Fairweather knows what it’s like to be addicted to a cellphone or the internet. She knows how it feels to be distracted from the life in front of you by the hope that there will be something of interest in your email. She knows how an hour can go by while you scroll through Facebook, intending only to take a quick look, and at the end of it find yourself unsatisfied, remembering nothing you’ve seen. She knows how it is easier to pull out your phone or flip open your laptop than it is to engage with the person in front of you.
She’s been there, recognized what it did to her, and set it aside. She’s set up some boundaries for herself, only looking at Facebook on Saturday and Twitter on Sunday, for instance, and setting a timer when she does. She’s organized herself to work in the mornings and not poke around the internet, where she could intend to spend only half an hour and come out of her screen stupor surprised to find herself four hours later, having done nothing. She’s taken her life back. It’s been a long time coming.
For years, Himself criticized and resented her time on the computer while he was watching TV every evening. He wanted her in the room with him, doing what he was doing. “Computer Girl,” he called her sarcastically. “It’s only a tool for reading and writing,” she retorted, “so why is that bad? It’s what I’d normally be doing every chance I got, anyway.”
But it’s more than a tool. Distraction seems to be built into it when you access the internet. And it takes a long time for most of us to learn that we need to control that distraction.
After 20 years, Fairweather has figured that out.
Now she is observing Himself in the throes of zombie-brain, nose in phone or tablet all morning and afternoon instead of going to work (very weird, as work has always been his meaning for existence) or finding work to do (it’s not as if his business billing is up to date, not as if there aren’t customers waiting for him to do jobs, not as if there isn’t anything to do around his own home), nose back into it all evening again.
She criticizes him for it far less than he criticized her. But she’s finding it extremely unattractive. He was a man of action … once upon a time. Now? Sitting in his underwear on the couch whenever he’s home, staring at a computer screen. Fairweather can see this isn’t healthy, but doesn’t think there’s anything she can do to help. He has to come to it on his own, just like she did. She hopes it doesn’t take him 20 years.
He has, she’s noticed, walked across the room to dry dishes a few times lately when she was at the sink. That’s a major improvement.