Scatterbrained: confessions of an Internet addict

All right. I’ll admit it – I’m an addict.More specifically, I’m an Internet junkie.

I have been from the start, when I accidentally wired my family computer into a long distance dial-up connection in the late 1990’s, unknowingly adding several hundreds of dollars in charges to our monthly bill.

To say my mother was less than impressed was putting it lightly.

Back then, before the age of the cocaine and Red Bull speeds of today’s Broadband connections, even the Plainest Janest of websites often took several minutes to load.

Early Internet was a test of one’s patience. If you wanted to download that Third Eye Blind tune you loved so much, you’d have to earn it, as the average song took about an hour to download at 56k speeds.

Flash forward to now, where we regularly download entire albums in less than a minute. I have phone, television, and Internet services wired through a single coaxial cable — my speed is still nauseatingly fast.

Naturally, as a viral addict with nearly limitless amounts of processing speed at my fingertips, I must admit that YouTube has become the bane of my existence.

It’s an ADD-infected wet dream: giving me the option to zip from video-to-video, from the Angry Video Game Nerd to my squeaky-toned nemesis Fred, in mere milliseconds.

I rarely watch anything on the Internet – and sometimes TV – for more than a few minutes before switching channels. But there are some pros to having an increasingly short attention span.

On one hand, I get bored more easily. Which probably explains why I enjoy watching more of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup – mostly 15-minute episodes – rather than the standard half-hour to an-hour length shows.

But on the other hand, I’m also exposing myself to a hundred times more content and information than I used to. I read a ton of news these days, as well, regularly from several sources. I’m probably more informed than many others.

Even YouTube has links to videos on top news sites, allowing for instant access to information and bypassing the usual string of commercial interference. The same goes for TV shows, which often stream in high quality with little to no advertisements interrupting your viewing pleasure.

As expected, however, most advertising agencies have caught on to this previously untapped market of viewers. Many have now found ways to bog down the immortal YouTube with in-video advertisements.

It’s the worst – or best, depending on whom you call “boss” — kind of advertising, plastering pop-up ads directly over the videos the viewer intends to watch, requiring them to consciously mouse click the ad before it fades away into the background.

It’s happening everywhere. Myspace is virtually unusable these days, while Facebook keeps coming up with new ways to trick you into downloading their ad-driven apps.

The Internet is out for your patronage, begging at our digital doorstep until we begin to pay for what was once free (ironically, free porn is easier to find than ever).

As you read this, companies are devising plans to regulate access to the Internet, which could eventually lead to higher costs and less content for regular users like myself.

But like every good drug, the Internet’s effects often outweigh the costs for many of its heavy users. Addicts, by nature, rarely measure consequences. It’s hard.

But it hurts SOOOOOO good.

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