Miriam Carney, a Registered Nurse, became addicted to the internet in 1995-96. The computer was just making its way into American homes and the cost was a mere $2.95 an hour to get connected to the internet. AOL included a CD Rom with ten free hours with each new Hewlett Packard personal computer. Miriam used those up in one day. The rest is her story.
Caught in the Net
Miriam Carney, is a Registered Nurse and mother of four daughters. In 1995, she was involved in an automobile accident which necessitated neck surgery. During the period of recovery, Miriam had to wear a neck brace. It was also during this time that her eight-two year old father had to come and live with her due to declining health, her nineteen year old daughter came home from college pregnant, Miriam was going through a divorce, she had a three year old and she had two teens at home. Needless to say, Miriam was a bit overwhelmed.
The family decided on a family Christmas present that year . . . a personal computer. Miriam's daughters told her they were instruct her on its use. They told her about "chat rooms," "instant messaging," and "emailing" . . . all of which she knew nothing about. Out of work and with time on her fingers, Miriam got lost in cyberspace. Her children saw the back of her head for close to a year. The initial cost was $2.95 an hour. Her online bills were over $500 a month! Then, of course, there were the long distance calls to talk to the people she had "met" on the computer. One long distance call ran $35.00. It was out of control and Miriam knew it but she didn't know how to find her way out of the net. Miriam tells her story of the year that she was literally "Caught in the Net."
I used up the ten free hours in the first twenty-four hours, so the $2.95 an hour kicked in. The kids really liked the chat rooms for their age group. They talked about alternative music, and other things that were important to them. I, on the other hand, really "loved" the chat rooms, and I found adult company. I found men and women who looked forward to me signing on. They were capable of writing me an instant message that would trigger a bell to ring and
messages such as "Hi Sunshine! How are you today? Hope you are feeling better. You sound like such a nice lady. Hope to get to meet you someday." All of these messages would come flying across the screen and it brightened my day. This is how the addiction began.
I would go on the computer when I first woke up, actually before the first cup of coffee. Turning on the computer became my caffeine. It
made me feel alive, and I began to feel hope--instead of hopeless. I felt accepted, and intelligent. I felt things like I hadn't felt in years. I
even felt younger. I knew there was a life beyond the struggle I had been dealing with at home . . . even if the life was on a screen. I didn't see it as a dead end, I saw it as a way to
meet people . . . exciting people. People wrote to me who lived thousands of miles away, or under an hour away. I would "chat" with attorneys, doctors, nurses, housewives, and
military personnel. I was convinced, and so was my family, that in a week’s time, I had chatted with all 35,000,000 people signed on to America On Line.
I got used to the neck brace. I couldn't drive until early February, so I resigned myself to the fact that if I could not drive to Wichita, I could at least visit it on line. I mention Wichita, Kansas because this was the home state of my first on
line love. My friend Marion, who was also an RN, was visiting one day. I was showing her how neat the computer was. As I was instructing her, an instant message flew across the screen, "I like your profile. I would
like to get to know you". Marion and I both giggled like two schoolgirls. A profile is the scoop on a person who is on line. Hopefully, it is written with honesty and integrity. Some
people elect to have no profile at all. It basically defined who you were in a few sentences. It could be brought up in an instant. Hopefully,
what was written was the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I checked out this gentleman's profile, as he had done with me, and I liked what I read. It was potential love at
first sight unseen.
Jack was from the Land of Oz, as I called his home state of Kansas. He was five years younger than me . . . (very flattering I thought) . .
. and he had never been married. He had a way with words, and what started out to be an instant message, became a way of life. We began to meet each other "on line" after Jack's shift would end. He worked at a correctional facility outside of Wichita. This
meant that I would wait up until 12:45 a.m. my time, which was 11:45 pm. Kansas time. After a few days, we wrote about speaking on the
phone . . . to hear each other's voice. I made the first call. I didn't want to give out my phone
number to a stranger. The first call lasted five hours. He had a very nice voice and his laughter came easy. My next months phone bill reflected $38.65 for that one call . . . just that one call. There were many more calls that followed. He would call on Sunday evenings, and we would take turns. Thank God one of us knew the word frugal, at least where the phone was concerned. Otherwise, we spent at least two hours on line at night. We shared our lives over a screen. I had never been a night person. Ten o'clock was my bedtime, sometimes eleven, but two in the morning was unheard of.
Christmas Day came, with my brother,
sister-in-law and nephew visiting from New Jersey. They got a glimpse of the beginnings of the addiction. I showed them the computer . . . I showed them how you found people to write to.
My brother just shook his head and smiled, as he saw his sister changing before his very eyes. He wasn't sure who or what I was changing into, so he just smiled and said, "You'd better be careful with that computer".