Seriously, does anyone else feel it? Like we’re driving in a car from the 1960’s with no seatbelt and poor crash capabilities, full speed towards a wall… drunk.
Maybe it’s just me, but this generation of everything at our fingertips is starting to get to me. I can download any movie or any song right now. I can watch any form of porn right now. I can find out the weather in the most remote places on Earth right now. I can even find out where my friends are right now with Foursquare.
It’s just too much.
Here’s my Internet history:
Primary school: Nothing. Intermittent dialup now & then. High school (2003-2006): Dialup with unlimited call time from 7pm-7am in the morning. High school (2006-2007): Broadband, 4mbps with only 5GB cap a month. Uni (2008-2009): Access at Uni, but at apartment only slow 1GB cap a month. Uni (2010-now): Unlimited access, expensive, but it’s ubiquitous finally.
This has led me down a path of smashing my face with information. And perhaps too much of it. In the past few months, I’ve started becoming more conscious of how this is affecting me and what can be done to deal with it.
How it is affecting me
There are quite a few ways how all this access and information is hitting me:
Anxiety. I don’t know why. Perhaps the pace of everything.
Unproductive. So many times I just stare at reddit, Facebook, Twitter, emails, real-time logs of my sites and just cycle through them.
Negative emotions. Sadness/depression that comes from seeing & reading things that has come about due to the increased ubiquity of the Internet. News24 comments are a good example
General frustration. I can’t control this addiction and over-stimulation of all the data and this makes me frustrated.
The Possible Solutions?
What can I do to stop these feelings? Here are some things I’m trying.
1) Relearn Delayed Gratification
We are so bombarded with everything that we can get now. When we can’t, we become frustrated and anxious. We should slow down and realize that the good and best things come from effort, hard work and patience.
Start doing activities that don’t show you the results immediately. One of these that I do is learning languages. It takes time and determination to reap the rewards, but you pluck that sweet fruit of countless hours of vocabulary review, then it is good. Really good.
Another activity is exercise/losing weight/building some muscle. The results only emerge after a time of no-feedback effort.
For the past two-three months I’ve been unsubscribing left right & center. I’ve moved away from everyday bloggers (sometimes even over 4 day!) to blogs that post quality over quantity.
The same for newsletters. I’m implementing a hard rule:
If I skip over a newsletter twice in a row, unsubscribe.
There’s no need to fill your inbox with emails & emails of information you’re not reading anymore. It just adds to the clutter & noise. I’ve adopted this approach to my own blogging & newsletter sending: strive for quality rather than quantity.
3) Rethink Social Networks
In the same vein with number 2, and this probably the hardest to do is, stop using social networks as a form of entertainment.
When I stand in a queue or I’m bored I go onto Facebook/Twitter. This isn’t because I want to see what my friends are up to, but because it’s become a knee-jerk reaction to entertain myself.
This is tough, because it’s so ingrained in me already. I spend hours on those websites, because it’s just so addictive to read small bites of information. They don’t really add anything to my life.
However, I do feel these websites serve a purpose, like connecting with friends, staying in touch and sharing information, but do I really need to see what’s going on all the time? No!
4) Remember to switch off
As a result of this instant access to everything, I can’t switch off. My life is online. My friends are online. My projects are online. My communication is online.
The first thing I do when I wake up is, grab my phone, check emails & Facebook. WTF?
It doesn’t need to be like that. Switch off. Grab breakfast first, do some exercise and take a shower.
There many other ways to switch off: only send emergency push notifications for instance.
Put your phone away when you’re at lunches/bars/with friends. I always ask myself the question, what did people do before phones? They survived, so why can’t we do that for just an hour or two a day?
5) Be conscious & focus
This is probably the most Dr. Phil like solution in this post, but hear me out.
So many times we are caught in the web (pun intended), but we don’t realize we are. Start thinking about how all this information is affecting you. Start thinking about your habits. Are they really necessary or are they just brought about by the fast changing world we live in?
Focus on tasks. Try not to multitask too much. This adds to the anxiety and porous productivity.
Start using something like the Pomodoro technique. This is a topic for whole other blog post on time management, which I still fail at, but I’m starting.
I feel like we are in this whirlwind of information and stimulation, that we lose the sense of ourselves and what makes us happy. Even if you think what I’m talking about is first world problem poppycock, some or other time you’ll have faced this dilemma. I’m not even an old geezer who snaps at children to go play outside. This is my generation & I fear for my own wellbeing.
I want to change that.