“Endless pleasure becomes its own form of punishment.”
— Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic
This article is a continuation of my Quest for Digital Minimalism post. I got really moved by reading the material that inspired my post, but never took any real action. Instead, I did some hacks but in reality, was afraid to change how I approach my time on the internet. I didn't practice what I preached and I wanted to be held accountable.
I decided to be much more conscious about my time online and using electronic devices. It was an accumulation of feeling losing track of time, being distracted enough to do meaningful work and looking for that dopamine fix on the internet. Essentially I was spending time online as a way to distract myself from my problems and responsibilities.
Most specifically I wanted to change three things:
- Reserve mornings for myself
- Eliminate distractions during work hours
- Do more with my free time
The fear that something extraordinary is going on and we're not present, looking or just not being aware of it. Thankfully we can amend this and we're only a few clicks away! And we do it over and over again. To the point, it happens mechanically, and we become observers losing focus on what is important for us. Living a reactive life.
Am I too dramatic? Probably, but that's how I feel about it sometimes. I may be losing the sense of direction in life, but lemme grab the laptop real quick and let's not overthink about stuff.
And then I wake up. And I grab my phone. The world has definitely moved on while I was sleeping, but maybe cooking a nice breakfast and taking some time to be thankful that I'm still alive, are more important actions.
It's strange really. I used to pride myself that I don't watch TV, but I'm all over the sports subreddits and internet flicks. I may not use the traditional medium, but I'm still a couch potato.
So the first realization is to accept that I will not be up to date with breaking news and the latest viral videos. Frankly, I would trade all of that for peace of mind and a regained sense of wonder.
My plan is very simple. Every time I want to check something on the web, instead I write it down. I want to buy a light-hearted book for my vacations, so searching for it goes to my list. I won't let it hijack my time. Checking my RSS feed, YouTube subscriptions, Twitter, or how to do the robot dance are entries in this list too.
Then I allocate at maximum an hour of my time in the evening to go through the list. If I have no more items, I stop. This timeslot also includes paying bills and responding to e-mails, so I have to weight in what's important and needs priority. If I don't go through all of them, too bad, I have to move on with my life.
Ultimately, you find out that some of the stuff that you would browse the web for are not worth it. Having access to a plethora of information is a privilege. Limiting my time to it helps me not take it for granted.
My phone is 100% of the time using grayscale. It's just not interesting to go through it if there are no colors. I'll use it for:
- Music when exercising
- Two-factor authentication
- Communication when I need to meet with someone
I strongly believe anything else (for me) is fake productivity.
- Not being able to sit your butt down and eat for 5 minutes without checking the phone is not healthy.
- Not being able to stand still for 20 minutes without looking for any stimulation is not healthy.
- Knowing more about the latest football transfers than my friends' week is not healthy.
- Laughing at memes but being unable to strike a conversation with a stranger is not healthy.
- Developing bad posture staring down at screens is not healthy.
- Arguing because someone is wrong on Reddit is not healthy.
The Internet is lovely.
It's responsible for me having a job.
It's responsible for me being able to grow and learn about topics I never knew existed.
It's the reason I can get access to up-to-date information about things I love.
I would be probably dead without the tutorials out there.
But I'm too weak to control my exposure to it, and these are my thoughts and plan to make the best out of it. This is not an "internet bad, stop using mmkay" type of post. It's accepting that I have problems which I try to overlook by using the internet.
Getting out of the loop and staying there makes you feel like an outcast. Getting your head out of the mud and facing your own mortality is not nice. It's comforting to know you have internet friends and lots of notifications. You write funny stuff on forums and people like your persona.
If I go off the grid and no one gives a shit, what makes me?