About a week ago I started reading a lot more about nosurf, and really reconsidering my internet use and accepting that I actually did have an addiction to the thing. This wasn’t the first time I had heard of nosurf or read about it, but every other time I’d just read it and take the advice in passing, letting it flow in one ear and out the other while I tried justifying to myself that my internet use was perfectly normal and non harmful. I’ve had about a week to read the forums and journals (which are absolutely amazing, with some truly talented writers) and really think about my past usage, and so I decided to write a journal.
Early Years and Gaming
I’ve been using the internet excessively as an escape from loneliness, stress, and feelings of inadequacy for what I’d say is about 5 years now. Prior to the internet video games were my go to crutch for life’s issues, and I spent many thousands of hours playing games. Sometimes with friends, but mostly by myself. Gaming was fun, and it was great with friends - but like with everything like that in my life I have always seemed to take it to the extreme, and to a point where it did far more harm than good for me. While most other kids at school hung out on weekends, and played sport, I would hold myself up at home playing LoL and shooters for 12hours. I’d eagerly await the end of the school day so I could rush home and play a few matches.
My parents repeatedly told me that I was playing too many games, and that I was wasting my life away, and I distinctly remember it always hitting a nerve when they said this because deep down I knew it was true, but I would still just dismiss what they said as ramblings of an out of touch generation.
Eventually I I realised what I was doing and stopped playing a lot, and instead reddit, youtube, and random forums flooded in to fill the space left in my life. All of it.
My Internet Addiction
Reddit was like this amazing place which seemed like the repository of all knowledge, wisdom, and humour that the world could offer, and in tiny, condensed, easily digestible portions. It pulled me in with memes and the personal stories and advice of strangers I felt I could relate to, or wished to relate to, while the odd bits of pseudo useful advice, anecdotes, and plethora of hobby and learning based subreddits which I never used worked as an excuse to justify the far too often 8+ hours a day I would regularly spend on the site. The I can’t count the amount of times I’d try learn programming, only to give it up hours later when I ran into the first road bump, or all the days I tried setting out on day 1 of an exercise program, only to give up shortly after.
Conversely, Youtube was an outlet to still get my gaming fix, while feeling connected and related to the streamers and youtube personalities that I watched. Youtube was like a friend simulator which I would rush to at the end of each day while hoping for some genuine human connection and fun. I ended up slowly giving up on youtube early this year, but I’m saddened to think about the thousands and thousands of hours spent on youtube and what could have been with that time.
Shit Habits, Shit Feelings, Shit Life
In conjunction with youtube, from 17-19.5 I think my life was just a weird haze between these 2 sites and Netflix. I had no actual hobbies (Netflix is a hobby right? haha), my social life was barely existent, my grades slipped once I started university. I become quite depressed (I wouldn’t say I had depression, but it was bad) and I isolated myself somehow more than I already had, and skipped class to stay at home and search reddit for a mix of random content to make the time pass quicker, and feel-good bull shit in the hope that my life would somehow get better without any work on my part. My life become a cycle or sleep, reddit, porn, and netflix. Pretty much anything to dull the feelings of stress, self hatred, sadness, boredom, and I think most of all loneliness which I felt at the time. I’d run to subreddits that made me like I could relate to others because of how shit I felt about myself. The non-stop self depreciating, self hating, depressive memes made me feel like I somehow belonged on the site, while the happy posts of facebook friends made me feel more isolated and detached from everyone around me. My grades, which were the biggest part of my identity, started to slip, and all in all it felt like my life was headed down a very steep hill.
I genuinely started feeling like I didn’t deserve happiness because I was a shit person. And that people didn’t like me because that’s just the way life was meant to be for me. I felt like a burden
to others for much of the time since I started university, as if my presence somehow detracted from their happiness. I started developing anxious thoughts about a lot of things, and the life ahead of my seemed daunting. It was daunting because of one main thing; the immense fear that I would wind up alone in the world. The fear that I would never find a relationship, and that I would lose all of my friends, and spend my days alone online. Loneliness drove me to gaming, and then the internet, all while exacerbating the problem. The isolation and constant consumption of negative media made me believe in a world that was very different to reality. A world where I was somehow both my own villain and victim. I don’t remember why or how, but I managed to realise my thought patterns about halfway through last year, and I made a concerted effort to change it.
Starting to Build Something
I made a bunch of life adjustments as quickly as I could. I changed universities to one that I feel much happier at, and where I don’t hate the commute. I found a part time job that I spent 3-4 full days a week at when I can. I started making an active push to hang out with friends and make new ones.
I cut down my internet time a lot as well. The majority of the day surfing the web became 3-5 hours, so relative I suppose, but the content was no longer the depressing pool of self pity it used to be, which was one of the larger changes. I guess my internet usage went from terrible to bad; my life was getting a lot better and things were looking up!
So for around 8-9 months life continued on this way, but it still felt like I was cruising along in my won life, without taking nay direction. I had an internet addiction which I still used to suppress my negative emotions and feelings of loneliness, but the feelings weren’t as intense as before (not that I had ever actually let myself experience the feelings since I always covered them up with cheap novelty), and I was keeping on track with living a kind of normal, expected life. Social life was improving, although still relatively small.
Around June this year someone said something to me which really caught me off guard in a lot of ways, and I don’t know why. She said that she was taking time to just work on herself, and so she had to give up this thing which she wanted to do, but knew wasn’t going to be good for her. I guess at that point it really hit me that I had to take responsibility for my own life and my own happiness. I don’t know why it hit me so much, but it just did.
Very shortly after I got a gym membership and made a commitment to go at least 6 days a week (which I have held to), and I studied my butt off for my final exams that semester, which helped to pull up my grades which were falling. I organised a holiday with some friends. I enrolled in an internship program at my school, which I’m currently doing, and I’ve been organising more meet ups and events with friends.
Where I am Now
So the last 2 months has been pretty busy for me, with university, internship, work, gym every day, and trying to meet with friends when I can, but reddit has still remained at a couple hours a day (up until last week). It fills my 1.5 hour commutes, my breaks, and a lot of my free time.
Part of me wants to say reddit is a huge time sink and that it never gave me anything, because I think that would make it a lot easier to let go of the whole thing, but the my truth is that it really helped me to become a far more empathetic and open minded person, and made me understand myself a lot better. After 5 years however it started to become clearer that the diversity of voices I had thought were on reddit were in-fact just 90% rehashes of the same mindset and opinions. The same posts were repeated day after day, and by the end I always knew what the top comments would be before opening common threads, because they were the same every time.
Toxic mindsets and world views were also aplenty on many subreddits, and hearing them over and over, no matter how much I knew they are wrong, slowly caused them to seep into me own views. And the sad thing is I don’t even know what my own views are. I feel like I’ve just parroted what other people upvoted the most and were most popular, without giving any real thought to most issues.
I haven’t gone on reddit in 5 days. I’ve been meditating more, and trying to do more productive things like study, work, and spending time with other people.
The Persistent Issues to Fix
Writing this I realise that my entire teenage years, and up to now at age 20, I’ve always excessively used either gaming or the internet as a crutch, and as a way to escape negative feelings. I never learnt to actually deal with them during my adolescence, and always seemed to run away from them for the most part. I guess I’ve never actually learnt to deal with them properly.
Loneliness is still a problem for me, and finding constructive ways of dealing with it is difficult, but I’m trying. I still get a mini rush every time I see message/facebook notifications, because I treat it as a sense of validation, which I really want to change as well.
I still tend to give up or refuse to start anything that is difficult, or doesn’t provide fast rewards for effort. My attention span is quite fried, which was evident by the fact that over the last few days I keep instinctively reaching for my phone every few minutes whenever I try to study or concentrate on something.
And of course the issue of finding something to fill up my spare time with is huge, so that I don’t fall back into the the mindless dopamine driven browsing that was my life for a long long time.