Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reducing Internet Dependency

In the post before last I mentioned the effects that distractions like email and text-messaging have on concentration, thoughtfulness, and general mental activity. Since then I've been trying to reduce the amount of time I spend on the internet. It's only been a few days so far, but I've already noticed a few things.

First of all, I've noticed that the vast majority of what I do on the internet is trivial, and unnecessary. I don't get a lot of pleasure from it, either. Usually I'm just trying to occupy myself. I end up surfing through blogs and other websites, looking up things on Wikipedia, and checking and rechecking my email. Sometimes I sit there in front of the computer, browser open and fingers poised over the keyboard, desperate to think of something worth looking up. I have the feeling that I'm not alone in this.

So why do I spend any time in front of the internet at all, if it doesn't seem fun or worthwhile? I think the way I tend to perceive the internet, as a virtually limitless source of information, makes it hard to turn away, especially if boredom seems like the alternative (never mind the fact that a lot of the info available on the internet is dubious, and a lot of the worthwhile stuff is really hard to find). But that leads me to another thing I've been noticing: boredom can be more productive than surfing the web.

That might seem hard to believe, but I think it's true. Whereas a week ago I would have kept a steady pace through the web while killing time at work (which is usually where I am when I'm killing time on the internet), this week I've instead turned away from the screen and, literally, just stared at the wall. Strangely enough, staring at the wall forced me to think about things, to ponder, to imagine, and to remember. To keep from being bored I had to use my thoughts themselves to entertain me. I had to be creative, I had to produce my own distraction. It's surprisingly enjoyable, and productive. I've had some good ideas for stories in the past few days.

Maybe that's what a lot of it comes down to: passively taking in information or actively using your mind. I viewed the internet as a limitless fount of knowledge, but I rarely feel like I've learned anything important after spending an hour on it. Meanwhile, spend an hour in quiet contemplation and chances are I've come to a few conclusions about a few different things. An hour of internet and I'll feel distracted, dissatisfied, agitated. An hour of quiet contemplation, I'll feel peaceful.

Go figure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post - very clearly outlines what I think the vast majority of people feel when they're thinking to themselves "what else is there to do on the internet?".

-geoff