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Internet graddiction

BY EMILEIGH BARNES | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

I’ve applied for a lot of things in my life, scholarships, jobs, fellowships, internships, college, etc. But this year, applying to graduate school has been somewhat distinct.

I can track every painful moment on the Internet.

This is the drawback of my generation, of instant communication across the world. Gone are the days of 2005, when I sat in my parents’ house, gladly oblivious to who and when other people were accepted into programs, what scholarships they were offered. If there were ways to follow these things, they weren’t widely acknowledged at my high school or among my friends. When a letter came in the mail, good or bad, it was always a surprise.

Forgive me if I sound like a stodgy old woman reminiscing about the good old days when we didn’t wear shoes all summer and walked uphill to school both ways in the snow every winter. It’s just that sometimes, I feel a little too connected to the things around me and less so to the actual world.

For example, when this application season started, the only blogs I read were about news and entertainment. Then, into my e-mail (of course) popped a message from a friend, who was applying to similar grad schools. It was a short message as e-mails tend to be, seeing as they are not very cool or nearly as much of a commodity as were the messages of old, dashed across the country on horseback by cowboys. The subject line? “USE WITH CARE.”

The message itself was just a couple lines that concluded with “and I think I now want to vomit,” followed by a link to a blog where people post as soon as they receive an acceptance or rejection to any school as well as how they were notified.

Then, a couple days later, the same friend uncovered another one. This one, he sent to me with the subject: “Horrible-stressness.”

I won’t go on them, I told my family. I spewed on and on about how it’s worse to be a slave to the blog than to just not know. But, alas, who has that much self control? Not me.

I was on every day, numerous times a day, scanning, browsing, and I’m not sure what I was looking for. I never felt better after being on them, never really felt more at ease. And then came the first notification for a school I’d applied to. By phone. Then another, ironically, to a girl whose screen name was Emily.

I complained about the blogs to my managing editor, who was quick to chime in that they had the exact same thing for law schools, and when he was waiting for an acceptance (of which he received more than one), he also couldn’t keep away.

Even my wonderful, and generally reasonable boyfriend — who swore he wouldn’t look for an English Ph.D. counterpart after seeing how absolutely, outrageously insane I was while perusing the blogs — gave in to thegradcafe.com after a few weeks and then, by his own admission, started getting up at 7 or 8 in the morning occasionally just to check his status.

Like any addiction, it had started out fairly innocuous for me and my friends. When it became an overwhelming force, as necessary as my (generally) Rockstar (or two, depending on how deep in the week we are), we holed up together, calling upon each other for support, reporting such things as “I’ve been off the blogs for 24 hours now.”

At one point, Dean — my roommate and Monday column sharer — yelled at me from our living room to chat with him online whenever I found myself tempted to get online and check out my sites so he could race upstairs and wrench my laptop from my insatiable, deft little fingers.

The problem is that the Internet is everywhere. At work, I sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day. At home I have high speed wireless. Many of the UI’s classrooms are located (are you kidding me!?) in computer labs.

And so, as any irresponsible young addict will willingly offer up, I could quit, if I wanted. It’s just that everyone else is using the Internet. And, until April 15, I’ll just resign myself to my own, modern vice.


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