How can you tell if you’re an internet addict? Is it by the amount of time you spend on the internet, or is it ok if you’re using it for work? Is it by the number of times you hit the refresh button, or is it a more physical measurement – does the tidiness of your house fall in direct relationship to your increasing number of clicks? Whichever way you look at it, I think the advent of social media specifically, and the internet in general, play a major role in making me the slummy mummy that I am.
I recently stumbled across the term “mousewife.” What a great word! It really conjures up all sorts of images.
There’s your industrious mousewife – the one you find running on the wheel each day staying fit and trying to make the most of her time in the cage. She works hard, six hours a week, to earn some much needed cash in what may otherwise be a one income household in a two income world. Selling goodies she no longer needs, completing market research, writing reviews, she works hard for, on average, a little over an hour a day to provide a little extra for her family.
Then there’s the sleepy mousewife, lying dormant through the day but sparking into life at night when she noses about all over, looking for some juicy titbits. She’s struck a balance where she uses the internet for socialising in the evening but is also perfectly capable of running a normal life in her other waking hours.
But my favourite is the furtive little mousewife, compulsively checking her ears, wiping her face, rubbing her paws, keeking out of her hiding place all day to see what’s happening, who’s watching, and making sure there’s no chance that she’s missing anything. The one who has five internet tabs open, minimum, to make sure that she keeps:
- instantly up to date with all her favourite tweeps (probably people who are equally hooked on the adrenaline rush from a reply, retweet or, wow!, a DM!),
- an eye on the wee flash that tells her she has a new notification on Facebook, because Heaven forbid that she should not reply instantly and perhaps leave someone hanging for a response about whether they should do their washing or eat a biscuit for more than a second. What a buzz when she realises that she has replied practically before the sender has entered their comment! And she can’t run the risk of someone being offended that she hasn’t “liked” every single one of the 237 photos of their visit to their granny.
- her finger on the pulse of every page view, click and comment of their stat page for their blog, ready to approve a comment and throw a party when there’s a new follower.
- herself involved in every forum post of her favourite website, trying to formulate a “witty” reply which will, in turn, make people reply to her posts.
- the facts at her finger tips with Google at the ready to search for anything new that crops up because of the other four pages that are open. She cannot miss an opportunity to learn something new after all.
I think she’s my favourite because, if I’m honest, she’s me. But this furtive little mousewife, for all that it’s easy to laugh, may well be in the grips of an internet addiction.
Imagine she was secretly, compulsively eating junk food – stuffing wrappers down the side of the couch to be dealt with when no one is watching, eating entire packets of chocolate biscuits then dashing to the shops to buy another packet to replace it before anyone notices (and then eating another couple out of the new packet so no one knows it’s a different pack), finding ways to cram bingeing in at every possible moment, all the while maintaining the appearance to the wider world of someone who just nibbles on apples and bananas all day. If we knew someone living like that, day in day out, then we’d probably be worried they had an eating disorder.
Or what if they were drinking at all hours of the day, ignoring the other jobs that need dealt with in order to sneak those little sips, or maybe down the full bottle? We’d be supportive and try to help them realise that they have a problem.
Perhaps we should be as supportive and understanding of those who seem to be permanently online. Those who must have little ridged home key indents in their index fingers from being ever ready to update/post/comment/tweet. We need to help her realise that her time spent online has reached the unhealthy stage. We need to show her that twitching for her smartphone after a five minute absence from her laptop is not a good sign.
So, after taking a long hard look at my internet tabs, the size of my ironing pile and the state of the kitchen I can see that I don’t have the balance right. It’s time to take steps (and maybe make myself a timetable…) to beat this monster that I am becoming. They say that the first step in recovering from an addiction is to recognise that you are addicted. To realise that you can’t control the compulsion to update your Facebook status. So, right here, right now I stand before you and say:
“Hello, I’m Slummy Mummy and I’m an internet addict.”