I BEGAN MY slide into Internet obsession way back in 2002, when I wrote what was then quaintly called a “weblog” to document my and my husband’s journey of uprooting our safe lives in Arkansas, selling our house and putting everything in storage, and moving to France to follow in the creative footsteps of painter Henri Matisse. I liked the immediacy of the Internet and soon was putting in 16-hour days documenting our physical and emotional journey—along with travel notes and recommendations so people at home could read my blog and live vicariously through us. Before this, I had never taken a digital photo in my life nor looked at another blog.
This was just the beginning. In December 2006, I switched from a PC to a Mac, enabling me to spend even longer, more delirious hours in front of my computer screen. When The Huffington Post came along, just in time for me to become involved in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, I was thrilled with this liberal outlet and revved up my blogging. Having worked in Washington, on Capitol Hill, I instinctively understood that this new political tool could change the world.
And the slippery slope continued. By now I had fallen in love with my MacBook, and with Apple. It was fascinating, and great fun, to create such a variety of cool media. I stoked up my blog, “Beth Arnold: Letter From Paris,” and watched my very own words fly, like birds, to all corners of the earth. Then Facebook and Twitter came along, and I didn’t think twice about diving in. From there, there was no turning back.
But at some point along the way it all began to feel different. Not as exhilarating. I was sitting in my chair all day, getting no exercise. I had quit smoking and, over time, gained 30 pounds. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. I wasn’t seeing my friends. I lived in Paris, the most beautiful city in the world, and I was hardly going outside.
In the autumn of 2011 I finally faced my addiction. I realized I was burned out—“fried and fragmented” were the words that felt most right to me. The answer was a self-imposed 28-day rehab, which I served on a small island in Greece.
As I began writing about the hard process of reclaiming myself, I realized that what I was doing was important beyond my own case. And in my mind, I began composing the flap copy for a book that would touch millions:
If Elizabeth Gilbert had sought solace from Internet addiction instead of from a crushing divorce, this is the book she might’ve written. Beth Arnold’s 28 days without the internet makes us laugh and cry in equal measure, and not just for Arnold but for ourselves. Arnold’s compelling personal chronicle—of her own slippery slide into virtual life and her courageous effort to escape and regain the wholeness of her humanity—is the book that all frazzled, fragmented 21st-century technoslaves have been waiting for. Even if they don’t know it yet.”