Recent events keep piling on my already burdened brain.  I had decided that for "closure" I needed to see the guy I recently broke off a relationship with due to various reasons, so I visited him over the weekend.

After spending three days with him, I am now fully cognizant of the dangers of becoming TOO dependent on computers, computer games, and online friends.

First off, I pretty much unplugged the entire weekend: no Plurk, no SL, no Aion, and only a few minutes of Warcraft.  I found those few minutes rather ... uninspiring to say the least.

The grand conclusion: I did not miss being online.  In fact, it felt like breathing clean air for the first time after living in a smog-filled city.  Maybe I DID have more oxygen fight its way into my brain.

In sitting back at his place and watching HIM be unable or unwilling to stay away from his computer or TV or PS3 for longer than 15 minutes at a time while we were in his apartment, I can now see more clearly.  If he is not playing Warcraft, he is obsessively monitoring YouTube videos. In lieu of YouTube, he's looking at 4chan or he's clicking on the monstrous waste of time called "Stumble Upon."

If he's not on the computer (for example when out of sheer frustration, I commandeered his computer and logged into Warcraft just to force him to do something ELSE), he's either watching reruns of "House" or watching one of the "Saw" movies or playing Street Fighter or Grand Theft Auto on his PS3.

Granted, he IS much younger than me, and I don't know many other guys in that age range, but do all males in their mid-twenties dedicate 99% of their awake, non-working time to computers and games?

He and I had a long talk a couple weeks ago about how he's distracted himself from the frustrations of a dead end job by spending a lot of time playing games.  He hates his job, yet instead of taking the time to find another job or look into career training, he spends hours upon hours playing WoW.  I bluntly asked him what he could have done in REAL LIFE with the time he's put into a game.

He had no answer for that question.

Life hasn't been kind to him in the familial relations department, nor has it been kind in regards to what was his life's ambition as a teenager: to join the Marines.  He was ruled ineligible due to a diagnosis in his medical records that he denies.

I don't know how to tell him, but after knowing him for over a year, and visiting him so often, I think that diagnosis was correct.

He is hiding from making all the nasty, difficult decisions that adult life requires.

He sacrifices his own personal time for his Warcraft guild because "they need him." These people who he does NOT know in RL "need" him, and they do not hesitate to beg for his help in raiding...with nary a thought to what his RL needs might be.

I reminded him that if he got hit by a bus or caught H1N1 and was hospitalized, these needy people would not be the ones who would show up at the hospital or help him in his time of need. 

He didn't have a response to that either.  He has so much trouble saying no to others that all he does is say no to HIMSELF.

I would like to think that since I have a well-established career (albeit a much-despised one), own my own home, and have generally squared away a lot of the typical concerns of his age group, that spending a sizable amount of time online is not necessarily a BAD thing. I've earned it, right?

But after watching him all weekend, I have the persistent thought niggling at the back of my brain that I may be doing my own version of hiding from RL.  I don't feel like I have an addiction, as I unplugged this past weekend without any difficulty.  If anything, I've been rather reluctant to even come back to blog or to Plurk.

I don't earn any money off SL.

Nothing I do in SL or WoW or Aion or Plurk really has any impact on real life.

If I wind up in a hospital (and with my health, that's always a possiblity), all my friends are hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away and will never know because we're only "shallow" friends. We do not have each other's cell phone numbers because most of us are protecting our privacy (and rightfully so).  If my friends have something bad happen to them, again, I'll never know.

I can't offer to bring a bucket of chicken pad thai to someone on the other side of the planet or give them a REAL hug.

I guess cyberhugs are better than nothing, but they can't replace the real thing.

A pixel shoulder to cry on is not unwelcome, but it can't replace the real thing.

I'm struggling very hard right now with the knowledge that my online existence is ..shallow.  More than likely I will NEVER meet anyone from SL or WoW or Aion unless I somehow meet them in RL before we find out we're in these digital worlds.

Please don't misconstrue me. I appreciate my online friends, and I try to treat everyone like the real people they are.

But I feel like I'm losing time which I could spend finding RL friends my own backyard. For all the fun and companionship we can find online, it's always going to be lacking one important feature--physical contact.   The "Surrogates" movie has convinced me we are on the path to almost NO physical contact in the not-so-distant future.  Suffice it to say, I will be one of the scruffy weirdos living in the surrogate free zone, refusing to "plug in."  I will be the REAL me, not a perfectly primped, pixel princess.  If you can't know the REAL person you are interacting with, how can you truly ever claim to be that person's friend or LOVER.

It's a difficult question to ask ourselves, "How much time have I put into (fill in the blank) and what could I have done with that time had I spent it in RL?".

I could have finished my novel, taken my camera to innumerable locations and shot thousands of beautiful RL photographs, traveled around this country to see RL wonders and RL friends...

My conclusion is that I need to devote more time to my REAL life.  When I die, will I consider spending a whole month of my life (spread out over the course of a year, but it still wound up being 30 days of my life in hours) a good use of the precious time we've all been given.

Will I think all the hours I've spent fluffing up a gorgeous SL avatar and putting her in a beautiful beach house a good use of my precious time?

My hand is on the plug.