The story appears on

Page B2

December 7, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

DIY unplugging, kicking the habit and breaking 'Net addiction'

MOMO Xu, a 26-year-old editor for a fashion Website, has been staring at her computer screen for half an hour. She scours the Net daily for interesting topics and compiles them into articles for her Website. She's a whiz and she works fast; the Internet is her life.

Today, she stares blankly at the screen. She has encountered a baffling question online: what do you do when you're unplugged?

She draws a blank because she is always plugged in, like millions of young Chinese.

But Xu has decided to disconnect, unplug, kick the habit, break away, to liberate herself - at least from her obsessive free-time use of the Internet.

She and many others like her are Net over-users, some might call them addicts.

For some, it took a parental reminder that they were neglecting family, for others, a health care article made them realize they were overdoing it. Quite a few have examined their own lives, found they were missing out and realized they were spending too much time online.

Many young women also unplug for vanity. It's widely believed by women that prolonged exposure to electro-magnetic radiation from their computers causes pimples, dry skin and premature wrinkles. It is well known that prolonged use causes dry eyes and eye strain and sitting hunched over a screen for a long time is bad for posture and the spine.

There are apparently no support groups for computer addicts in China. These young people now do other things in their spare time, like going to the gym, going to the movies, seeing friends - ordinary things. They're not going cold turkey, however. Moderation is the idea.

Internet addiction is a huge problem in China, which has an estimated 4-13 million addicts (no one knows for sure), mostly young people, such as gamers. Desperate parents cut their connection, send them to harsh boot camps, send them to doctorsand counsellors.

Xu describes the routine she is trying to change:

Every day at work she turns her computer on at 10am, checks e-mail and signs onto her MSN and QQ, browses all the popular forums until lunch. In the afternoon, she picks her topic of the day, does her research online while chatting, edits, checks for updates, sends her work and gets off at 6:30pm.

She has dinner outside, gets home around 8:30pm and plugs in again to check e-mail, update her blog, browse and watch online videos.

"Before I realize it, the time is 2am," Xu says. "I've been like this for so long that I don't remember when and how it started. I didn't think about it until I saw those words: what do you do when you're unplugged?

Sometimes whileshe is eating or sleeping, the computer isstill downloading.

Brenda Huang, who works for a trading company, lives near her office and visits her parents on weekends because her daily commute makes it difficult to live at home.

But at home she's focused on her computer, not her family.

One Sunday evening her mother suddenly asked her: "Can we have a little chat?"

As always, Huang was surfing online as she replied casually, "Okay." Her eyes didn't leave the screen.

Her mother had been watching a TV program about Internet addiction and started telling her about it. "Okay, yes, right," she kept saying as her mother went on.

"You know, after you moved out, we never really talked. You visit every weekend, but all you do for the two days is eat, sleep and type on your computer. It's been like this for months," her mother says.

Huang was stunned as her mother continued to accuse her of neglecting her family.

She had never thought about it before.

"But she's right. If I can stay plugged in for all those QQ and MSN friends that I don't even know well or contact that often, why shouldn't I stay unplugged for my parents?" says Huang.

Since that Sunday, she has left her laptop in her apartment and has been unplugged every weekend when she visits her parents.

Jessica Chen, a graduate student who just turned 25, worries that computer radiation causes premature aging and acne. Of course, skin problems can also be caused by lack of sleep.

"Everyone says women age rapidly after 25, and it's happening to me," she says.

After spending two months intensively working on a paper, she almost screamed at the mirror when saw that her skin was dry and blemished.

Classmates and friends told her it was due to all that work on the computer, which they called one of the "worst enemies of the complexion."

"I really regret it because I spent more time chatting and surfing online than researching my course paper for those two months," she says.

It's difficult for her to concentrate on course work when she's online - chatting and browsing are so tempting. "I waste time, even when I'm quite busy," says Chen.

She decided to get seriously unplugged to save her skin "because I don't want to be covered with pimples for the rest of my life."

Many other young women agree.

"Look at those IT guys - they always have bad skins and less hair, and that's all because they stay in front of the computer for too long," says a friend of Chen's, who is not a medical expert.

Six months ago Chen discontinued her Internet service at home "so there is no possibility of getting plugged in."

Now she goes to the school library for online research and other uses for academic purposes. The quiet serious environment is more conducive to serious work. And she doesn't want people nearby to see that she's just doing frivolous things online and not studying.

Chen also joined a gym with a classmate and the two take yoga or use the treadmill every day.

"I'm not rushing home right after class any more since there is no Internet connection at home and nothing much I can do," says Chen.

"I suddenly find myself with a lot of time and I want to do all kinds of things I never paid attention to before," she says.

Now she does a little tutoring, goes out with friends and plays badminton again.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend