Digital Detox

Right now, I’m doing something that I haven’t done in years: I’m composing without a computer. That’s right, I’m going old school with pen and paper. Of course, none of you can actually tell that I’m physically writing since you’re reading this online after I’ve typed it up, so trust me on this one. But you may be wondering: why am I writing – of all things – a blog post using paper rather than a computer?

To put it simply, I have an internet addiction.

We all have our vices. Some of us like to have a drink or a cigarette after a long day at work. Others may prefer to indulge in sweets or fast food to quell some unsatisfactory aspect of their lives. And for the better part of the decade, my personal vice has been the internet. I use it to socialize, consume information, even to relax after a stressful day. In fact, I’ve had an obsession with being “connected” almost from the moment my family got an internet connection in the early ’00s. Whatever the troubles were going on in my life, I could always turn to the internet to make it better or make me forget.

And it has changed forms several times over the years. I spent a couple years in high school actively participating in a gaming forum, spending hours each day reading and responding to other people’s posts. Later, I discovered Google Reader and RSS feeds, and soon I was fixated on reading news and staying “up-to-date.” This has been an ongoing source of agony, as it is almost impossible to really keep up with all the news. The existence of Twitter has only served to exacerbate the problem; until today, I have never missed a tweet, reading every single one that has populated my feed since I joined Twitter in March 2008. Can you even imagine that?!

All of this has recently reached a tipping point. Yesterday, I was feeling rather depressed for most of the morning, and this put me in a reflective mood. Although it was like caused by a bout of SAD, I asked myself what could bring more satisfaction to my life. I realized that there were so many goals, both large (reading my backlog of books) and small (doing housework) that were simply going undone. I have 24 hours each day to at least make progress on these projects, and yet every day it gets frittered away. And eventually, I knew why: I spent exorbitant amounts of time on the computer, specifically using the internet for things like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. Between all the time spent on various internet minutia, there wasn’t any time left for much else.

Therefore, I am currently embarking on a technological cleansing, or digital detox as my boss put it. I’m determined to cure myself of this addiction, and I’ve already begun taking steps that will not necessarily eliminate these activities from my life but hopefully find a way to integrate them in healthier ways. The internet is not the enemy, so I must find an equilibrium. Some of my taken measures include:

  • Unsubscribe to frequently updated (5+ times a day) RSS feeds from Google Reader, such as Mashable and Gizmodo
  • Condensing the number of apps on my iPod touch to 3 pages
  • Paring down the number of podcasts I subscribe to
  • Not only unfollowing approx. two dozen people on Twitter, but placing the few users whose posts I don’t want to miss (personal friends and news sites) into a Twitter list to review once or twice a day

These steps may not be enough to cure me of my addiction, and I’m taking that into consideration. Even with somewhat limited access to some of these sites, I can already feel the pangs of withdrawal. I’ve got a long road ahead, but ultimately I know the end result is worthwhile. I’ve lost too much of my life to this addiction, and life is simply too short to lose any more.