by Brian Keith Giovannini
I've seen students hooked on a myriad of substances. I had a friend once who went a whole semester in a drunken stupor. Another pal of mine, not quite as close, used to smoke at least three jays a day to keep his mind "focused on his creativity." I've seen students on pot, acid, meth, X -- the whole gamut.
The most pathetic addiction I've ever seen, however, is that of my dear friend Worgl who is hooked on Internet Relay Chat.
For those who are not familiar with the mechanics of IRC, it operates much like a party-line phone call, with people joining and leaving "#channels" throughout the day.
The #channels are usually named relevantly. The discussion on #pinkfloyd usually has Pink Floyd undercurrents. The discussions on #beastsex ... well, let's just say I wouldn't know.
IRC is considered by many to be the underbelly of the Internet -- chat rooms where conversations are rarely of an intellectual nature. Unlike its intellectual Net counterpart, UseNet, where people occasionally post insightful, well-reasoned, messages, IRC provides no such stimulating discussion. Instead, IRC conversations usually devolve into a name-calling tantrum, a fit of silly nonsequiturs, or an act of pointless Netsex. The IRC user is indeed searching for that "quick fix."
This brings me back to my friend Worgl. I have watched his progress from the first day he tentatively tried out a few channels after being lured onto IRC by his girlfriend. He is now a full-fledged IRC addict, spending sometimes more than 16 hours a day facing the monitor, talking to unseen shadows in the crevices of cyberspace.
I have seen him stay awake for 36 hours at a time, rarely sleeping or eating for fear of missing some conversational tidbit on his favorite channel. I've seen him miss work because he fell asleep just moments before the alarm rang. I've seen him become more bitter and hostile toward his friends; his grades have slipped; his finances are in shambles -- all of this due to the addictive nature of IRC.
With whom does he converse? Well, I've had the most unpleasant opportunity to sit in with him during a few of his "sessions." After trading idle chit-chat with people in Slovenia and Norway, he'll turn and start hitting on a 15-year-old in San Jose, Calf. I've tried many approaches to curing him of his IRC habit, but none has proved to be the solution. I've pulled him away for hours at a time to go to dinner and drink a few brewskis ... but all to no avail. After a couple of hours, his hands start trembling and his eyes glaze over as his mind wanders back to all the people that could be logged into IRC.
At that point, I know it's useless to engage him in further banter. I reluctantly allow him to go home and log back in -- if he ever logged out to begin with.
And so he sits, bathed in the pale glow of his monitor, as life slowly ticks away.
Giovannini is a senior Italian studies major.