Back when the internet was a novelty, Ee Jay was a young student who got his thrills from exploring the internet after school. “I started off with random website surfing. Friends then introduced me new sites, and gradually I went into chatrooms and searching for inappropriate content,” he said.
Full-fledged web addiction
It was only when his parents' nagging increased that he realised he was excessive in his web usage. Often, his parents had to pull him away from the computer for meals and nag at him to log off the computer to sleep. During school hours, his thoughts would drift back to his online activities. Just to spend time online, he started to lie to family and friends, saying that he had schoolwork to do and was unable to join them for gatherings.
Eventually, he withdrew into his online world, and got involved in an online relationship which spurred him to neglect his responsibilities and roles even further. As a result, his studies got affected. “It was a vicious cycle that reinforced my addiction and obsession with the internet.”
A wake-up call
After months of chatting with his 'online girlfriend,' they decided to meet because he wanted to help with her financial difficulties. Ee Jay approached his mother to borrow some cash and went to meet his 'girlfriend' to pass the cash to her, his mother following him as a safety precaution. To his astonishment, the person who showed up was a middle-aged man! It was a rude shock that put him off online relationships and online chatting.
Road to recovery
Finding his life spiralling out of control due to his addiction, Ee Jay finally came clean to his parents about his lies and inappropriate content he was viewing online. “They were disappointed with my behaviour at first,” he reveals. “But after seeing that I was sincere in wanting to seek help, they decided to take active steps to help me.”
With support from his parents, Ee Jay finally broke free of his obsession after a year; a more well-balanced lifestyle replacing his addiction.
Cyberbullying an impersonator
Ee Jay also had an episode where he turned to cyberbullying. In his tertiary school days, a jealous male friend started a fake Facebook profile to wreck havoc on his reputation. It was not until someone went to verify if the fake profile was his that he realised the truth.
Ee Jay soon discovered the identity of his impersonator – a close friend – and decided to launch an angry tit-for-tat cyberbullying attack on him. His impersonator retaliated, affecting their friends so much that they stepped in to flag their conflict to a teacher. Both were hauled into the teacher's office for a meeting.
What his teacher said next made a tremendous impact on Ee Jay. “Just because you were the recipient of a malicious attack, it didn't qualify you to return it. You could have taken the case to the teachers. But since you took matters into your own hands, that makes you as a bully as well.”
Both men then attended counselling to help them resolve their conflict. “Throwing things out onto the internet wasn't the best thing to do as friends were affected from the conflict as well. After reconciling, we continued to be good friends and work together for studies and exams,” said Ee Jay.
Advice to youths
Learning from his experiences, Ee Jay found that striking a balance with using the internet and his other activities is key. He advised, “Always remember that the internet is just one form of leisure activity, just like any others that we engage in. Don't use it to the point where you neglect other aspects of your life.”
Adding this tip about searching for soulmates on the internet: “If you genuinely want to develop a relationship with someone, slowly transit your interactions offline and get to know the person in real life. While online friendships are fun and exciting, what you see is often not what you will get. Strangers could be hiding behind fake personas with wrongful agendas.”