Brother, can you spare some wi-fi?

If you're the sort of person who checks e-mail while you're in the shower, then this column's for you.

The nation is addicted to e-mail, perusing it around the clock and sometimes in the most inappropriate places, according to a survey by Opinion Research Corp. and America Online.

(We'll pause while you mop up the beverage that you spewed when you read that America Online, one of the nation's largest providers of Internet service, is talking about e-mail "addiction." You've still got a little something on your chin. There, that's better.)

The survey of 4,012 American adults in 20 major cities found that most rarely go more than a few hours without an e-mail "fix." They spend an average of an hour a day on e-mail, and rely on it for communication as much as they do the telephone.

The average user has 2.8 e-mail accounts, the pollsters found. They did not specify how many accounts were devoted strictly to porn.

Forty-one percent of respondents check their e-mail first thing in the morning, and 40 percent have logged on in the middle of the night. Twenty-six percent say they've never gone more than two to three days without checking their e-mail, and 60 percent use e-mail while on vacation.

A whopping 61 percent confessed to checking their personal e-mail while at work. About one in 10 say they've gotten in trouble for doing so.

All these responses fit the standard symptoms of addiction: Can't leave it alone, even when it steals time away from family and responsibilities. Always thinking about it, even losing sleep over it. Can't take a vacation without having it along. Willing to risk disciplinary action at work rather than miss the latest corny joke being circulated among your friends.

The survey found that most any location is fair game for e-mail addicts. Twelve percent admitted to checking their e-mail while in class (and we wonder why our education system makes that large flushing noise) and 8 percent dip into e-mail during business meetings. Six percent check their e-mail at the beach or a pool, thereby defeating the whole reason for going to the beach or a pool.

You'd think the bathroom would be sacrosanct, but no, four percent admit to checking their e-mail there. A bathroom does seem the appropriate place to sort through "spam."

Finally, 1 percent confessed to sneaking looks at their e-mail in church. I'm no theologian, but I'm pretty sure those people are going to Hell.

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