We got our first family computer in the mid 90s. My love affair with computers began as most do, with playing solitaire or DOS games, or drawing pictures of Jesus on the cross in Paint (don’t ask). Before that I remember crowding around the old Macintosh Apple 2 at school to play Oregon Trail.
Around 1996 or so we got dial up internet and AOL, and my life changed. I’d always been interested in unicorns and fairies and princesses from Disney movies, but the internet introduced my to real fantasy. Dragons and dwarves and elves and deep dark dungeons full of treasure. It also introduced me to text based roleplaying.
I owe so much of my life, of my creativity, of who I am today to AOL chat rooms and the internet. It’s hard to say you don’t need something that has been such a massive part of your life for almost your entire life. I at least can remember a time before computers, when I spend the day outside playing with friends. I can’t imagine what it’s like for kids born to a world of computers.
No one I knew growing up loved fantasy and magic and make believe as much as I did. They all loved “normal” things like boy bands, the latest drama on Boy Meets World, and hanging out at the mall looking at lipstick. Those things didn’t interest me. I went along because I wanted to be included, I wanted social interaction, but I didn’t enjoy myself, and eventually I stopped going and they stopped asking.
My world became the internet. From the late 90s to 2003-ish was what I often consider the “golden age” of AOL RP. It’s when I was more involved in what went on in my fantasy world than I was in real life. My grades slipped, my friendships slipped, the only one who remained were my boyfriend at the time and another friend who both shared my love of fantasy and so joined me in my world (via the internet. My High School boyfriend and I spent more time together online than in person).
Eventually I left text-based RP behind. In early 2005 I started playing World of Warcraft, and that became my new obsession, and would remain so, on and off again, for over a decade until Elder Scrolls Online would come out, which would then be my obsession until a few months ago (again, on and off). Once Netflix came about and online streaming was invented, that filled the obsession gaps with binges of season after season of TV shows.
But no matter what my current obsession was the end result was the same: hours upon hours spend in front of the computer.
Assuming I spent 6 hours a day on the computer during weekdays, and 8 during weekends, that’s 46 hours on the computer a week. And that is probably an understatement, as I know I’ve done more than that on many occasions. My computer obsession would have begun around 1998 when I would have been fully committed to being at the computer every moment not asleep or in school. That’s 19 years. Each year is 52 weeks. So 988 weeks. And each week was 46 hours. That’s 45,448 hours. Divide that by 24 hours in a day, that’s 1,893 days. Divided by 365 days a year. That’s 5.18 years. Over 5 years of my life spent in front of a computer.
And it’s probably more, as for the past 2 years I’ve been spending 40 hours a week at work also in front of the computer. So that’s another 173 days of computer.
The old saying is that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. If I had put just 1/4th of my time spent on the computer into my writing, or into my art, imagine how good I could be.
When I sit and stare at the computer, watching episode after episode of a show, what is that doing for me? What am I getting out of it? Am I now a master TV watcher? Nope. Am I smarter? Nope. Am I happy?
Some people might think (and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong) that I shouldn’t have to force myself to not do something I want to do. That I shouldn’t have to take drastic measures such as getting rid of my PC to make myself spend more time reading or doing art. That if I do need to go to such drastic measures then I must not really want to do the things I claim to want to do. That if I really wanted to do them, I’d just do them without taking drastic measures.
They’d be right. I’m not going to give away my PC or do anything drastic. I’ve spent this week so far without it and it hasn’t been too bad. I have proven that I can do anything with my iPad that I would normally do with my PC because I’ve been watching my shows and watching youtube and chatting on facebook with my iPad every evening this week. But sitting in my bed with my iPad is not any better or any more productive than sitting in front of my desktop.
And forcing myself to give up my computer is not the way to prove to myself what I really want. In 2 years I hope to be moving in to my tiny house. I don’t want that date to be the date I finally say goodbye to my computer because I have no choice. I want to build up to that. By the time I go to move into my tiny house I want to already be spending the majority of my free time not on the computer. I want it to be nothing at all to leave my PC behind when I move in.
This past week has shown me that I don’t need my computer. Though I am still using my iPad the same number of hours doing basically the same things. So I haven’t really proven anything. Especially since I was spending my time practicing my artwork, and I haven’t drawn in my sketchbook in 3 days now. My temporary art fervor is dissipating, and I can feel it, and it honestly scares me.
Today will be a big test. I don’t have anything today. There are no shows for me to watch. Will I spend my time laying in bed browsing the web or watching youtube videos? Or will I find something to do…art, or reading, or writing?
I think if I want to truly show myself that I don’t need media consumption to entertain me, I need to also stop myself from using my iPad (except to draw, or to watch tutorials while drawing because that is constructive. Or to write).
So a new challenge: no Hulu, no Amazon, and no Youtube except tutorials, no Facebook (except messenger to talk to Gandalf or I’ll go crazy). I cannot sit, or lay, and just consume. For the whole weekend. From now until Monday morning.
And I will see… hopefully it will tell me what I really want. If my TV/Internet consumption is just laziness and boredom, or if it’s something I really enjoy.
I think it is just laziness. Because I will just sit there at the computer browsing youtube with no desire, no plan, no specific thing I want to watch. Just a vague notion that I want to turn something on and just sit there and blankly watch it. That’s not enjoyment, that’s not happiness. That’s barely more than a vegetative state.
I’m trying to change my body by eating healthy and counting calories. I need to change my mind as well. I’ll never be the me I want to be sitting in front of a computer.