Feature | Fall 1997


Confession of an AOL Addict

Okay. It's true. I'm addicted to the Internet. More specifically, I'm an America Online addict. How did this happen? Well, it all started a year and a half ago when I invested some money into buying a computer. It was for "professional development purposes," I told myself. But after being bombarded with hundreds of floppy disks proclaiming "15 free hours" of America Online, I decided to give it a shot and see what the whole thing was all about.

At first, it was nothing spectacular enough to make me get too excited. I got e-mail, had access to news information whenever I wanted, found some neat video games to download, and was able to browse the "world wide web," which didn't seem to run all that fast - a problem I quickly remedied by boosting the memory in my computer.

Then I found them: chat rooms. With names like "Los Angeles m4m", "Los Angeles m4m Now", and the ever-popular "Latino m4m", how could I resist? It all started innocently enough - a little conversation here, another one there. Soon the little conversations evolved into hours of conversations that ranged from talking about music and movies to flirting. Sexuality seems to rule in cyber world and so my next step involved trading some x-rated GIFs, not of me of course, but of other firme Latinos (for those not familiar with internet, GIFs are what we call photos that have been electronically scanned). I must say, I've acquired quite an extensive library of GIFs on my computer in the year and a half I've been online. Then came the discovery of cybersex - typing dirty things to other guys and seeing how aroused I can get them. The anonymous nature of the internet opened me up to doing things I wouldn't normally do or say in person. It's a bit silly to me and I usually find myself laughing my head off, envisioning what the other guy is doing as I describe to him all sorts of sexual things. Nevertheless, it can be a lot of fun to just be able to say anything that comes to mind. It's a world of fantasy where anything you say goes, and where even the shyest guy can take on a completely different personality.

Eventually, it came time to meet some of the more seemingly "normal" homeboys that were behind the other screens. I've met several people this way. Some have become good friends while others, I have never seen again since I met them. Most of the rendezvous were highlighted by a hug, a handshake, or even less. This is mainly because the guys were not all that they claimed to be, and their photos just didn't truly represent their appearances. Other meetings, however....well let's not go there. Unfortunately, finding true love on the internet has been elusive to me. Then again, where can you find true love? The clubs? The party lines? The gym? Church? Anything's possible I say, but don't get your hopes up too high.

What's sort of ironic is that the coolest people I've met online are ones that I've never met in person. I have several of these relationships. Some I've known since I first logged on over a year ago, and we have become like "personal psychotherapists" to each other. These are people with whom I can share my problems and frustrations as well as my good times in a non-threatening and open environment. Even while I was in a short-lived committed relationship (ironically, with a person I didn't meet through AOL), they were there to listen to me bitch about it, give advice, and cheer me up. Today, we still bitch, but mostly about our jobs, our boredom, our romantic affairs, and so forth. And we congratulate each other when things are going well.

But despite all the cool people and not-so-cool people I've met, I often find myself wondering how it is I can spend so much time on this damn computer. I spend more time online than I do watching television. I get home from work, and I can't wait to check my e-mail to see if someone sent me anything. I suppose it could be worse in that my addiction could be to drugs or alcohol. It's not like it gets in the way of my goals or my job, though I have noticed I have to be more careful when I write a memo at work because I tend to use a lot of the abbreviations that I use when I type online. And aside from my friends getting a busy signal because I'm online, I can't say that my social life has suffered too much. Then again, I didn't have much of one to begin with, anyway!

So where does this all end? Does it have to? What's wrong with sitting in front of my computer screen for an hour or so every day and chatting with people from all over the country? It's cheaper than party lines...only $19.95 a month...and I split that cost with my roommate so it's less than $10. And I actually do sometimes use it for professional purposes and for doing research on projects. What could be more convenient? I'm single, so it's not like I'm out to cheat on anyone. Maybe I am an addict, but you know what, I can live with it. So now that I've settled that, it's time for me to go log on.... :-)

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