The internet is the devil. Period. And yes, I do realize the inherent hypocrisy of writing a blog post about this topic. My having to publish in this way actually points to the core of the problem: On the one hand, the internet is simply the most awesome research and learning tool ever developed. Looking at the number of learning problems that I could resolve just by going online in such disparate areas as time management, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, healthy living, or pick up, I should be down on my knees thanking the gods of the interwebs for this virtually free pond of knowledge. However, on the other hand, the ease of finding things is exactly the problem: “Oh, I’ll just google the Wikipedia entry for XY. Cool.” Or “I wanted to listen to this song on YouTube.” Or “What’s new on Mark’s Daily Apple?” “What will the weather be like today?” The list of inane things I could spend my time doing goes on. And on. And on. And it NEVER fucking stops.
I have found that willingly exposing myself to the myriad of distractions online easily cancels out the advantages of being online, as big as they may be. And I highly suspect this negation is true for most people, whether or not they will admit to it.
One quick way for you to verify the truth behind my suspicions is to take a look at your browser history for, let’s say, the last three days. And for good measure, also include the browser history of your cell phone. Now ask yourself: How much of my time spent online during those three days actually brought me closer to my life’s goals? And how much of it was just dicking around? I’ll take a conservative guess: 95% percent of it was dicking around, with no significant, long-lasting impact on your goals at all.
And speaking of goals: I would venture to say that the internet is the single best way to keep you from defining your life’s goals, as there is always so much buzz online without your ever having to take a long serious look at yourself. “I’ll think about my goals later, but first I’ll watch another episode of Sherlock on movie4k.to … check the news … masturbate”.
So what’s the solution to all of this misery?
Obviously, the solution is going to be slightly different for everyone. Someone who REALLY has to be online for work reasons, e.g. an online customer support person, can’t just turn it off all day long. But are you really one of these people? Most likely not. You could probably survive by spending an hour online every day and you’d be extraordinarily more productive for it. And that’s exactly what I suggest.
What to do:
- Turn your internet connection off for most of the day. Completely. No internet connection on your phone either.
- Give yourself an hour, maybe 1.5 h, of online time, preferably later in the day, after you have already worked on your most important tasks.
- Get your online stuff done during that time window, and then TURN IT OFF AGAIN.
Trust me: You will be absolutely blown away by the amount of focus and time you gain. Not to mention general quality of life. Just try it for a couple of weeks, i.e. start turning it into a habit.
What NOT to do:
Here is what the majority of people reading this article is going to do after they finish it. Well, that is the people who haven’t gone apeshit yet about me dissing our favorite way of wasting time – I’m talking to you 4 people, yes! You might think, “Oh, he kinda does have a point. I really should spend less time online. It really is distracting. But he is a little bit radical about it, isn’t he? Why so angry? I’ll just make a conscious effort to spend less time online, check Facebook less often, etc.”
To which I have to say: Stop kidding yourself. Simply spending less time online might work for about three days, best case scenario, and then you will be spending just as much time online as before. It does not work. I repeat: Save yourself the effort. I does not work. You will get stressed out and/or bored and/or lonely. Your willpower will be low, and then you will tell yourself, “I’ll just check Facebook really quick,” and an hour later you find yourself wondering why you are still staring at stupid cat pictures.
It is actually worth considering why this kind of approach to restricting ourselves consistently fails. Well, that’s an idea for another article. But the short version is this: For most of us, the internet is an addiction. And I mean that literally, like in drug addiction. And it’s the most dangerous kind of addiction since it is not socially regarded as one. We think, “Everybody is doing it, so it can’t be so bad.” Which just goes to show how peer pressure / social proof is one of the strongest forces in our lives and that it interferes with rational decision making. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for it myself.
In any case: If you honestly still think at this point that you can change your online habits just by “doing it a little bit less,” you’re massively kidding yourself.
Please stop. Turn it off. There is no middle ground.