Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jacking In

By Cornelia

William Gibson's novel Neuromancer chronicles the adventures of Case, a "cyber-cowboy" who, when the story opens, can't get online because the employers he double-crossed on his last hacking job damaged his nervous system with a Russian mycotoxin as punishment.

No longer able to "jack into the matrix," Case has lost both his livelihood and his raison d'etre, and spends the first few chapters floating around seedy Tokyo bars with a death wish the size of a mid-century Pontiac. Published in 1984, Neuromancer quickly gained a massive following, and proved Gibson's prescience about the culture that would grow up around the Internet in subsequent decades.

This past Tuesday, professor Norman Nie, director of Stanford University's Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (IQSS), released the results of an internet-usage study conducted by IQSS. 4113 people were surveyed by phone on the topic, and the resulting statistics have given rise to alarming headlines about the possibility of "Internet Addiction" in journals around the world.

Obviously, if you're reading this, you have access to the Net, but do you see yourself as someone who may be standing up in a church basement sometime soon, confessing your destructive passion for e-mail and chat rooms and, okay, blogs, to a roomful of sympathetic strangers with whom you're bonding over styrofoam cups of bad coffee?

I admit that that image has crossed my mind more than once. I spend a lot of time online, and the relationships I've forged there, especially in the mystery community, have come to mean a great deal to me. So this morning I took an online Internet Addiction Test quiz to gauge the level of my own dependence (which should probably in and of itself be a red flag).

I got a score of 45, which the survey's authors tell me means, "You are an average on-line user. You may surf the Web a bit too long at times, but you have control over your usage."

I think if I'd been a bit more honest I would've scored in the Fifties--on the low end of the mid-range profile--"You are experiencing occasional or frequent problems because of the Internet. You should consider the full impact on your life." My friends and family might rate me somewhat higher, however. Especially when they're wondering whether dinner is forthcoming.

If you have time, please take the quiz and tell us how you scored in the comment section. Is the Net a problem or a boon for you? Would you say it allows you to be more or less productive? Do you feel you get significant returns from your time spent online, or are you trying to wean yourself off late-night jags playing Mah Jong Solitaire at, in between checking your Amazon ranking and Technorati hits?

In the meantime, I'm just hoping I don't run into that guy Case, the next time my DSL goes down and I feel the urge to cruise seedy Tokyo bars....


  1. I knew I was in trouble when I read "Technorati" and didn't have the slightest idea what you were talking about. What is it, BTW?

  2. I think it must be broken-- I only scored a 36. And I know that's not right.

  3. Well, I scored as an "average on-line user" but I probably fudged a bit.

    And the internet has been a huge boon to me. I found the crime fiction community in the first place because I read this on a book's back cover: "....and learn more about the author by visiting". That simple phrase has allowed me to meet great people both online and offline, and to form what I hope will be some lasting friendships. At its best, I think the internet allows us to be in touch with a broader range of those who share our interests than we might be able to find in our local communities.

    But you do have to be careful....late night mah-jong solitaire can be awfully addictive ;-)

  4. Damn. I scored a 56. Getting to be a hardcore, don't-tell-momma, straight to the vein addiction.

    Well, as long as I can keep my score lower than my age.

  5. Oh Patty, I'm not sure I should tell you about Technorati--it's a search for what (and who) gets mentioned in blogs. Worse than checking Amazon...

    I'm glad you guys were willing to try the quiz. I feel like slightly less of an addict, now.

  6. Oh, and by the way, do you have any idea how depressing it is to have to answer question #3 with "Does Not Apply"?

  7. I got a 39, and I think I was mostly accurate. But I don't "form new relationships with fellow on-line users" because I'm mostly just as shy online as F2F

  8. OH MY GOD! I just searched Technorati.

    And somebody just told me that you can sign up with Google to receive an email anytime your name is mentioned on the Internet. The question is do we really want to know...

  9. Ah, Patty, it is so sad to be a witness to your loss of innocence!!!

    My guilt is huge.

    (And you just set up a Google News alert with your name in quotes...)

    Lois, I could learn from you, though I am really happy about my online friends, especially when they turn out to be cool in real life.

    Daisy, I'm trying to resist going back to the quiz to see what #3 is.... mouse... finger... itching... (RESIST! RESIST!)

  10. Let's just say that I'm having less fun than that test thinks I should be.

    The other one I said "Does Not Apply" to was the one about avoiding housework, because I would be doing that even if the internet had never been invented.

  11. Hmmmm. Is there a link to the quiz that I'm not seeing?

  12. Hi, Cornelia! I scored a 53, but I think I was being too hard on myself. :)

    But it's true that the internet is a siren I can rarely ignore, just like chocolate cake.

  13. 41 and I thought I might score higher.

  14. 21, and I was getting angry that there was no "Never" selection.
    Maybe I need an anger management test/class.

    Tom, T.O.

  15. Only a 33 for me, but then, I lied like a rug.

    How goes it, woman? I owe you a four-pound email. Remind me when you don't get it in short order.
    busy little B