Breaking an E-mail Addiction

ByABC News via via logo

June 4, 2005 — -- When business owner Kevin Kelly wakes up, it's the first thing on his mind. In the car on the way to work, at business meetings and even in the bathroom, Kelly's e-mail is never more than a click away.

Kelly is an admitted e-mail addict and says he compulsively checks his e-mail inbox at least every five minutes.

"I have to keep up with them, so I check them very, very frequently," he said.

He ticks off all the places he checks his e-mail: "In movie theatres, in a dentist chair, on 'It's a Small World' [ride] at Walt Disney World."

Thanks to portable devices like Kevin's Palm One Treo, e-mail addicts have an even easier time getting their fix.

"I feel I have a very special relationship with my PDA," Kelly said. "It's been very faithful to me."

Kelly and his PDA are so closely connected, he engages wife, Stacy, in a Friday night ritual -- PDA sex.

"She has all the appointments for the weekend and we sit down and she shoots them over to me," Kelly explained.

"Kevin gets very excited by PDA sex," Stacy said. "That's his form of intimacy."

Dr. Dave Greenfield, of the Center for Internet Studies, said that Kelly's level of e-mail dependence can't help but impact a relationship.

"What we'll usually see is a spouse who says, 'He's on the computer all the time, or checking [his] PDA 40 times a day, and I feel like they're not really attending to me,'" Greenfield said.

Kelly is certainly not alone. Experts estimate there are 190 million e-mail users worldwide, and Greenfield believes that 6 percent of them could have some form of e-mail addiction -- that's roughly 11 million e-mail junkies.

Kelly's wife says his e-mail "addiction" definitely affects their family.

"Physically he's at all the school functions and he's at all the vacations, but sometimes I'd like him to be there in his mind more," she said. "He could sleep through our kids crying so loud, but if his phone says that he has a new message, he instantly wakes up."

Even Kelly admits that he sometimes puts his digital gadgets over his family. He says his kids say things like, "Daddy, put that down. Let's play a game."

But he says the call of his e-mail is hard to ignore.

"I think it's a habit that's hard to break," he said.

Regina Lewis, an America Online consumer adviser, said that Kelly's level of engagement with e-mail, personal digital assistants and other parts of the wired world is extremely common for many reasons.

Lewis said that in our high-speed digital world, there is a blurring between home life and work life and the proliferation of fun gadgets makes it easy -- and often necessary -- to keep up.

She offered some tips on "Good Morning America" on how to break an e-mail addiction:

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