Our old broadband internet modem gave up the ghost four days ago. It had been “flickering” for a couple of weeks, sometimes working, sometimes not. I’d plugged and unplugged, jiggled wires, and done all of the things that a non-geek like me might do to fix it, but to no avail. It was the old kind that plugs into the computer with a wire. What a great excuse, I thought, to go to wireless. I could cart my laptop anywhere in the house and use it. Sweet!
So it was off to the local electronics store, and a couple of hours later I had a brand new wi fi modem/router up and running. But something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t the computer, and it wasn’t the modem, it was ME. I felt like my whole body was buzzing. My head felt “stuffy” and “hurt”[i], my neck and throat felt sensitive, like the glands were playing up, my ears were buzzing, I felt “on edge”, and all I wanted to do was get as far away from the computer as I could. Which for me is pretty bizarre behaviour because I can easily spend hours at the computer and completely lose track of time. And even when it went into the next room, or two rooms away, I still felt “disturbed”.
I know I’m somewhat sensitive to electromagnetic radiation. When I was up at Victoria University a couple of years ago, there were two computer rooms (rooms full of computers for student use) that used to bother me, and I couldn’t tolerate more than an hour or two working there before I started getting a headache. Oddly, other computer rooms didn’t bother me very much, nor did my office. I figured it had something to do with the significant mass of electronics in one enclosed area and maybe something to do with signal direction and my personal positioning.
I also know I sleep better having banished the cordless phone, tv (traditionally left “on standby”), and glowing clock radio from my bedroom. Still, I had not anticipated such an acute and distressing reaction to the installation of a wireless modem in my home. I’ve visited and even stayed with friends who had wireless modems and have not experienced any noticeable discomfort. I tried unplugging the modem. After a few minutes, the acute discomfort subsided, although the buzzing in my ears continued. Plug it back in, and BAM—I’m back in the distress zone. Whoa! Bizarre.
I gritted my teeth and spent a few minutes googling for information about what I was experiencing, and discovered it’s called electromagnetic sensitivity, and that there isn’t much hard research about it. No one even knows how many people are afflicted, and those that don’t experience it are often sceptical of those who do (at least based on comments left on this Squidoo blog titled "Wifi Headache - Myth or Health Risk?"). I found a couple of useful sites, but couldn’t even manage to stay on line long enough to read them due to the extreme discomfort.
Two days later—the stores were closed on Easter Day—it was back to the electronics store to get a new wired modem. (Can’t be without my internet fix, can I?) Brought it home, plugged it in, and although it wasn’t nearly as bad as the wireless, it still bothered me. I tried moving the modem behind a metal filing cabinet. Nope. Did using the computer with the modem turned off bother me? Nope. I tried hooking it up with the old cable (a long blue one) and that was better, but I’m still feeling a little “tingly”. I’m sort of wondering if a “blast” of electromagnetic energy from the wi-fi has now made me even more sensitive than I already was?
In the next post, I’ll share some information I’ve managed to glean from several sites on the internet. And if you’ve had any sort of experience with this phenomenon, I’d be interested in hearing about your experience.