COLUMN: Trying a week without Internet

Jessica Alaimo

I’m fascinated by old-fashioned newsrooms: Reporters banging out stories on typewriters, pasting copy up on boards and developing film in dark rooms.

But those days are long gone, and computers and the Internet are necessary evils.

As a journalist, I value interpersonal communication. I see too many people holed up in their rooms, more likely to talk to their friends through AIM than walk up a flight of stairs.

Lack of interpersonal communication can lead to depression, which, in the worst cases, leads to tragedy.

Internet addiction is a growing problem among college students. Studies show it has caused students to be sleep-deprived, have declining grades and have less investment in relationships. Some consider it a mental health issue.

If things continue, we’ll be a culture of hermits.

My freshman year, I spent lots of time online. Among my social circle, it was a crime to leave my dorm room without first leaving an away message stating what I was doing.

Now, if my friends want to know where I am, they can call me.

I’d like to think I’m not dependent on the Internet. But I decided to do a little experiment just to make sure.

For one week, I decided to give up all Internet use except for school and work purposes – although my use for those alone is fairly extensive.

I have three vices when it comes to Internet use for leisure: AIM, LiveJournal and Facebook.

The first couple days went by with no problem. I was not even tempted by the many e-mails I got from LiveJournal and Facebook.

The third night I was tempted by LiveJournal – after all, it is my avenue for keeping in touch with my Massachusetts friends and venting about my jobs here and co-workers. Also, three e-mails from friends sat in my inbox that I knew I couldn’t touch.

So I didn’t blog that night. I did homework instead.

But I wondered how my friends were doing. I recently finished the new Harry Potter, and I wanted to tell the world how I was not impressed.

It was a late night, and 4 a.m. rolled around. I wondered if anyone I knew was still up – but once again, I was on strike from instant messenger.

The weekend rolled around. Some friends were talking about their Facebook profiles. “Oh my God, and guess what he wrote on his Facebook wall,” one quipped.

I couldn’t care less.

Finally it was Tuesday. I could go back online. I signed onto AIM, and three messages popped up saying something to the extent of, “where have you been?” I told them to call me later and signed off.

So, without the Internet, was life harder? Not too significantly. Was I cut off socially? Only from my friends who had forgotten how to pick up a phone.

My grades benefited as well. All the time I could have spent online I spent with my nose in a textbook – not in a computer screen.

Jessica Alaimo is a senior newspaper journalism major and the city editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].