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True Confessions of an Internet Addict


Dr Alex Tang

 
My name is James Pong*. I am an Internet addict. I am 40 years old and work in a bank as an account clerk. I am married for 21 years. My wife, Martha is a homemaker and I have two children, John aged 4 years and Mary aged 11 years. I am a Christian. I have always being interested in computers and have been tinkering with the Internet during my student days. At that time the Internet was difficult to use and involved learning of computer languages and terms such as FTP-file transfer protocol and gopher. Then came Mosaic and then World Wide Web and Windows. All this has make the Internet very easy to use and with the high-speed modem, enjoyable.
 
My interest in the Internet has faded when I started working and raising a family. About four years ago, I bought a new computer with a high-speed modem. An Internet account was given free with the purchase. So I began to use the modem to send and receive emails from my friends. It was fun to communicate this way. Since then, I have not written a letter. I began to check my email in-box for incoming messages two to three times a day. Then I discovered mailing lists. There are people and organisations on the Internet that will send regular news, reviews and information on various topics to anyone who subscribes to their mailing lists. This is free. So I began to subscribe to mailing lists on topics that I am interested such as comics, books reviews, news, cars, computers and science fiction news. Some mailing lists sent their issues daily, some weekly and some monthly. So I begin to get between 4-20 emails a day and it is time consuming to read through it all. It also takes time to reply to some of the emails, making comments and suggestions.
 
Later I discovered newsgroups. These are discussion groups on specific topics. There are thousands of newsgroups on the Internet dealing with any topic under the sun. I find that when I enter into a news group, I can find a long thread of discussion involving many people, over a period of weeks and sometimes even years. Of course, I must join in the discussion and add my two cents’ worth. I find it easier to write out my thoughts in an email than when I am talking to another person. When another person read my comments, he or she will comment on my comments so I begin to have a large collection of friends from all over the world. I even have comments from someone in Antarctica. I was arguing in newsgroups on BMW cars, Barney the purple dinosaur, dogs, golf, country music, computer games and Star Wars.
 
I read somewhere that information is power. And there is so much information on the Internet. I like to go to CNN to get the latest news and commentaries, check up the football scores on ESPN websites and the weather in the capital cities of all the South East Asian countries. And it is so easy to lose track of time when I am on the Internet. I remembered once when I want to find some information on digital cameras. After dinner, I switched on the computer and used a ‘search’ software and there were 50 websites on digital camera. So I accessed some of the websites to read about digital cameras. Each of these websites has links to other websites. From the digital camera websites, I went to another website on digital photography. From there I was led to read about 35mm cameras, then to optical lens, history of photography, color in photography, war pictures, Second World War, Battle of Leningrad and before I know it, it is 6 am in the morning and my wife was getting up to fix breakfast for the children. I was so tired when I went to work that I made many mistakes in my work. My boss was very angry.
 
My friend, Ahmad introduced me to multiplayer computer games on the Internet. We would access a computer games site at an agreed time and look for an ‘room’ where we can play the game. Each of us has a code name. Mine is Orion. When there is enough players, we would start. The players can be from anywhere in the world. I once have a game with someone from Korea, Jordan, France and Brazil. My favorite game was ‘The Age of Empires’. And I was pretty good at it too. Initially I would play at night after dinner. Depending on the skills of the prayers, a game can last from 4-12 hours. After one game, I just cannot wait for the next. I began to play during lunchtime, skipping eating food and sometimes during working hours when my boss is not around.
 
In between games, I like to access chat rooms. In the chat room, I could talk to whoever is in the room by typing out my words. And whoever is present will type his or her replies. It is like having a conversation but not knowing whom you are talking to.  I love to pretend so be somebody else. Once I was typing a conversation and pretending I am a beautiful 22 years old secretary and the other person actually asked me for a date! In the chat room, I was a heart surgeon, a criminal lawyer, a millionaire and a sailor.
 
I feel so good on the Internet. By comparison, my daily life seems drab and boring. I just cannot wait to get back online. The nights are not long enough. I often call in sick so that I could have more time online. My wife started to nag me and we often quarreled. Once, she even threw out my computer. Lucky it was an Acer and quite hardy. I do not know my children at all. They are so terrified of me that they will hide when I come home. I was always irritable because of lack of sleep and too much coffee. My boss threatened to sack me. I just could not understand them. Am I not entitled to some relaxation?  After all I have worked so hard.
 
Last February, my wife left me when I forgot our wedding anniversary. She took the children with her. I was so angry that I went on the Internet, playing games after games, having chats in chat rooms and surfing information from websites to websites. I was eating home delivered pizzas and diet coke. After 4 days I passed out. When I woke up, I knew I am an Internet addict. I swore I would stop surfing the net. It lasted for 2 days and I went for another binge for another 5 days. That’s how my wife found me. She became alarmed when she called my office and found that I had not been to work for 8 days.
I have reached rock bottom. That’s when my wife called in Pastor Thomas, a pastoral counsellor.
 
I knew Pastor Thomas for many years. In my younger days, I have been active in the Youth Fellowship. But I have not been to church for the last few years and I noticed that he was still as youthful as before. I expected a scolding and a lecture from him. Instead he said that we are to break this addiction together and he will walk with me together. He also said that we should allow God to be in charge and use the Bible as the basis of our breakaway from this addiction. I remembered we prayed then, asking the Lord to help us, to search our hearts and to help me to repent and break this addiction. I remembered that for the first time in months, I felt peace, as if a burden has been lifted. I felt as if I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Could I break this addiction? I remembered asking myself. Before ending the first session, Pastor Thomas shared with me two Scripture verses; that I am a temple-a dwelling place of God-. His Spirit and His life dwell in me (1 Cor 6:19) and that I have been given a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). He asked me to think about these two verses, get some sleep and not to switch on the computer. He gave me his phone number and asked me to call him if the temptation to go online is too great. We ended the first session in prayer for healing.
 
We had our second session the next day. We talked about the need to know ourselves. We often deceive ourselves. Pastor Thomas told me about David in the bible. When he lived a lie, he suffered greatly. When he finally acknowledge the truth about himself, he found freedom. We continued to talk  with him asking penetrating questions. At the end of the session, I begin to have this picture of myself - man who is always striving for recognition and power, who have problem relating to people and very lonely. Again we ended with Pastor Thomas explaining two Scripture verses to me; that I am a son of God; and God is spiritually my Father (Galatians 3:26), and that I am God’s workmanship- His Handiwork- born anew in Christ to do His work (Ephesians 2:10). He told me that I could access the email but to cancel all subscriptions to newsgroup and mailing lists. I cannot play games on-line or surf the Net. We are to meet again the next week. We ended the second session by praying for  self revelation and truth about self.
 
Before the third session, I had to call Pastor Thomas because I was so depressed and the urgency to login onto the Internet was so strong. His calm voice over the phone was so soothing and we prayed over the phone. I broke down in tears. The third session is mainly about taking responsibility for our lives. I find that I have been blaming everyone for my shortcomings. I felt a strong need to ask forgiveness from my wife and children which I did. Pastor Thomas told me that I am allowed access my email box but to limit my emails to essential communications. I am not to forward any emails to anyone and I am to delete all non-essential emails. Again, he gave me two Scripture verses to think about; that I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule over my life (Romans 6:1-6) and that I have been justified-completely forgiven and made righteous (Romans 5:1). Pastor Thomas gave me a book by Neil Anderson to read, Victory over Darkness (Regal Books, 1990). We ended this session with a prayer for forgiveness.
 
I wish I could say my recovery from Internet addiction was easy. It is not. There are times when I feel so anxious and depressed. There are times when the urge to login onto the Internet is so strong. But it is reassuring that I know there is someone I can call to talk. I was gradually reintroduced into my church fellowship. But what is more encouraging is when Pastor Thomas introduced me to a few other former Internet addicts like myself. We formed a cell group and meet  weekly for bible study, prayers, encouragement and accountability. Each meeting we have to confess to each other that we are Internet addicts and to give an account of the number of hours we spent on-line and for what purpose. We are to trust in the Lord for strength to save us.
 
My friends, do not let the Internet take over your life. Do not be an Internet addict. I am one and it is no fun. Do not let the Internet be your love. Let Jesus be your love instead
 

 

 Symptoms of Internet Addiction
 
1. Using the online services everyday without any skipping.
2. Losing track of time after making a connection
3. Goes out less and less.
4. Spending less and less time on meals at home or at  work, and eats in front of the monitor.
5. Denying spending too much time on the Internet.
6. Others complaining of you spending too much time in front of the monitor.
7. Checking on your mailbox too many times a day.
8. Login onto the Internet while already busy at work.
9. Sneaking online when spouse or family members not at home with a sense of relief.
10. Withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, obsessive thinking on what is happening on the Internet and involuntary typing movements of the fingers when not online.
11. Finding life outside the Internet dull.
 

Note:

Though written in 1997 before the tremendous advances of the Internet, the temptation of an addiction of the Internet remains ever present. This is more so with the user friendly social networking technologies and the loss of the personal sense of privacy.

 

|posted 1997|updated 27 February 2010|

 

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