I read a study recently about people who are addicted to the Internet. The study asked questions about how people used the Net. To find out if the people were addicted, they asked questions based on gambling addiction ("Have you ever bet your modem on a download?")
I was reading the article, feeling sorry for the poor saps who are hopelessly addicted to the Net, thinking up clever things the addicts might say to each other ("Psst, Hey, buddy, I got a T-1 connection here!" "Iím jonesing man, Iíll even take 14.4 throughput!").
Slowly, though, I felt a creeping sensation on the back of my neck. This was sounding increasingly familiar. The questions they askedóI could have answered yes to them! Oh my God! There was a monkey on my back, and itís name was Reading!
"Have you used it to escape from problems?" Well, um, yeah, I guess, from time-to-time, or well, actually, just about every day. Yes, I admit itóI read to escape from problems in my life. Sometimes, Iíll just grab a novel and shut off the entire world!
"Have you tried and failed to cut back?" I swore that this year, I would only read on weekends. And only magazine articles. But pretty soon, I was sneaking a Danielle Steele, and then a mystery. Before I knew it, I was back into hard-core literature! I was mainlining Dickens and Hemingway!
"Have you remained preoccupied with reading while no longer actually reading?" I confess! Iíll think about the characters, and I imagine different endings. Sometimes I just think about the book and review the plot in my mind. Itís taking over my entire life!
I knew if I didnít do something about it, I would be in serious trouble. Iíd sell my kids, lose visitation rights to my house. Iíd be one of those people in the Barnes & Noble who sit in overstuffed chairs all day, devouring book after book in an endless search for the perfect high.
I found some other people with my same problem. The stories they told were chilling.
"I used to be happy just watching TVóI could get news and entertainment from it. It was great! I started out so innocently. During a commercial, Iíd read an article in the TV Guide. Pretty soon, I had moved up to magazines, pamphlets, supermarket tabloids. Then one fateful evening, I sat down with a book and I didnít turn on the TV at all! Thatís when I knew I had hit rock bottom," sobbed a young woman who asked to remain anonymous.
I talked to another man, who was wearing a tattered sweater and an unhealthy pallor about his face.
"You want to know how I got started? Cereal boxes. Something as plain and innocent as cereal boxes!
"I would read the ingredients, and then the back and the front. I thought, ĎWhat harm is there? Itís just a cereal box.í Little did I know that those innocent cereal boxes were leading me down the road to a horrid addiction.
"On morning, I had finished reading the cereal box for the second time, when I saw a Playboy magazine that my Dad had left by his chair. I snuck over and opened it up, expecting to find pictures of naked women. Instead I opened it toóan article! I read it, and then another and another! Pretty soon, I was flushing and breathing hardóI had a Ďreaderís high,í and I was hooked."
Experts disagree about the best way to handle people who are reading junkies.
"Stick them in a room with a TV that only gets Nickleodeon and the WB network," said Dr. Franz, an addiction expert with Time-Warner. "At first, they will resist, but eventually, they will be ground down by the TV shows and they will be over their addiction."
Dr. Howard, with the Institute for Reading Addiction, however, feels that gradual tapering off is best. "Move them from Ďliteratureí to Agatha Christie mysteries. From there, you can expose them to coffee table books, People magazine, and eventually get them down to a comic book once a month."
There are those who wonder what the fuss is all about. Addison Montgomery is a spokesperson for Reading is Okay, and he says, "Reading isnít as bad as everyone says. It doesnít hurt anyone, and the link between reading and crime is only tenuous. Sure, some people go overboard and hold up convenience stores so they can purchase books, but most readers are responsible members of society."
I have this warning for Young Peopleódonít make the horrible mistake I made. Stick to your TV and donít get started on that horrible road to a life-long addiction to reading!
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