Balance, and the internet.
A couple years ago, I walked into a boutique in downtown Los Angeles where the owner and I share a very close friend. We got to talking and it turns out our mutual friend had taken a widely publicized uber ride with a pop star.
I hadn’t heard this story yet.
Much to her delight, she got to share it. Her eyes lit up and as the details came forward, we had some great laughs. It occurred to me this conversation would not have happened had I seen the Facebook posts.
At the time of this conversation, I was not on Facebook and it felt so much more authentic to me; it felt fuller and more rich than if I had already known. I wanted to chase that feeling and since then, I’ve tried a few different ways of developing better habits and curbing internet use to do it. First, I’ve had an on again off again relationship with Facebook thinking it was my main time-wasting culprit. It wasn’t. Next, I blocked a few websites, then over time I got more lenient with the list and fell back into old habits.
Even though I’ve curated my social feeds to be only great content that I’ve found to be thoughtful, enriching and inspiring, most of the time I mindlessly scroll through content someone else may have lovingly crafted.
It’s quite the disservice. It’s to the point where I’m just scrolling to space out.
A lot of what I consume on the internet is in bite sized chunks made for scrolling through. The problem is that scrolling though content can produce a semi-catatonic, mindless state.
Tweets and headlines, inflammatory remarks here, terrible tragedy there, sob story here, cute puppies there, pretty things to buy here, stuff I need there.
Over and over again; it never ends.
For me, social and some digital media have become a crutch to limp my way through the slightest sign boredom instead of letting my mind wander into it. To a higher degree, they are an obstruction to my work where if I find myself challenged by any task, I go back to mindlessly flipping through a soothing group of bite-size headlines or scrolling through social feeds.
I once cognitively associated the feeling of opening a new tab and scrolling through some content as “warming.” It was too close to how I’ve heard opioid addicts describe their highs.
The vastness of the internet has drown out my ability to connect with one piece of content at a time due to the knowledge that it is boundless and a need to consume more.
I’m not fully engaged and it’s a problem for me.
The goal of this project is to focus on my work by learning new skills, thoroughly engage with the new humans in my life, strengthen the bonds with my close friends, and immerse myself in a few personal projects.
I’ve heard it takes roughly sixty days to form a new habit depending on the habit. For the next two months I intend to achieve these goals by consuming as little digital media as possible, limiting my exposure to advertising and the 24 hour news cycle, and staying completely away from all social media outlets.
Considering I stand in front of a computer everyday in exchange for a salary, this will be a bit difficult and tricky but, here is what I plan to do:
First, I’ll use the following browser extensions to keep myself in check. Even if I try to navigate to any of the time-wasting websites these will stop me in my tracks.
- Stayfocusd for Chrome.
- Leechblock for Firefox.
- Waste No Time for Safari.
- Here is how I’ll block sites on mobile Safari.
Here is a list of websites I’ve added to the blockers. Some of the sites on this list I visited regularly but, most added from the suggestions.
Next, I’ll use a these tools to aid my quest.
- Adblockplus to block advertising in any other webpage.
- Moment to track my iPhone usage in order to decrease screen time and pickups as I go.
3. Unroll me to keep my inbox clean and void of unnecessary marketing emails.
media I will continue to consume:
- podcasts (where I skip commercials)
- npr / kqed (radio only)
- vinyl, cds, and streaming music
- regular books, e-books and audio books
- Netflix / HBONow (no commercials)
Coupled with a bit of a detox diet known as Whole 30, I’m hoping to regain a sense of focus, the drive to finish projects I’ve started, and the energy to face the new year with optimism. Mostly, I want to be better in every part of my life than I’ve ever been before. It’ll take a lot of hard work. Here’s to facing it head on.