I haven't been on a real vacation (think: sun, sand, sangria) since before Toddler was born. But I do go on a number of staycations everyday. Where? The Internet. And on these little trips, I learn things. And meet people. And have conversations. And write little stories. And see new things. And then I log off and I'm right back in the comforts of my own home. Without a sunburn. Not bad. Not bad at all.
So, apparently I am the prime example of the isolated, rookie mom, who turns to the world wide web to find a sense of connection, of belonging. Uh oh. I am a member of an ever-expanding population of what are being deemed Internet addicts. Lisa Belkin explores this phenomenon over at the Motherlode in her eye-opening piece New Moms and Internet Addiction wherein she showcases fellow mom and former blogger Rachel Mosteller's recent Parenting article. Mosteller examines just why young moms are susceptible to that blue glow. She identifies Three Reasons Moms Are Addicted to The Internet:
(1) "I feel like I'm going crazy" (2) "I can be a different person" (3) "I have so much to do!"
Do these sentiments sound familiar? Of course they do. But you know something? I'm a Mom and I can make lists too. Here is my list, admittedly more nuanced, of half-baked points that I think Mosteller and so many others are ignoring:
(1) Spending hours on the Internet is probably like drinking too much coffee; it is not particularly good for your health. But calm down. It's not the Swine Flu. Sure, it might give you that false buzz of belonging that will fade, but so what - it gets you through that day.
(2) Most of us do not -- and Mosteller admits as much -- resort to drugs to keep us awake longer so that we can surf the web. Sure, there are those that are truly, and problematically, addicted to the Internet (but per my Internet research (ha!), there are also pour poor souls out there addicted to tanning, and talcum powder, and crunching ice)
(3) So much of the dialogue out there in this seemingly "half-empty" age focuses on the abuses, on the negatives. The fact that we are zoning our kids out or neglecting our day-to-day duties. What about the fact that the Internet allows us to reconnect with lost friends, or research a chapter of the book we are writing, or engage in CONVERSATION about things that matter to us -- albeit in the nebulous territory of cyberspace.
(4) This Internet v. Reality is not an either-or proposition. We are not always embracing anonymous buddies on the Net at the expense of engaging with the real world out there. Plenty of us have friends, the living and breathing kinds with names and families and jobs and problems, whom we speak to and see on a regular basis. And (gasp) we also like to wander around and gather bits and pieces of serious and silly information, or philosophical insights, or ideas on the Web.
(5) Have we ever thought that we might be smarter, savvier, better-informed parents and people because of the Internet? We are not all online seeking up-to-date news on celebrity baby names (although that is sometimes fun). Where else can I research potty-training and dairy allergies and preschools and Plato?
(6) I learned how to write a novel on the Internet. After spending a short time at a law firm and realizing quickly that that was not the life I wanted, I took a risk. I decided to dream big. I said: I am going to write a novel. I took online courses at Gotham Writer's Workshop where I interacted with students from all over this great nation and world. One of my Gotham professors Russell Rowland, himself an esteemed published author who lives in Montana, became my fiction mentor. And my beloved novel BLACKBERRY GIRL would not exist without the encouragement and e-editing of this Montana man (whom I have never met in real life).
Now if there is truly an addiction to surfing the Internet that is spreading like wildfire among new moms and old moms and non-moms out there -- and maybe there is because I am quite adept at fooling myself and cooking up rationalizations for my own actions -- this rookie blogger secretly hopes you have it. Or get it very soon :)