Internet Addiction

Servers were down in the office this morning. Good luck practicing law without the Internet and an office network. The IT guys were running around doing their thing. Everything was back online just in time to head to lunch. A beautiful morning by most people’s expectations, unless of course you needed to get something done. I needed to get something done, but it was out of my hands. I did realize, however, how desperately the firm relies on the Internet. I could hear people making phone calls asking for clients and other attorneys to send faxes and apologizing for the inconvenience. I realized how much I depend on the Internet, for good and bad. I exhibit classic signs of Internet addiction. Checking my email a dozen times a day, surfing for news, reading another top ten list, surprising myself at the bizarre and stupid things people post online, investigating a curious question that I wanted to answer, and just generally wasting time. When I get home, I still feel a desire to sit at a computer and tinker. Why? Because that’s what I did all through law school and that’s what I do at work. I swore after I took the bar I was going to take a vacation to a remote cabin with no electricity and no cell service, leave everything electronic in the car and just sleep for a few days. Someday I will pull off the ultimate unplugged vacation.

Law school breeds Internet addiction because it’s where you go to find outlines/ research legal issues/shop for law school materials/look for distractions/entertain yourself/escape reality. You rely heavily on your computer to get your work done. It is inevitable, then, that you would haul your lap top with you over Christmas break at your in-laws even though you know they don’t have wireless Internet and you don’t have any assignments to complete. Your lap top becomes an extension of your hands and mind. I enjoy typing out the things I see and contemplate because it is less hassle than trying to explain my grievances to another person. (What a snob, I know.) I can’t believe I took it with me so many places during my law school tenure even though I didn’t actually use it on those trips. But I had to have it near me, like some sort of security blanket.

The other day, I was trying to self diagnose the level of my addiction by taking an online survey measuring your level of Internet addiction. I figure the irony of that statement to be self-evident. If I’m taking an online survey to see if I’m spending too much time online, I think I should be able to answer that question on my own. The results of the survey were not surprising. My addiction was mild compared to others. I apparently had an “acceptable” level of dependency with some activities showing a cause for concern that should be addressed before they lead me down to the next steps of addiction. Some of the questions were scary, however, as I realized I did behave as a complete addict in certain ways. Why do I do these things? For the false dopamine reward for finding something I was looking for that was so trivial it wasn’t worth the twenty minutes to two hours of browsing and reading?

I’m really not helped by the fact that the nature of the legal profession limits human interaction at the office. I spend most of the time hunched over the computer screen anyway. I’ve seen the new age offices that try to do away with cubicles and set up a mini café environment with bar stools and a few privacy barriers that are mostly potted plants and office décor. Nice try, re-decorators. You fooled some people into believing it won’t feel like the normal office environment if you dress it up like something other than an office. Actually, you end up with a place where you can’t get any work done because of the noise and distractions. It might get your office space into the latest and greatest interior design mag, but it won’t boost productivity or job satisfaction.

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