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Mindless consuming, or why I limit my internet usage

A few weeks back I had a realization that I spend way too much on the internet. Internet is not necessarily bad as my job and most of my hobbies require it, but being connected to The Net pretty much all my waking hours suddenly didn't feel right. So I decided to cut my internet access at night: 6PM on Sunday - Thursday and 9PM on Friday & Saturday.

I didn't have any specific goal with this, I just simply wanted to try and see what happens. All devices & media was still allowed, as long as I downloaded them beforehand. This way you don't consume mindlessly just to pass time, but instead have to actually make a decision to consume that particular media. Here are my observations after a month.

Boredom... at first

On the first few nights I was super bored. I tried to download some shows & manga for the evening, but they didn't really fill all that extra offline time. So I spent a lot of time just... being and thinking, cleaning my room, writing down what I want download next day when I finally have internet access.

It took about a week to get used to this.

Boring stuff becomes interesting

Related to the previous point, when you don't have internet which keeps you entertained forever, suddenly all the boring stuff becomes not so boring. For example, I had these jeans which had a small tear, and I had been planning to fix them forever. Just never got around, since it's not something I particularly enjoy. Even though I do want to fix them.

Then one night I had nothing to do, suddenly remembered those jeans and fixed them. Took like 10 minutes. And it didn't feel like a chore, I actually enjoyed it. See, your mind is brilliant at coming up with stuff to do. And when you do those things it wants to do, it rewards you with dopamine. It's just that you've numbed your brain to endless instant dopamine from the internet (man I'm glad I never downloaded TikTok), which steals all your will to do those boring tasks, even if you want to do them.

Browsing doesn't feel as bad

I like to browse Hacker News, some subreddits and some forums. We all know that it's easy to browse them a little too much and get lost in some random rabbit hole. Then you feel bad that you procrastinated for 3 hours.

Now, after work I have just few hours of internet time. I still do browse as I find it fun and sometimes discover cool stuff, but it doesn't feel as bad anymore. It's a choice that right now, I want to read some Hacker News, instead of doing x or y. Before, for me, it was usually more of a "I'll just browse a bit and then do the thing I was planning to do."

Also I don't feel like browsing as much as I know it takes time from the other stuff I could do.

Offline content is more enjoyable

We've all been there, browsing Netflix and you just can't figure out what to watch. Even though there are thousands of titles to choose from. That's called the paradox of choice – when you have too much stuff to choose from, you just become overwhelmed.

This problem doesn't exist when you have to download the content beforehand, making a decision that you want to consume that particular media. Watching a movie is just that much more enjoyable when you know that's almost the only movie you're able to watch right now.

Better sleep

When you can't mindlessly browse Reddit at 10PM when you should be brushing your teeth, or can't see that message your mom sent you just as you were going to put your phone away, going to sleep early is much much easier. In fact it's not only easy but something you want to do, if you're tired. It's easier to listen to your body when you're not constantly keeping your mind busy with browsing or reading new messages or whatever.

My sleep quality feels better as well. Being offline a few hours before bed really helps you wind down, and go to sleep with a clear mind. Also, the earlier you go to sleep → the earlier you wake up → you get more internet time. Spoken like a true addict :D

More headspace

It just feels great to take a break from the internet. Feels like you got more headspace, whatever that means to you. I won't go into detail with this as it's difficult to explain and something which should be felt, not explained. Closely related to the feeling you get from meditation.

Conclusion

I guess it comes all down to intentional vs. unintentional consuming. When you don't have internet access at night, you have to choose beforehand what media you want to have access to. You can't just browse forever, because you're bored. You could achieve this by just not browsing, but I don't see this as a realistic solution as internet is super addictive.

I will definitely continue to limit my internet usage. Only time will tell but so far this feels one of the best changes I've done to my life, alongside with stuff like starting to exercise, meditation and remote work. There are still boring moments every now and then but I've actually learned enjoy them. That's the time when your brain isn't busy with any bullshit and can actually process stuff, in the background.

Being handy with computers definitely helps with this. If you're reading my blog you probably are a hacker already :)


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