one was and then somehow, through that research process, I found myself immersed in a world of instant messaging, fan sites, online computer games, and web design.

At the age of 12 I taught myself how to write HTML and created my first web page, “All About Heather,” hosted by the now defunct Geocities in the “Enchanted Forest” sub-domain. As the years passed, I used the Internet (AOL namely) to fuel to my obsession with Hanson. I made friends all over the world through Hanson role play chat rooms (don’t ask), Hanson tag chat rooms (I said, DON’T ASK), Hanson fan fiction websites, and random early versions of social networking sites. By the time I hit the 8th grade, my mom had to put time limits on my AOL account because I was so addicted to the Internet. One hour a night. That was it.

In high school, I moved between two states and three different schools. My social life was not very active and it took me a while to make friends during the transitions. My friends on the Internet didn’t go anywhere. They moved with me! In my junior year, I managed to get ahold of Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver and I taught myself how to use both of them. Then I took a web design class and ended up teaching 75% of the lessons for my teacher. By my senior year, and well into college, I was able to design beautiful web layouts, could transfer them to Dreamweaver where I made fluid, PHP websites and I could upload them online using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program and I could go back and make updates, edit pages, and fix broken links without a second thought to any of it. During my sophomore year of college, I took an advanced web design class (I thought I wanted to double major in graphic design) and I learned how to create basic websites and programs using Flash.

I have a point to this story – I swear. Using clever anecdotes, I’m trying to demonstrate how technology has affected my life. I’m sure the story isn’t much different for most people. Especially since Facebook started taking over the world, everyone is connected to everyone and everything. Movies, products, businesses, etc, don’t even have real webpages anymore they have Facebook pages. But as much as I want to sit here and complain about how much Facebook has taken over the world, I can’t… because I would be destitute without it. Okay… maybe not destitute… but I’d be pretty damn sad.

internet-addictionFor the last week or so my Facebook chat hasn’t been working. It says I’m offline when I’m not. It tells all of my friends that I’m not online when I try to send them messages. It sends me back all of my messages two or three times and half of the time, I’m not even sure that my messages went through at all. Basically, I haven’t been able to use Facebook chat for a week and I’m really upset about it. I only have about six or seven active contacts on Skype and although all of them are important to me, they make up about 1/16 of the important people in my life that I want to talk to while I’m thousands of miles away in Germany. Not to mention, Facebook chat is really great for planning stuff and communicating with local friends. Needless to say, I have been getting anxious and feeling crazy and alone – not being connected to my world of contacts. MY WORLD OF CONTACTS. Through Facebook. This sounds ridiculous, even to me.

I wish I could find an online graphic of it but once upon a time, when I was about 16, I cut out a Zits comic strip from the newspaper because it held so much relevance to me. It was a discussion between the teenage character, Jeremy, and his mom. I think she was questioning him about being on his computer too long talking to his friends. Something like that, anyway. And as a justification, Jeremy says, “I think, therefore I.M.”

What is the world coming to? Where would we be if we didn’t have the Internet – Facebook and its seemingly infinite possibilities for social connection, instant message and video chat services, SMS, wireless iPods and cell phones with Internet service, BlackBerry Messaging, email, blogs, Wikipedia, YouTube, online banking, online shopping, online everything. Nothing has escaped the world of technology, it seems.

I wouldn’t have this au pair job without the internet, without Google and it’s search capacity for au pair agencies and international contacts, or without Facebook status updates because, honestly, that’s how this whole thing started. A friend updated about her au pair experience in Munich and nine months later, I took over her job. And now that I don’t have a real job, now that I spend 3/4 of my day without working responsibilities, I am on the computer more than I can ever remember. Is it unhealthy? Am I living a normal life? I can walk away from it if I have plans and somewhere to go but if I’m at home during my off hours, without an agenda or a good book to read, at least, then I’m on Facebook, I’m blogging, I’m listening to music, I’m on YouTube, I’m catching up on blog subscriptions.

I’m kind of afraid of this dependency. And it’s not just the Internet. If someone were to ask me what I would take with me if my house were burning down, I’d grab my iPod. I would be depressed if I didn’t have my music in my hand, any time that I wanted it. I am programmed on a really high dependency. It’s scary. This last week of my life has made this bittersweet and somewhat sad but realistic truth painfully clear to me.

My name is Heather. And I am addicted to technology.


Jennie Morgan said...

You may have seen this already, but your other readers should check it out too. A very thoughtful pro-Internet article: http://www.berfrois.com/2011/01/on-the-internet/

Anonymous said...

It's The Momma! (Obviously technology hasn't caught up with me cuz I still can't figure out the whole...blog thing.)

I HAVE that Zits comic strip!!! (somewhere) And; yes, I do remember your fit. And...to answer a couple of your questions about where you would be without the internet; Making a giant chocolate kiss out of mud with your brother. Playing Barbies and fighting over who gets which of the YMCA boyfriends every week! And; having black fingers, arms and face from searching for a job in the classified ads. Bittersweet is was before the internet.

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