Is anyone else completely overwhelmed?

Internet, I love you but you’re bringing me down.

My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and I try to start the day by reading a little in bed. Currently, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. Last week, The Element by Ken Robinson. I’m drowsy first thing but reading a book provides a gentle easing in to the day. Gradually, my eyelids stop feeling like they’re on the verge of closing. Then as the clock strikes seven, my attention turns to my phone.

And it begins.

Flipboard!
Instagram!
Instapaper!
Timehop!
Twitter!

*Gasping for breath before my head is thrust back underwater*

Fast Company!
Feedly!
Guardian!
Kickstarter!
Medium!
Overcast!
Quora!
SoundCloud!
Tumblr!

And just when you thought it was over…

Emails!
Emails!
SO! MANY! EMAILS!

Then when I’ve finished hacking through my inbox, I hear something scrabbling in the undergrowth behind me. What’s that sound? Oh, sweet Lord, it’s Duolingo! Flanked by Snapchat, Vine and Spoken!

Do you know what I’m talking about?

It’s like my head is being squeezed by four enormous hands — Schwarzenegger crushing my skull from the front and back, Dwayne Johnson from the sides—and I can’t escape. I sit there, looking at my computer and phone in a state of paralysis. My whole body is tense. And the only thing that relieves the tension is shutting my laptop, putting my phone on airplane mode, and stepping out of the door into the real world. Instantly, the tightness that’s been gripping me slips away.

Does anyone else feel completely overwhelmed?
The author’s computer, 8.7.15.

I want to keep consuming things and getting smarter. I want to use my brain to absorb new ideas. I want to read articles, listen to podcasts, check out new bands. From a ~werk~ perspective, I want to stay ahead of the competition and know about the latest news, tools and trends before everyone else. But there’s just. so. much.

And it never stops! The internet never sleeps. There are incredible tools emerging all the time, like this new audio website, Spoken. Right now it feels kind of manageable, like Medium used to: highly curated, and not too much ‘content.’ Or Twitter in 2008, when my housemates and I basically used it as a private messaging service while we were at university. But it won’t stay that way — nor should it. You can’t simply put a cap on the internet. It’s not a club where you reach capacity and start refusing entry: there’s no one in, one out door policy. The sad irony is that something that should make our lives so much richer is now something we’re struggling to control, leading to the rise of digital detox holidays et al.

And that’s just the online stuff. There’s a mountain of books on my shelf that I’m trying to scale, an ever-growing Amazon wish list of 250+ books (which terrifies me, because even if I manage to read 50 books a year, that’s five years of books to tackle). And even though season 2 was patchy, I’d still love to watch season 3 of Orange is the New Black. One day.

This has gone way past FOMO: it’s the utter paralysis of choice. I feel swamped. And I can’t be the only one.

Some observations:

  • I feel so much healthier when I don’t look at my phone or use my computer. Sane, relaxed, present.
  • When I’m without my phone and computer on holiday, or on tour somewhere where I can’t use data, I don’t miss it. I love having the time to write, think and talk without something buzzing in my pocket every few minutes. Surely tech should make my life better, freer — not akin to a prison?
  • Lately, I’ve noticed that once I’ve finished my work and answered all my emails and I have twenty minutes to spend on the internet, I can’t decide what to do. Choosing between all the above things leaves me in a state of paralysis. How are those minutes best spent? Whatever I click is going to leave me with more that I could ever read. How do other people read so much? I know comparison is the thief of joy, but I see other people tweeting about a new blog they’ve written, or article they’ve read, and I berate myself for not being as creative or productive as they are.

Some questions:

  • How do you decide which apps and websites to check and which to ignore? Because I sure as hell can’t keep up with all this stuff. Do you check different things on different days? Have you cut some of these apps and websites out of your life? Seriously, what’s your system? Let me know.
  • Should we all throw our phones in the ocean (as Austin Kleon suggested)?
  • Will I ever read everything in my Instapaper account?
  • What’s your healthy balance? Is this a personality thing — do some of us need more time outside, away from our devices, than others? I’m fascinated to know how everyone else feels about this stuff.

I have some suggestions for escaping this feeling of total overwhelm and I’ll share them in a post next week, along with some of your thoughts. Together, we can do this.

Drowning,
Luke

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