Internet Incontinence

I was driving home one evening from work. I was 10 minutes away from home when my wife called to say that certain public figure had passed away. We both felt sad. I asked her if she knew how old that person was. She wasn’t sure. By then I was on my drive way. I stopped outside our garage, whipped out my phone and was searching for the deceased. Sure enough, my burning question was answered.

Another time, I was walking upstairs to our study and my wife asked about an actor in a TV series. I didn’t have the answer. Here comes the phone and IMDb App to the rescue while I was paused mid-flight.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get some place and find my answers? Why do I have this urge to find answers right at the moment? So I pulled up WebMD App, typed in my symptom (“inability to exercise control”) and out came the diagnosis: incontinence. Yes, I suffer from Internet incontinence. Light bulb went on about why I’m so restless when I’m without my smartphone. Last year I was traveling overseas and I did not always have Internet access at the ready. I felt naked, irritable, deprived, just like a starving Neanderthal in their cave. In the 21st century isn’t it a human right to have always-on Wikipedia access? Should I file a brief with the UNHRC for redress?

After my Internet and App-aided diagnosis, I thought I had it bad. I sought to find a support group. My ever so sympathetic wife was utterly unsympathetic. I found some friends who suffered as well. An evening soirée with these friends resulted in utter silence where we ended up iMessage‘ing each other in our living room about what we found on Flipboard; silence interrupted only by the clinking of wine glasses on the table in between hearty swigs.

I thought we had it bad until I saw this gentleman last week at a conference when we were on a break. He was in the urinal next to mine. He was gazing at his phone held in his left hand, seemingly still able to function. I was amazed. Why couldn’t I multitask like that? Am I impaired? Why don’t I possess that dexterity to perform biological and technological functions single-handedly as him? As I was pondering his skills and my lack of it, I saw his right hand come up to type on his phone. My amazement turned to abject horror. Hands-free phone laws, my foot! By Jove, I thought, I’m not ready for this level of multitasking or efficiency. I could never bring myself to raise my right hand in that situation, whatever that email he was responding to called for.

In that moment I commiserated with my wife about the anguish she feels when I bury myself in my phone rather than exchange pleasantries with our guests.

Yes, I have Internet incontinence, but nowhere as bad as that gentleman at that conference.

P.S. I do not care if you happen to own a super AMOLED high-resolution, capacitative touchscreen iDevice. I have no desire to touch it.

Author: Hari

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