A retired teacher and author becomes obsessed with blogging...with unexpected consequences.
When Jillian clicked on her web browser icon on a quiet evening in the year 2010, there was no response. She felt the first surge of panic when her home page failed to appear…Now what?
This seemed to happen more and more lately. Along with the other quirky events, like being unable to close the browser when she had finished a session.
Maybe something was broken. Or perhaps she had overused the blogosphere. She had so many blogs to maintain these days, that sometimes she would glance up at the clock and notice that hours had slipped by.
She had even read a blog post about that recently. About getting “lost” in the blogosphere.
That couldn’t happen, of course. Not really.
But now, as she stared at her computer, with its message that the “program is not responding,” she wondered if she could have somehow crossed over into a netherworld…like Alice disappearing into the rabbit hole...entangled in the web. Yeah, that could happen, couldn’t it?
But then, suddenly, her web browser responded and, like familiar magic, the window opened. She sighed as she chose her favorite page.
Several hours later, the sound of the ticking clock reminded her that she had lost herself in these tasks long enough; she clicked on the button to close the window. Holding her breath slightly, she waited. It closed!
What a relief, she thought.
And then didn’t ponder any of it until the next day, when she turned on her computer and opened her browser.
She was posting a blog on her favorite site, the one with the most followers. Sometimes she wondered about the people who followed her blogs. Who were they really? She went to their sites, studied their profiles, and even read all their comments on her posts and other people’s posts. What were they really thinking? And what was their life like outside the blogosphere?
Today’s post was about one of her favorite books. She entered her review, added the picture, and then put her website link at the bottom. There! Maybe somebody reading her blog post today would click on her link, buy one of her books, and the momentum would increase. She would become a bestselling author, just like that!
Of course, it wouldn’t be just like that. She’d been plugging away for two years now, hoping that her blogging adventures would produce the readers she longed for and even deserved. After all, she worked hard at this!
Sighing, she stared at her fingertips on the keyboard. Imagining what went on within the mysterious world of the computer, with its various programs. Especially the Internet. So quirky sometimes, she often visualized it as a huge universe. All the URLs dancing along, waiting for someone to join in their revelry. Maybe they were lined up in some kind of elaborate formation, poised for a virtual performance.
Ridiculous, she scoffed at herself, closing down each window in turn. And today, for some reason, she had no browser issues.
And then it happened again. As she blithely moved from one website to another, the pages started jumbling up, one after another, with a “blank” page joining the ranks and proliferating wildly. What was going on?
She stared at the computer screen, almost as if she were in some kind of trance. Frantically, she clicked on the X to close each window, but the windows refused to cooperate. Instead, more pages formed until she was bombarded with them.
Desperate, she turned off the computer. She couldn’t think of any other way back from this mess!
Later, she e-mailed one of her computer geek friends, who advised her to download a different browser. Warned her of certain steps she should take, since she would be keeping the old browser, but adding the new one as her “default” browser.
So she did that. And noticed a big change in her surfing experience.
Blissfully, she could move between the sites, and nothing untoward seemed to be happening.
But, of course, browsing could bring all kinds of unexpected drama.
One day, as she clicked between blogs, discovering endless new possibilities, she lost so many hours that not only had she failed to notice the passing of time, but she had missed an appointment! How had she completely lost touch with her real life?
One day, while tripping from one blog to another, she heard voices.
What? She spoke out loud in turn.
You know what, a voice responded, almost belligerently.
She waited, wondering what would happen if she ignored the voice.
You know you want to come with us, the voice urged.
She ignored the voice again, and clicked over to a different blog. There!
That seemed to take care of the problem. She heard nothing further for the rest of her browsing session.
She was having drinks with a couple of friends, women she hadn’t seen in the longest time. They were describing some of their “single girls” nights out, and even though she listened, she couldn’t wait for the opportunity to describe her blogging adventures. Poised for an opening, she sat patiently, nodding her head, showing appropriate interest in their stories—and then she plunged in. Describing her blogging experiences, listing the blogs she had authored, and telling about some of the ones she visited.
Marianne and Sheila met her gaze briefly, but their eyes glazed over.
Then Sheila was off again, talking about a shoe sale over at her favorite boutique.
Marianne joined in, without another glance in her direction. Jillian felt dismissed. Patronized, even. What had they said exactly? Oh, yeah…“that’s nice,” they had murmured, before moving on.
Jillian left shortly thereafter. Driving quickly, she felt the momentum growing with each mile she crossed in her journey toward her ultimate destination—her computer!
Weeks passed by, with Jillian leaving her apartment only when she absolutely had to…to run errands, shop for supplies, pick up her mail. Sometimes, days would go by and Jillian would be in her pajamas, hair askew, her eyes blurred over—but her computer was on and she was clicking along the blog pathway, from one point to another.
Sometimes the phone rang, but she ignored it. Late in the day, as she readied herself for bed, she listened only half-attentively, nodding silently at each message, thinking: Oh, yeah, I’ll call her tomorrow.
That’s what retirement was about, wasn’t it? Doing what you loved?
As the days blurred into one another, there was little to hold her interest except her computer.
Sometimes she forgot to eat or to pick up the mail. Unpaid bills stacked up on her hall table, but she ignored them, focusing only on her computer tasks. She hadn’t even written anything lately—just her blog posts. Those kept her focused. She believed they were her Salvation. Without them, she would surely disappear into a world of mediocrity.
Her blogs and her participation in the Blogosphere set her apart from others. She could excel in this Universe, this world of the Web. In fact, without it, she would surely die.
Her biggest fear in life was that her computer would crash.
Newspapers stacked up on her doorstep, but she scarcely noticed, since she didn’t go out anymore. Sometimes, if she thought about food at all, she would reach for the telephone and call in an order.
One day, she realized that her phone was not working.
And then, when she went on the computer, trying to open her Internet connection, nothing happened. An overwhelming fear rose up, like a gorge; she could feel the bile threatening to explode. She thought: my life is over!
Marianne picked up the newspaper on a cold morning in December, and read the headline. Oh, my God! She thought, and then reached for her phone. “Sheila! Have you seen today’s paper?”
On the other end, Sheila seemed to be scrambling around before she finally responded. “There has got to be some kind of mistake!”
“Did you have any idea that she was that far gone?”
“Well,” Sheila mused softly. “There was that time…remember? She was blathering on about her blogs…”
She spread the paper out carefully, studying the headline:
Local Woman Institutionalized
Ms. Jillian McAvoy was found wandering the streets, complaining that her computer was broken. She was thin, scrawny, and disheveled. She continued to rant about her blogs, but when the doctors examined her, they could find no physical reason for her condition. She had apparently stopped eating or even bathing. A 72-hour hold has been placed, pending a psychological evaluation.