My Introduction and Plan
I’m 21 years old, male and from Germany. I’m currently studying in college and am working as a freelancer on the side (the goal is to build a real business one day). I like nearly everything you can do outside: Taking pictures, doing sports and hiking. I also like a lot of creative things: design, cooking, woodworking, and interior design.
I’ve been lonely for a while now. Back in high school, during my last year, I cut my friend group off- they weren’t a good influence. Too much alcohol, too much gaming, too many rumors. I was feeling certain: Once I start college, I’ll find a new and much better friend group.
After a lonely summer, college started. There were some nice people in my classes, and everything seemed promising. But every day, I had to commute a total of 3 hours and had just started my freelancing business - which meant additional work on top. Not a lot of time to make friends - so I lost the connection. Don’t get me wrong, we would still be friendly during class, but wouldn’t invite each other to hang out afterward.
So I moved out. Less commute = more social time, right? Well, unconsciously I started taking the business more seriously. More clients, better work, higher revenue. I even started a required internship, which later turned into a part-time job. At least professionally I was making a lot of progress.
But last winter, everything became too much. I suddenly had a few bad clients, and my boss made the part-time job really stressful. Still feeling lonely, and not having much time to pursue hobbies, I kind of burned out and fell into a depression. I didn’t stop my business, as this work was one of the only things making me feel better - despite the bad clients. I did manage to quit the part-time job though.
The other thing making me feel better was the internet. The biggest problem is my big 3: Podcasts, Cody Ko Videos and David Dobrik Vlogs.
(possibly triggering, so watch out if you’re having a bad day)
Podcasts are my archenemy. I love podcasts (especially the Tiny Meat Gang one!). They are entertaining, they are informative, and they are detailed. I would listen to podcasts while cooking, eating, playing games and during my commute. Podcasts don’t feel like you are doing something wrong, especially if you are listening to something informative (i.e. Joe Rogan). I listened to podcasts because they feel like you’re having an hour-long conversation with a friend. You get to know the host, just like you would get to know a friend.
Right next on the list are YouTube Videos and Netflix shows. Both simulate you being a part of a functioning friend group. And on top of that, you get to experience an interesting life without actually getting up and doing anything. Cody Ko’s videos, David Dobrik’s vlogs, and endless woodworking videos.
Last (but definitely not least) are Online Communities. For me that were business related forums and chatrooms - and reddit. You no longer need to go out and build a friend group if you can join one with the click of a button. The tricky part: You are actually building relationships. Those people I chatted with became one of my closest friends, and we would talk every day. The specific communities know your specific problems and can offer specific advice. You’ve got a bad client? Other freelancers have been there and can help you out.
The only problem with digital relationships: As soon as you turn off the power, they are gone. I still remember chatting with a few people until deep at night, and at one closing my laptop. Even though I just had a great conversation, I felt empty inside. Because I knew those people were “just” online friends.
Apart from that, I used a lot of different digital media, but they weren’t as essential. Video Games helped me distract myself from my situation. Dating Apps helped me talk to girls, Porn helped me feel closer to having sex. Blogs would trick me into thinking I’m bettering my life.
Interestingly, Music (randomized through spotify), Whats App and business related websites & tutorials aren’t as bad for me - as long as I’m using it determined to fix a specific problem (not to kill time!).
At one point, I became self-aware of my own situation. I was depressed and lonely, and on top of that, through excessive internet usage, I became socially anxious. I even lost a good chunk of my social skills. No friends, no energy, no real life. Something had to change. My plan to create a better life consisted of three parts:
Part I: Regaining my energy
This phase consisted of mainly physical activities to treat my depression. Working out, eating healthy, getting good sleep, you know the drill. Going into detail might derail this thread. It was a slow process of adding more and more healthy habits, but it worked to an extent. I didn’t cure myself (as the main problem, loneliness, is still there), but I was able to create a much better baseline for myself. Not doing any of those things immediately throws me back into the pit.
Part II: Regaining my time
This is the NoSurf phase. If you’re spending 10 hours a day on the internet, you obviously don’t have the time to fix your life - or to enjoy living. More on that below.
Part III: Creating friendships
This is the hardest phase that should solve the root problem. It consists of me beating my social anxiety, rebuilding my social skills and ultimately creating friendships.
I had the first part under good control. I thought I had the second part under control too and was working on conquering the third part.
First I tried to gradually change my habits. To set a timer, to cut out one platform at a time. It didn’t really work.
I still remember the day that changed everything. I had a day off college, and despite having the intent to not surf, I’ve spent the entire day watching videos, playing games and listening to podcasts. In the evening, I was sitting on the sofa watching a netflix series. Episode after episode, but after watching half a season, it could no longer make me feel better. At one point, I got close to crying since the show reminded me how lonely I was - plus I failed this new possibility of regaining control over my life. I decided that I needed to clear my head and get out. Jumped on my bike and started riding around in the summer night - and immediately felt better. It gave me time to think.
After that hour-long bike ride, I turned back home. I felt at peace, but also lonely. Once I came back home, I immediately turned Netflix back on. A few hours later, I went to bed, hating myself and my weak mind. I told myself to not use this digital media again, to take this nosurf stuff seriously.
Just to wake up in the morning and immediately spend the next 2 hours on reddit.
That was the final drop. I couldn’t believe how weak I was! So through some burst of discipline, I took the nosurf stuff seriously. No Netflix. No podcasts. No YouTube. No Reddit. No Video Games. The first few days were like hell. but somehow I made it through alive.
I went 27 days before messing up the first time. It was a small slip up, I googled a problem and accidentally ended up on reddit, unconsciously scrolling through the top posts of the specific subreddit. But I caught myself and stopped before I could do more harm. Back to NoSurf. Every so often, I would slip up in a similar matter: Suddenly finding myself consuming content. But it didn’t happen that often, so I marked it down in my journal and forgot about it. After all, being in NoSurf for 26 out of 27 days seemed like a great success. No matter how big I messed up, I did not fall back to my big 3: Podcasts, YouTube Videos and Vlogs.
It took me 114 days to reach that point. That’s why I’m here. I became incautious, thinking I beat my internet addiction. But I didn’t. I may had it under complete control, but didn’t come close to beating it. We probably will never beat it, as it became a part of our characters.
So this account, this journal, is a way for me to constantly remind myself to keep cautious and to never lose control again.