Okay, I admit it. I'm a computer addict. Personally, I don't think this is a problem. I view it as more of a personality trait. Nevertheless, the hours I'm awake in my apartment and the hours during the day that my computer is on are roughly equal. And so when the university I work for announced it was having a lunch time seminar about computer addiction, my curiosity was piqued.

Granted, I didn't really want to attend. After all, it was being held during my lunch hour when I normally surf the net. I'm too busy then to go to some stupid computer addiction seminar. I've got web sites to check out and e-mail to send. But then I thought about the bigger picture. Maybe the seminar would be good for me, I thought. Maybe I could learn how to depend less on my computer. And, hey, I could always goof off later in the day and surf the net then.

The day before, I called to register. "That's great. I'll sign you right up." The woman said. "By the way, we have an e-mail list to notify people about our other self-help seminars. Would you like to be placed on that?"

"Hell yes!" I thought. "Give me all the e-mail you've got. I'm a computer addict."

It certainly seemed an ominous start to my computer addiction treatment. The same people also offer drug addiction seminars. I wonder what they must be like. "Great. We'll sign you right up. By the way, we just got a new shipment of heroin. Would you like to try some?"

When I eventually arrived at the seminar, only five people were there. Either this meant that few on campus were affected by the problem, or it was a sign that most employees were wired to the net for lunch and couldn't break away from their computers. I'm still not sure.

The seminar mainly consisted of a speech by a doctor who was a computer addiction specialist. This doctor began by reviewing typical stories of children whose grades had dropped from playing computer games too much, about marriages destroyed by affairs started in Internet chat rooms, and about people whose lives were ruined by "inappropriate use of the computer." I assume she meant pornography by this, but I was never entirely sure. In fact, she threw the word "inappropriate" around so much that I felt like I was at a presidential press conference.

Then, she discussed some of the symptoms of computer addiction which include:

Lying to family members, co-workers, fellow students, therapists, and others about the amount of time spent on the computer. "Look, you're wrong! I was only on my computer 22 hours yesterday, not 23. Jeez!"
Engaging in computer activities to experience pleasure, gratification, or relief. "Aaaargh! Minesweeper!"
Feeling preoccupied with computers by thinking about the experience, planning a return to the computer or buying the newest or latest hardware or software. "Hey, thanks for the info about computer addiction, Doc, but I was wondering if you think I should upgrade to a 450 processor now or wait a few months."
Needing to spend more and more time or money on computer activities in order to change moods. "Uh, oh, I lost my Prozac. Somebody turn my computer on quick!"
Showing physical signs, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, backaches, dry eyes, neglect of personal hygiene or eating irregularities. "Um, personal hygiene?"

Next, she actually said, "If you're interested, there's more information on my web site." No, this wasn't working at all.

"Hi, Doctor, I just can't stop myself from going on the Internet. I think about the net all time. What can I do?"

"Well, have you checked out my web site?"

To her credit, she didn't actually give out the web address during the seminar, but that night I entered her name into a search engine. (It's not like I have a problem or anything.) It turns out she even has her own domain name -- computeraddiction.com. I'm not joking. It's just a text- based site with almost no links. Frankly, it's a bit disappointing, because you'd think that being surrounded by computer addicts all day would have at least improved her HTML skills.

As for solutions, she doesn't advice abstaining from computers completely. She feels that would be impossible since computers play such a prevalent role in our lives. Instead, one must gradually reduce one's dependency on the computer. How do you do this? Well, she didn't exactly say. I guess that's probably revealed once the check clears.

At any rate, I'd like to write more about this important subject, but I can't. I have to go play Minesweeper now. I'm sure you understand.