Screens Are Not Addictive Substances

I locked myself in my bathroom one weekend. I had placed all these pillows in my bathtub and curled up behind my computer screen. I shut a word out that I didn’t quite fit into, that was very painful. I locked my parents out who were trying to take my safe place away and keep it barred away from me in a safe. They wanted me to put down my place of safety and escape for a word that was loud and mean and painful. My parents and I fought constantly over these devices that I used to keep my state of mind healthy. We both seemed to speak different languages for they saw my best friend as an enemy and I didn’t have the ability to communicate my needs.

Communication was something that was always very difficult for me. It is so complicated and confusing. As a kid, navigating playground rules and social structures was nearly impossible. Then, I discovered the online world. Online, I didn’t have to be as vulnerable. It was acceptable to create a character and hide behind it. So if I failed, it wasn’t me- it was a character I made. I could put myself out there, without actually putting myself out there. I could try things without fear of failure. Communication was simplified, there were clear cut rules online. For example- you are only supposed to talk about the game you are playing. There is no talking about your personal life or anything vulnerable, for obvious safety reasons. This made the online world feel safe. I wasn’t judged for lack of eye contact, for not understanding body language, for not showing the right facial expression, or for misunderstanding tone of voice.

Offline, communication was so difficult. I was living in a word that was painful and distracting. All the sensory issues I faced and didn’t know how to deal with, made it hard to concentrate on a conversation that I didn’t understand no matter how hard I tried. I felt stupid because everyone else innately seemed to understand things that I spent so much time trying to understand.

I was lonely. I wanted to connect. The computer offered me a safe place to decompress. The computer met a need that wasn’t met offline. I could take what I learned behind the keyboard and translate that offline with my peers at school. I disappeared into my room where it was safe and watched films with characters who could be my friend. I read stories about characters that I could grow attached to. I talked and chatted with people online who seemed to enjoy what I had to say. I felt like I had a voice and an important voice online that wasn’t so loved offline.

The computer stopped being such a need when connections formed away from the screen due to taking what I learned onscreen and applying it offline. When my parents stopped correcting and judging me and I was no longer forced to be typical. I created connection with friends when I had the confidence to be myself and I had the skills to say what I meant.

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