12: why I waste so much time on the Internet

I recognize that I have a problem.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s a compulsion to plug in, to see what’s going on in the world despite knowing that most of it doesn’t truly impact me.

I’m speaking of course to my social media addiction. To my incessant need, literally from the time I wake until the moment I turn out the light to sleep at night, to scroll through my various “feeds.”

I wake up at about 5:30 every morning. I hop out of bed, silence my phone’s alarm, and then hop right back in and start thumbing through nonsense.

And Facebook truly is complete and utter nonsense. It consists of 95% memes and viral videos, with the occasional heavily slanted “news” article or GIF listicle about the Top 10 Reasons Only 90s Kids Who Think Adult Life Is Sorta Hard Sometimes Can Relate.

And I can’t even talk because despite knowing it’s nonsense, this has become my routine.

Granted, I actually like social media. It’s a useful promotional tool, for this blog, and for my band. Instagram is cool for its value as a platform for art and storytelling.

And Snapchat, thankfully, gives me the option of skipping over all those friends whose lives I don’t care about enough to watch play-by-plays of but whom I still remain vainly connected to so that I can put my own life on display for them.

So yeah, I’ve established that it’s nonsense, and that I’m fully cognitively aware of the nonsense I’m subscribing myself to. So why do I actively participate in this ritual society now perpetuates?

In part, it’s comfortable. We’ve made it such an effortless process to slip out of our own lives and into the lives of others. Twitter has made it so that everyone’s inner monologue is now broadcast outwardly. It’s like having the ability to read minds.

And, like I said, it’s a compulsion. When I’m doing nothing, I pull out my phone. Waiting in line? Pull out my phone. Sitting on a bus? Pull out my phone. Basically when I don’t know what to do next, out comes the phone.

I’ve already opened and closed Facebook three times since I sat down to write tonight’s post.

A less frequent reason for my abuse of these media is that I not only recognize a lot of the nonsense I’m seeing, but I also feel the need to actively combat it.

xkcd 386, Duty Calls
“What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they’ll keep being wrong!” – xkcd by Randall Munroe.

This was especially true during election season. In the primaries this cycle, I decided all of a sudden that I knew how the world worked. I got caught up in the hype, and became an activist. I knocked on doors, handed out leaflets, called people in Illinois to tell them to vote for my candidate.

But most importantly – I argued with people on the Internet.

I had to. There were just so many wrong people out there. Who else was going to tell them how wrong they were? [/sarcasm]

As most reasonable people know, and as I’m still learning, it’s difficult to change minds in a comment thread.

For all its many benefits and pitfalls, I am not totally at odds with social media. But I recognize that my behavior towards it is not entirely healthy.

So i’ve been trying to center myself. To bring myself out the chaos of media and a racing mind and into the present moment. I try to breathe. To feel the space around me, hear the sounds, clear my head.

I don’t like it when people are on their phones at a meal among friends, or during a meeting  at work. It gives the perception that one is detached from the moment, that their mind is elsewhere.

And I don’t want that for myself.

Any tips on remaining present and mindful would be much appreciated.

3 Replies to “12: why I waste so much time on the Internet”

  1. Def one of my favorite posts so far: too funny, too true.

    Recently at church, one of the youth priests mentioned the importance of being present at service. I realized I checked my phone way more often than I should (especially in church, lol) and decided the following week I’d turn it off the whole time. Had to fight urges to turn it back on, but it was actually pretty great and I’m hoping it’ll keep. I’d suggest turning your phone off or setting it away (maybe a different room) for those times you just wanna be present. It seems obvious, but phones have become such a part of our being, it could be tough.

    Hope that helps, great posts!

    1. Such a simple approach – but brilliant all the same. I’m going to try to distance myself from the technology when I truly don’t need it. I think I have myself convinced that just because I can stay connected all the time that I should. Not necessarily the case.

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