"Do you find yourself losing track of time? Do you regret the things you do on the internet?"

The words sing out of the trailer for Anonymous Anonymous, a new play about internet addiction showing later this month. The metallic voice in the trailer reads aloud from the first website you find if you Google 'internet addiction'. "It's a strange place we're at," says Anonymous Anonymous writer Phil Lindsey. "It's like finding Alcoholics Anonymous in the pub or at the bottom of your pint."



Lindsey is just the latest in a string of young playwrights to focus on how we live with one foot in the digital world, another in real life.

The internet has been on the stage since 1997 but even this year, audiences still crave new perspectives on how the digital world affects society. The popularity of plays such as the Young Vic's man-meets-machine production, Golem, reveals London is hungry for the surge of rising playwrights who put the internet at the centre of their work.

But Lindsey's generation is particularly special. His will be the last to write about the shift from a life without the internet to a life with the internet. The next wave of playwrights, even if they are only ten years younger, will never know that transition. Lindsey still remembers dial up.

For many in the transitional generation, adjusting to life with the internet has proved problematic. Lindsey has struggled: "I went through a period where I couldn't sleep at night without watching something on the internet. I needed sensory stimulation right up until that last moment of consciousness. We've become afraid of silence."

Lindsey's play is being brought to life by a three person team. He collaborates with director Grace Gummer and producer, Felicity Paterson. They are all in their 20s, working under the banner of the Tressillian. Anonymous Anonymous takes place in a setting that echoes a meeting room for Alcoholics Anonymous. A small cast gathers to describe how the internet consumes each of them differently. Among the characters are a lifestyle blogger, a video junkie and a cyber-stalker. They each air their problems to Alison, a DIY councillor who promotes abstinence from online as a cure.

Internet addiction is still fighting for recognition. But like any addiction, it is an impulse that addicts struggle to control. Researchers have said that heavy internet users experience similar withdrawal symptoms to drug users. In 2013, an academic from Swansea University said: "Our results show that around half of the young people we studied spend so much time on the net that it has negative consequences for the rest of their lives."

Although there are strong characters amongst the cast, Lindsey says there is no protagonist. "I wanted everyone to be a protagonist because people are the start of their own lives".

"And that's what it's like on the internet," director Gummer agrees. "The internet is a living, breathing beast. You can't go there to escape; you have to learn to exist within it. I think the way people talk about the internet has caught up with that aspect."

Although the play is its own vision of how the online world has sparked a shift in social behaviour, Lindsey says he made a very conscious decision not to show the internet itself - there are no screens or smartphones in the production. Instead, he wanted to focus on the people and how the characters, of varying ages, deal with life online.

"Human interaction is difficult," says Lindsey. "It's hard to talk to people face to face whereas the internet offers an alternative to those awkward social situations. You can control what you say and who you are - you can edit yourself."

Despite this control, Lindsey describes himself as a "lurker" - he watches the conversation take place, but does not take part. He says the permanence of the internet scares him; how one flippant comment can see you at the centre of a Twitter storm; under attack by "keyboard warriors".

Producer, Paterson, says working on the play has made her think about her own internet use. "I'm on it more often than I'm not. I can be on my fifteenth Buzzfeed article and think, 'What the fuck am I doing?'"

Gummer said she proposed a homework task to the actors in the play. She suggested that they stay away from the internet for a while. She laughs: "They looked like they were going to be sick".

Anonymous Anonymous will be showing at The Space on the Isle of Dogs from 23rd - 27th June. Image: Producer Felicity Paterson with writer Phil Lindsey. Photo by Sarah Moore.