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Confessions Of A Wired Junkie

  |  November 11, 1999   |  Comments

Michelle's in a 12-step program. She's addicted to computers, cellular phones, handheld organizers, email, electronic address books. You name it, she's got it. The obsession only officially started three years ago, but the seeds were planted long before. You see, her dad and four of her eight brothers are engineers. And those who aren't engineers are lawyers, computer nerds, and physicists. No doubt about it, Michelle was doomed from the start.

I'm in a 12-step program to help me through my addiction. I am addicted to computers, cellular phones, handheld organizers, email, electronic address books. You name it, I got it. I am a gadget freak.

Although my obsession only officially started three years ago, the seeds had been planted well before that. You see, my dad and four of my eight brothers, are engineers. And those who aren't engineers are lawyers, computer nerds, and physicists. No doubt about it, I was doomed from the start.

I had no idea of what a wired junkie I had become. I had to hand-write my last article because I was vacationing at a place where I didn't have access to computers or phones. I can't tell you when I last picked up a pen or pencil.

My hand got cramped after writing the first couple of paragraphs. My curly-headed six-year-old niece was wondering if I was writing in my journal. Little did she know that even my journal is done on computer.

Even Mrs. Fisher, my third-grade math teacher, would be appalled at my lack of long division skills. The fruits of that agonizing year in third-grade math class have gone to the dark recesses of my mind since the invention of Lotus and Excel.

However, not having access to a computer for writing an article was the least of my problems. I didn't have access to email or a cellular phone, my lifelines to the world. No mouse to click, no phone buttons to push, no send button to tap.

Vacations are for relaxing, but for the first three days, I did everything but relax. It started slowly. I got the jitters. I'd break out in a cold sweat for no apparent reason. Then the pacing set in. I paced inside. I paced outside. I paced everywhere.

I didn't know how to carry on a regular conversation. I found it difficult to translate :) or ;) or LOL or L8TR into spoken language. My conversations were lacking without some visual aid of an attachment. My right index finger began to twitch.

It only got worse when I realized the source of my affliction: The inability to communicate with people on a wired basis. I was going through wire withdrawal. No emails from the boss, no ezines, no cellular phone calls to interrupt my day -- for an entire week.

I was surrounded by friends and family who helped immensely. They were the ones who reminded me that not three years ago, things were quite different. Neither my clients nor I had email, and I didn't own a cellular phone, handheld organizer, or laptop.

Heck, three years ago, I had to sneak into the local community college computer lab to get cover letters done. The realization that I had survived the last handful of decades without these wired devices was half the battle.

I lived through my wireless week, and much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed myself (after the first three days of de-wire).

I no longer check my email every two minutes. Instead of reaching for the keyboard, I reach for the landline phone to talk to my clients. I no longer check my email the minute I get home from work, knowing I just checked it 30 minutes ago, before I left the office. I no longer check my email at midnight before I go to bed, knowing that the recipient will most likely not reply at this hour anyway.

I have gained a better appreciation of the softer things in life, like talking to people face to face or voice to voice.

Even though the world of wireless is beginning to perfect itself, I take great comfort in the fact that there will still be people like my mother, who remembers every birthday of all her sons, daughters, grandkids, aunts, uncles. Not because of some electronic reminder, but because it is written in her address book, that she keeps in the kitchen drawer. The same book she's had since I was a kid.

And I can't live without those handwritten notes from her that show up in the mail for no particular occasion.

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Michelle Ellis

Michelle Ellis is Director of Account Planning at M2K, a top-100 interactive agency. She started her career over a decade ago focusing on the retail and business-to-business industries. M2K specializes in interactive marketing solutions for clients, including strategic positioning, media planning and buying, offline and online creative, web site design, intranets, and extranets.

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