How to Unplug from the Internet (It’s a Struggle)

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There are few among us that technology doesn’t affect in a profound way. Most of us are tied to our computers (and phones) the majority of the day. Since I was a teenager, the internet has pulled me in and it’s very hard to let go. There are so many things to research and read!

But it has come to the point that I need to consciously step away. While the internet can be an amazing tool, as with everything, moderation is the key. Browser add-ons are useful (Leechblock for Firefox, StayFocused for Chrome, as well as the timer program FocusBooster) but they don’t solve the problem of defaulting to my computer. I have resisted the temptation of a smartphone, proudly flaunting my cheap flip-phone, because I know it would draw me in too.

So, naturally, I did some research online for ways to get me off the computer (its a process, people…).

This handy article from tinybuddha suggests to be mindful of the reason for connecting to technology. Stimulation? Connection? Acknowledgement? Anxiety? Escape? (I personally identify with the first two). Addressing that need is a key step in reconnecting with yourself and your actions. You can then better find things and activities to replace your time on the internet.

From that I created a list of things that I can occupy myself with while away from the computer. This both doesn’t give me an excuse to not do anything and it helps me accomplish things that I want to do. I also plan on artfully drawing/painting these in my sketchbook and then hanging them up on my wall. If you are dealing with an inability to step away, making your own list can help. Here’s some ideas from mine:

  • Go for a walk
  • Breathe deeply and focus your attention on how it feels to breathe
  • Water the plants
  • Do a sun salutaion
  • Do 5 pushups, 15 squats
  • Start crocheting a blanket
  • Take a nap
  • Find a place outside to sit
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and clean
  • Write for 15 minutes (diary, sketchbook, blog, your next bestseller)
  • Work on a puzzle
  • Work on a cryptogram or crossword
  • Draw (a person, a still-life, doodle)
  • Paint (an abstract landscape, a quote, the light you see)
  • Call or text a friend
  • Make a mental list of things you’re grateful for
  • Ferment something (make beer, wine, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented juice, yogurt, vinegar)
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Build a comost pile
  • Memorize pi
  • Turn up some music loud and dance (alone or with someone)
  • Call your congressman
  • Make an origami crane
  • Do some car/bicycle/scooter maintenance (oil, tire pressure, cleaning)
  • Change your house air filters (or other basic home/apartment/cardboard box maintenance tasks)
  • Sew a pillow
  • Identify that bird outside
  • Learn how to juggle
  • Read some fiction
  • Read some non-fiction

There are some other action you can take, like setting a time of the day or one day of the week that you don’t interact with your computer or phone at all. Not turning on your computer first thing in the morning helps as well. Get rid of any easy-access buttons on your bookmarks bar for frequented sites, making it harder to click on them without thinking. For social websites set up a complicated password (look for password randomizers on the internet) that you have no hope of memorizing. Write it down somewhere safe but kind of inconvenient (in your journal, for instance) and set your account so it doesn’t log you in automatically. See how long you can go without logging in. Turn off notifications (email, status updates) on your smartphone. Also, if you’re on the internet and need a springboard for ideas of something to do, a great site to get you started in different activities is tweektoday.com, which features a different mission each day (“Draw your favorite thing”, “Sculpt something in a medium that is usually thought of as a food item”, or “Share a fact about yourself that most people don’t know”.)

Lastly, if you slip up, don’t berate yourself. It is easy to get caught up in what you “should” be doing and feel guilty, even if its only in the back of your mind. Don’t label your actions as “good” or “bad”, but try to instead tell your self “it is what it is” (take a look at this great slightly NSFW, due to the F-bomb, video on this phrase).

Now, join me as I log off and go do something (and nothing at all!).

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