First website. Second website. First website. Second website.
I sit in the room, bathed in fluorescent light and stale classroom air. A distant hum is audible, but my mind is glued with my eyes to my computer screen. The mousepad clicks firmly and the keys tap loudly underneath my fingers.
The professor’s voice comes back into focused audio, but I cannot hold it there for long, and the hum begins again. I click from site to site, checking the same two more frequently than the others, wearing out my mental capacity and the rate at which my computer can keep up with my increasing need.
I should be listening, I think to myself. This content is great and I need to stay engaged so I can write my final paper well. There are only nine people in the class Chris, they know you’re not listening! Chris!
But I can’t stop.
First website. Second website.
I had woken up early this morning. I crawled out of my plush bed with only minor reluctance that dissipated entirely after my first cup of coffee, and shuffled my feet to our living room. I sat down in front of my laptop, forgoing my usual time spent in silence and prayer so that I could get straight to work.
I needed to write. I had to “Do the work,” as a friend had encouraged me to do. I find it therapeutic, and smile in class as I remember the morning act of creation as I wrote out my thoughts. I finished the work and had just enough time to publish it before running out the door to school.
First website. Second website. First website. Second website. Obligatory email check. First website. Second website…
I can’t stop. My brain is going now. How could I have written this better? What are people’s thoughts and reactions? Are my thoughts worth their time? I think through every other word I could have used here, every other sentence structure there.
The girl next to me shifts her weight and clears her throat. She’s on to you Chris, and clearly disapproves of your inattentiveness. But the drug has taken hold, and my fingers itch and my foot taps as I continue to flip flop back and forth online, hoping that these little graphs will continue in their upward trajectory.
How did I get this sucked in so quickly? How is it possible that I am virtually incapacitated in the middle of an interactive group discussion? Why can’t I stop checking these sites?!
I lower my head in shame and embarrassment. These websites are the ones where I can track how many people look at my posts, like my content, approve of my life. And they are controlling me.
Is this why writers write? Is this where you’re going to derive your artistic approval, a bunch of people you barely know who click a button with a thumbs up sign on it? Really Chris?
Someone drops a book and a thought comes into clarity as quickly as my attention returns to me:
Leaders are not addicted to their followers.
I close my laptop.