By Andrea Domanick, 17, Harvard-Westlake School
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Andrea would rather be sleeping than checking her e-mail.

LiveJournal starts out like most addictions. At first it’s great, a little treat, a 15-minute escape from life. That’s how it was for me when I started a year and a half ago. I got to hear about what was on people’s minds and talk about what was on mine. And people would respond to my posts about a great concert I went to or my remarks about certain politicians.

But then it goes deeper. These online diaries soon become a social battleground of spilled guts, dirty gossip and incriminating pictures. It turns into a kind of guilty pleasure. I indulged myself more and more, checking for updates a few times a day, and soon feeling "out of the loop" if I missed updating or viewing my "Friends" page (the page that shows the journal entries of your friends) for a few days. You think you can go without it, but you don’t want to. Sitting at your desk, typing an English essay, the paranoia begins to creep in—"I wonder what everyone did this weekend… I bet everyone’s updated… I should update, because people are probably wondering…"

STOP. FOCUS. You type two sentences before trailing off again.

"I wonder if Whatshisface has updated with another highly-intellectual emotional self-evaluation? Or if That Girl wrote more self-deprecating poetry about how nobody loves her? Maybe there’s some great scandalous pictures from the party this weekend…"

The call of the computer

Illustration by Ricky Juarez, 19

MUST. FINISH. ESSAY. But you can’t. You finish another sentence and…

Then check your Friends page. And update. Twice. You write more of your essay and then check your Friends page again. Because who knows what might have happened in the span of 17 minutes. It just might drastically affect your social life. Or not. No matter, every LiveJournal user I know has reached a point where they realize LiveJournal controls them more than they do it.

Still in the social swing of summer, I stayed online all the time when school started in September. Then I realized that three hours of homework was quickly becoming six. Something had to give, and my grades weren’t going to be it.

So, in mid-September, I posted a picture of a hermit crab and announced that I was going to renounce all forms of online communication—LiveJournal, instant messaging, everything—until I could "get a better handle on things." My friends scoffed, saying "Yeah, right. I give you two days." Like most addictions, there were withdrawal symptoms. The high stress of junior year only made me want to update and complain even more. But I held fast and realized that complaining about schoolwork wasn’t going to help me get it done any faster.

Admittedly, I don’t have an iron will. It only took me about three weeks of online deprivation to "get a better handle on things" and eagerly update once again. Now I don’t check my Friends page more than once a day, and I update maximum twice a week. If there are a few days where I know I really need to crack down on my studying, I just don’t go online. Contrary to what many fear, cutting yourself off from LiveJournal and AOL Instant Messenger is not committing social suicide—it’s simply putting things in perspective.