Earlier this month I started a new 30-day challenge to only use Facebook and email twice a day. As of today, I’m officially admitting that I’ve failed in both the letter, and spirit of the challenge. Even when I was able to check email and Facebook only at the prescribed times, I made up for it by wasting my time on other social media sites, or on other useless parts of the internet. The hilarious Aziz Ansari illustrates the problem brilliantly in this clip:
For me, this feels like a big deal. I’ve developed a difficult habit to kick. It’s robbing me of hours of time every day, and not giving me much in return. It’s hurting my body in the form of whatever price I pay for the hours I’ve spent on the couch. My iPod touch is quickly becoming my go-to distraction in the quiet moments I used to spend thinking about the big picture, planning life goals, or mentally preparing for my day. For every Facebook message I send to reconnect with an old friend, I also spend at least a half hour looking up useless trivia when I could be connecting with the people around me in my real life.
The most insidious thing about the internet is how useful it can be. It’s like having the best library in the world in my living room, but I have to enter it through a tunnel in which one thousand storytellers and salesmen try to pitch me on everything imaginable. They’re all very interesting and convincing, and most of what they’re selling is free! Couldn’t I just give each one of them a few minutes of my time before I get to the library to do my work? I’m nodding my head, nearing the end of a very interesting story, told by a charming fellow who just rode his bicycle across the country solo. When he’s done, he asks if I’m at all interested in watching a short video about the making of an “invisible” bicycle helmet. Three hours later, I finally reach the library, get my work done, and then spend another couple of hours researching cheap cell phone plans and learning what the tech community thinks of the latest apple products on my way back to my apartment.
My problem is that I’m no longer controlling my internet experience. There are way too many smart people getting paid good money to get me to look at their websites to casually enter cyberspace. I need to be armed with a plan, or I need to stay out altogether.
For now, I will be using this internet usage form, filling in my intended use of the internet before entering cyberspace. That way I’ll be less likely to squander away hours, days or weeks. I’m too young to spend this much time sitting down doing nothing.