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February 5, 2009

The New Addictions

Email Addiction

woman in office elevator

Photo Credit: Steen Sunland

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"I check my e-mail 100 times a day"

I'm an actress. These days most casting calls are posted online, so if you want to work, you have to be on the Web. Two years ago, I got an e-mail about an audition that was happening that same day — but I didn't see the message until it was too late. Since then I've lived in fear that I'd miss an opportunity if I didn't check my e-mail.

I began logging on to my account over and over again, sometimes 100 times a day. Now I spend maybe 75 percent of my day online, checking e-mail, casting Websites, MySpace, and Facebook. Then I'll circle back and recheck all of them continuously. On many nights, I've stayed up until 4 a.m. doing this. I've even been late for auditions because I was online. Now, I find it hard to communicate any other way — like when I got a message from a casting director who said to call back immediately, and I e-mailed him instead. Of course, he never got back to me.

It's just easier for me to stay behind a computer screen than deal with small talk. A few months ago, I said I'd attend a friend's performance, but at the last minute I decided to stay home and surf the Web. I barely talk to some of my best friends, and if I do, it's through Facebook. I'm opening up to my therapist about my reliance on the Internet and its effect on my relationships, but I'm not sure cutting back is realistic. There are a lot of breaks during TV and film shoots, so I keep my phone close by so I can check my messages.
—As told to Jihan Thompson


Hooked on CrackBerry?
Some 21 million people stay connected via the BlackBerry. A subset of them compulsively check their in-boxes — in the bathroom, on a date, even during sex. For these folks, an incoming e-mail cues the same dopamine kick as a win at the blackjack table.

"Much of what you get on the BlackBerry isn't great, like spam or calls from the dog groomer," says virtual addiction expert David Greenfield, Ph.D. "But once in a while you get a pleasurable hit, like a note from a big client or from someone you love." Jackpot. The hope that someone truly needs or wants you keeps e-mail fiends coming back for more.

NEXT PAGE: "I'm a recovering porn addict"

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