Monday, February 27, 2012

I can stop any time I want

I'm starting an internet meme. We have all read those articles (actually, probably about 1/3 of the articles) that say the internet is destroying our attention span and will power and making us stupid. But few of these have much to say to us about kicking the brain-suckage habits.

There are some of us who have no choice but to spend hours a day on it, and few of these articles ever offer any sort of practical suggestions on how to take control of this activity that seems so easily to take control of us.

I've noticed that sometimes I can find myself doing some mindless thing on the internet and not even really be aware of how I "got there" or even, in some cases, how much time has passed.

A recent study found that social media like facebook and twitter can be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.

Experts around the world are seeing a rise in internet addiction and the effects can be just as damaging as drugs.

So, I'm collecting suggestions for an article on how to combat the habits that make the internet into a brain-trap. What do you do to stop yourself melting into the net?

Here's mine: Lately, I've been having a hard time remembering to take my medication, and have often remembered only several hours later than the scheduled time. I have two pills to take each day and they can't be less than about 11 or 12 hours apart, so if I forget to take the morning pill until three pm, then I'm facing difficulties taking the second one. Some days I've skipped a dose because of this and have suffered for it.

So, lately, I've been setting the alarm on my phone for when it's time to take my pills. This has the secondary effect of jarring me out of whatever time-sucking thing that I'm currently fooling around with on the internet, reminding me of the existence of the outside world.

So, in order to try to control my internet use, I thought maybe I'd try to set a timer, to go off once an hour or so, to kind of wake me out of my internet trance state and remind me that the world is still there and that there are other things to do in it.

Another big trap is first thing in the morning, when your will power is not at it's strongest, to have the computer sitting there from the night before on the coffee table. It's not quite the first thing I do every day, (my first thought in the morning is always the same: tea) but when the tea's made and I've brought the tray in and put it on the dining room table, there it is. It says, "why don't you just have a peek around Internetland while you're having your tea?" Next thing I know, it's noon.

The solution to this one is to put the computer away at night. Roll up the cable, pack up the laptop and put it in the cupboard over night. The problem with the net is that it's there all the time and it's really easy to get. You just plop down on the sofa with your tea and toast, open the Mac and voy-lah, you're in again. But I've found that I'm not so far gone that I'll do the morning surf if I have to go looking for the computer and plug it in. So, putting it away at night works pretty well.

OK, now you.



Sylvia said...

Those are good suggestions! I find myself not so tempted to get online at home (though it depends how lonely I feel at a given time) and more when I'm bored at work, so I installed LeechBlock (an add-on to Firefox) to limit the time I spend on Facebook, etc. It doesn't stop be from surfing/browsing the web, but I find that Facebook is a big trigger for mindless perusing of unnecessary data. Also, I've blocked all my favorite online shopping sites. I highly recommend LeechBlock! You can block (or severely limit) whatever tempts you most.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Unfortunately, for me FB is one of my main sources of information for work and for contacts with the people I need to talk to. I really couldn't do my job as well without it and nearly all of my 200-odd contacts are work-related.

Anonymous said...

Until recently I worked as a nanny and so had a very flexible schedule. The temptation to have breakfast with internet time was enormous - but I noticed that it affected how the rest of the day went. So I tried restructuring our day with a focus on morning activity. We'd do the day's big activity (I was looking after a very young child) like swimming or grocery shopping, in the morning, come home and eat lunch, and then while he was napping I'd open up my laptop. I was in a better mood, I gave the child the attention he needed - but also got a proper break and productive computer time. So for me, pushing back the time when I actually started up the computer helped keep things in perspective.

Anonymous said...

One of the most insidious effects of all this new technology we have is that it stops us from paying attention to the world around us, including the people we are with. I once witnessed a mother, who was going into town on the train with her son, completely ignore her son for the whole hour trip while she fiddled with her stupid phone, checking emails, texts, and making phone calls. The whole while the child desperately wanted her attention. The irony, and tragedy, of this situation was that she was taking her son to see a psychologist, because she suspected he had ADHD!!

I struggle with the temptation to surf the net while at work because I'm usually bored out of my brain but I also find that it makes me terribly depressed if I spend too long on it. Facebook I find totally boring, so that's not much of a temptation to me. My biggest weakness is for Catholic blogs! I've confessed it over and over again but can't seem to overcome this weakness. My answer to this is to ultimately find a job which gets me out of the office and away from computers.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Puffin Counter!

BillyHW said...

I'm too far gone.

Felix said...

Re Lydia's comments, I recently went to a restaurant with a relative.

Just across from us, there was a nice young Chinese couple in their early 20s. And the boy was reading a manga comic, while the girl was busy texting.

Mark said...

I heard having a schedule and definite purpose for going online helps. Easier said than done, I'd imagine...

Seraphic said...

I have to leave the house. If I can't do that, then I take the internet cable out of my computer. That doesn't work as well, however.

Teresa B. said...

I only have two children and I homeschool them. They can do alot on their own but I usually have to sit at the table with them as they will take every opportunity to goof off, kick under the table or just stare into space. I tried reading at the table but my head was down. So now I have my laptop at the table and read through some very good websites and then it slides to who wore what to the Oscars! Why am I doing that?
My kids also need the compute once in a while so while I am doing dishes or preparing a meal they can be doing their Math (CD program).
I have other HS moms who contact each others via FB.
I also pass on alot of stuff regarding faith and pro-life stuff to those who would never know about these issues if I didn't post these articles. I go through many news items with my kids (13 & 15) so they are informed.
After school hours - I have a hard time getting off. I look at the kitchen and it is not calling me to do dinner.
But I have a hard time getting off. My son comes up and unplugs my screen every so often.

John said...

No clue. I have no ideas for you at all. The pc is hypnotic.

But then so was the printed word before I'd ever heard of computers. The 90 second task of looking up a word in the dictionary could easily take an hour. I pull it off the shelf to find out what exactly a ptarmigan is, page through it and on the way find out I've been using persiflage incorrectly all these years. And, oh look, there is such a thing as pneumonic plague. How embarrassing. I should never have insisted with whatsisname that what he really meant was bubonic plague. And this looks interesting. . . .

An hour later: why have I got the dictionary? Was I going to look something up?

It's even later for me than for BillyHW. Not only should I never have acquired a computer, I should never have been taught to read.

a Christopher said...

John, that tale sounds just like me! I did have one gradeschool teacher who encouraged such joys; alas, he was a material heretic... I have some hope he snuck into Purgatory, though.

For the internet: Randal Munroe recommends powering down the computer every time you want to switch tasks. I haven't tried it, as my brain hasn't caught-up with when that happens.

Charming Disarray said...

For Lent I decided to partially limit my internet time by not looking at the most time-sucking websites until after dinner. So far it's helping because I haven't tried to cut myself off completely (impossible and impractical) but by avoiding specific things until the end of day I can make sure not to spend hours consumed with reading things or, which is sometimes worse, just thinking and obsessing all day over them. It's helped clear my mind quite a bit.

amy said...

My clever sister had her clever husband install something-or-other that shuts the internet off automatically at 10pm so that she'll get off and go to sleep.

For my part I (1)try to shut all windows and turn off the computer the night before-- it can be easier to avoid if there is no "unfinished business" sitting on the screen. (2) try not to sit with the computer until after some particular time (like after 10:30am) (3) keep a list of stuff to look up to help me remember without getting on all the time (4) keep a to do list in real life and work on checking stuff off (5) go outside (6) go to confession.

As an extreme measure, we are talking about (7) getting rid of the internet. We don't use it for work, so this is an option for our family.

Self awareness is key: I am still battling with the fact that it is quicker to look up a recipe in one of my ten cookbooks than to dare go recipe fishing on google. Recipe hunting is one of my biggest rabbit holes.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I've also started looking up spellings in my dictionaries instead of online. Dictionaries are almost as distracting as the internet, and sometimes can lead me completely away from it for hours on end...

berenike said...

Manic Time Tracker.

Unplug the modem and give it to your granny, or other flatmate, to hide.hem

Plan and schedule things to do, and do them - at least that amount of time is spent constructively.

Get rid of your home internet. You can make lists of things that you need to do online and go to an internet caff every couple of days.