My relationship with the internet is a love-hate type of relationship. The love part is easy to see. Googly eyes, slobbery drool, drunken teenage stupor kind of puppy love. If you ask my husband, he would likely tell you that I am obsessed with Instagram. And it’s true. I am OBSESSED with Instagram, in a very unhealthy way. If you have me added as a friend on Instagram, you likely already know that in the past, I used to post once a day. Until I added a second account, which then made it twice a day. Some of you scoff, because the truth of the matter is that I actually have three accounts. THREE. Not including the other accounts I couldn’t keep up with and had to delete. And on one of those accounts, I have admittedly posted 4-5 times a day. I am seriously obsessed with social media, and have been for a very long time. Before I had Instagram, it was Facebook. And before Facebook, Myspace. And before Myspace, Xanga and Melodramatic. It was something that my generation grew up with, which is hardly an excuse, and something which affects the younger generations more profoundly than me.
Let me stop here and briefly say a thing or two about how I perceive social media. In my eyes and in my mind, social media is a platform that many people, including myself, use to portray an image that we want the world to see. It may be a true image, or it may not be a true image. Even if it is your true self, only a select part of your life is posted for the scrollers and their double taps. It is still an image. The surface of a body of water, flat, with no depth. I have spent hours and hours creating the reflection of myself in cyberspace, having wasted probably half of the last decade focusing on this (insert sarcasm) super important aspect of my life. I mean, image is everything, right? (Let that sarcasm drip.)
But let’s not stop at social media. I use the internet for other things too. I am obsessed with checking my email frequently, as well as checking my text messages to see if a red number bubble has popped up on the corner of that green little box. It is important to clarify here that I rarely get texts at all. I could hardly be considered the popular type, preferring being tucked away with my books in odd nooks and crannies. Despite this fact, checking my phone is an instinctual habit that I developed over the years. I am obsessed with looking up new releases of products from brands that I am loyal to. Even though I don’t buy said products, I want to be the first to know what new item other people come up with. I am obsessed with following people’s lives that I don’t know. Not even famous people’s lives! Mostly people who are creative, who throw events that showcase their new avant-garde ideas. And while it is a great source of inspiration, the extent to which I follow these people has become unproductive, at best.
It is safe to say that I love the internet for these aforementioned things.
But God how I hate the internet. Well, I don’t truly hate the internet. But I do hate the way I have interacted with the internet.
In my humble opinion, the internet has become the biggest food source for feeding my ego. And by ego, I mean the Eckhart Tolle definition of the word. Ego as our inner narrator, our sense of “I”, the voice in our head. Ego has it’s signature moves. The ego is never satisfied. No matter how much stuff we buy, how many accomplishments we achieve or delicious meals we consume, the ego never feels complete. The ego is constantly comparing itself to others. It has us measuring our self-worth against the looks, wealth, and social status of our neighbors. The ego thrives on drama. It keeps old resentments and grievances alive through compulsive thought. But most importantly, the ego robs us of life’s present moments. The ego is obsessed with the past and the future, at the expense of the right here, right now. I have primarily used the internet as a tool to try to satiate my forever unsatisfied ego. Vanity at its worst, I have found that my inner self continually tries to see what my friends, family, acquaintances, hell, even random strangers, are up to in their lives. There is a constant nagging voice in my head telling me that somebody MUST “need” me right at this very moment, prompting me to check the screen every few minutes. How egotistic is that? I feel the need to check constantly in case a life or death emergency comes along and somebody needs me. When really, truth be told, in a true emergency, I am pretty sure my friends and family would be calling 911 first, or well I hope they do. Even if they did call me, I would probably tell them, “You should call 911 right now.” Pretty much, if you are reading this, don’t call me in the case of an emergency, okay?
In addition to allowing the internet to feed my vanity, I have allowed the internet to eat up so much of my precious and valuable time. All this talk about decluttering and minimizing in order to live a slow, simple, and meaningful life cannot save me from the single fact that the internet adds so much noise to my every day. My thoughts are constantly fragmented, disconnected from each other, interrupted by every silent whisper telling me to go online to check what I’ve been missing in the last five minutes of everyone else’s life. That’s exactly what it is! I am missing out on so much of my own life because I am continually concerned with everyone else’s life. Anyone else? Don’t get me wrong, the internet adds value to my life too. I mean, you’re reading this ON MY BLOG. And I couldn’t have graduated dental school without Google, let me tell you that. So yes, the internet has its uses. But it has definitely been overused (by me) and has prevented me from creating the particular lifestyle that I am currently working towards. The internet is a wonderful source for, well everything. But that’s just the problem. I don’t want everything anymore.
I am constantly being informed of what new products are out, which trends are popular, where I have yet to vacation and explore. The internet has on blast what my family and friends are up to, who made it to that last party, what so and so just bought, who that one-girl-i-met-once-in-passing just got engaged to, blah blah blah. I wake up every morning and go on automatic scroll mode. My fingers are cramping from double tapping for two hours. I seriously think I’ve cross-eyed myself because of all the fast scrolling I’ve been doing. And the worst part is, I end up despising myself every time I binge on surfing the net. I literally would look forward all day to get home and relax after work, and then come home, and turn on my phone. The next thing I know, it’s 9:30pm and I have to start getting ready for bed.
I have been working pretty hard to minimize the excess unnecessary STUFF and have cut out those which do not add value to my life, only to realize that I am still so far from living a very meaningful life. There is plenty of room for improvement. Where I am succeeding in terms of physical clutter, I am failing in terms of mental clutter. There is so much noise around me, and I want to start focusing on cutting the fat out of that. I use the internet as a pacifier 99% of the time. Like others use Netflix, or TV or weed or chocolate or coffee, I use the internet as a crutch, a drug, a way to pass time, not even for enjoyment, but just to fill a void. Like everything else, it takes up space in my life and currently, it is using up way more space than I want it to. It’s a problem and I’d like to fix it now. My initial thought was naturally the extreme method of cutting out excess noise: Killing the internet at home. Quit cold turkey. Go big or go home. But I live with another person and that is absolutely not (“no way!”) an option. Trust me, I asked. Morals of the story here: What does not add value to your life, may add value to someone else’s, and, it is never a good idea to try and change somebody. So with plan A out of the window, I have plan B, which took shape based on a friend’s internet policy. I figure I’d start with a 30 day trial run to see if removing internet use at home would add value to my life. Here are some goals I have for reducing wasteful internet use.
- Upon getting home, separating myself from my phone, by placing the phone in a designated space and then letting it go.
- Putting the phone on Silent and removing Vibrate.
- Checking email only once a day.
- Entering Airplane mode when going to sleep.
- Not keeping the phone on the bedside table.
- Allowing only maximum 2 hours of Internet time per week (plenty of fun time!)
- Making a list of things I want to watch, listen to, or look up, and setting the list aside until the designated time to use the Internet.
- Removing notifications and phone apps
Even as I am writing this list, I am having second thoughts, doubts, and heart palpitations. I’d imagine this must be what it feels like to abstain from an addicting drug. Because that’s exactly what it is. But I should stop being a baby, quit my whining, and just do it. The worst that could happen is that I hate it, and then revert back. The best that could happen? I could start reading more, writing more, exercising more, trying more, focusing more, dreaming more, healing more, sleeping more, inspiring more, connecting more, loving more, living more.
If you have any suggestions at all as to how to minimize internet use or mental clutter in general, let me know! I am all ears.