They oughta send me to rehab

Is there rehab for people who are addicted to email?

One of the hardest things for me to accept as my layoff wears on is the dwindling of traffic in my inbox. I keep it open all the time, and check the tab obsessively to see if the ticker has changed — and every few hours when there’s been no activity I’ll refresh, just to be sure.

Email addiction is the scourge of the modern age. I started out with a home address back in the days when everybody sent jokes to everyone in their address books. There was almost always email in my inbox. Then I got a work email address that kept me occupied for the first hour or so of my night shift. Then I opened a webmail account, not realizing that my home email address also had a webmail option, so that I could send personal emails from work without using my work account. More than a decade later, when I logged on to a computer I’d open up my original personal email, my work email, my Facebook account, my gmail account and my Twitter account . It was constant gratification because one or several of them would be active at any given time, and my mood would lag if any of them went dark for too long. For example, I can tell you that very few of my friends do anything on Facebook between noon and five — because I pay attention. And I miss them. I either have an undiagnosed case of ADD or an addiction.

That constant stream of new information on my social media sites hits a real pleasure centre in my brain — it’s seductive, to think people are out there wanting to contact you, bringingĀ  you new shiny things to look at and think about. And if you’re easily bored, you grow to rely on it for stimulation.

I’m not like one of those Crackberry addicts who has to check every 10 seconds for email — I don’t own a smartphone, which means I can be disengaged from my online habit for hours or even days at a time. But when I’m online, the strategic reallocation of my attention to something other than my email or other social media only happens when they’re not open as a possibility, or when I’m too busy to check them.

The week I was laid off, and the first few weeks of my layoff, when I was actively contacting everyone I’d ever heard of looking for a job, my email inbox was gratifyingly active. But six weeks in, traffic has slowed to a crawl. So buddy, can you spare an email? I’m dying here!