Most of us have a sneaking suspicion that we're just a little bit too hooked on our wi-fi connection. Maybe it was the glazed look we got when scrolling through our news feed or the fact that we tried to have a conversation and tweet at the same time, and now the wrong words are going in all the wrong places.
But we're no worse than anyone else, we tell ourselves. We all have a little addiction. We haven't spent that much time on the internet this week.
Or have we?
How would we even know? Here are some helpful tips for checking whether you've been online a little too much:
1. You know that any article that starts with "7 Ways to..." is obvious clickbait.
Maybe the first few people to post an "X Ways to..." article just happened to stumble on a really good thing. Or they were savvy geniuses with a head for marketing. But now everybody knows: if you want more clicks, put a number at the front.
And those of us on the reading end, we used to be naive. We used to think our interest in these articles was genuine, that the article ideas were brilliant. Now we know better. We've been inundated with lists, and now we're jaded.
Clickbait is real. And we're no longer impressed.
2. But you clicked on it anyway.
Still, you had to know: what were the 7 ways? It doesn't really matter what the article is about. It could be "10 things in your house you should get rid of immediately" or "9 books you've never read that everybody talks about" or even "18 things that will start itching if you think about them too long." The compulsion is there. You must click.
Do you know all 7 ways? Can you guys the 10 things? Do you have 9 more books you need to put on your to read list? And what about those 18 itchy things? You're itching already--is that spot on the list?
We have to know what we're missing. Until we do, we'll have no satisfaction.
3. Because random internet surfing is mildly more interesting than picking your nails.
Which is what you'd be doing otherwise. Never mind that there's probably somebody sitting three feet away from you who, in another world, you would be having a lovely conversation with right now. You'd rather be bored than try to strike up a conversation you don't particularly feel like having.
We could go on about the evils of disconnectedness and the devolution of society, but let's not. That's not really why you're here after all. In fact...
4. You haven't read any of the words in the article except the ones in bold.
Face it. You're just skimming this article to see what the main points are. Once you know none of them are actually important, you'll go back to your surfing, content that you haven't missed anything vital.
We all do it. You see an article called "5 habits to make you a happier person" and you just have to know what the main points are. But you don't have time for a full read. Maybe if you just check the highlights to be sure you're doing all 5 habits... And if there's one you're missing, then maybe you can read the blurb under it, just in case it's applicable.
But you probably won't. As long as you get the highlights, you're set. You'll be happier in no time.
5. And now you're reading the normal print just to prove that you can do more than skim an article.
A bulletin point on an article called you out? How dare it! You'll show that article. You'll read every word, AND you'll remember them all.
6. You can't remember what numbers 1 through 3 were without scrolling up.
Has any of this made any impact at all? Are you really going to remember 7 things from an article you skimmed in passing?
Of course not! Most of us can't remember 7 digit phone numbers any more, much less the brief article we read this morning about... wait... what was it about again?
7. But that wasn't really the point anyway.
You're just killing time. And that article you're reading is just looking for hits.
It's a win-win for everyone.