Dino's Progress on Not Going Extinct [NoSurf and Loneliness]


#1

Hey NoSurfers, welcome to my journal thread!
In here I want to document the restart of my journey. There is more information on my situation in the first comment below, but here is the most essential part:

  • I’m lonely. I use the internet to simulate friendships and social connections.
  • I’m depressed. I use the internet to distract myself from my thoughts and feelings.
  • In July I started my nosurf journey with a hard cut. No digital entertainment or media. It worked great, and put my life on a promising path.
  • As the months went by, I became less cautious and started making compromises. The internet crept back into my life.
  • And two days ago, due to a combination of multiple triggering events, I completely fell back. This was my smartphone’s tracked activity for one day:

Unbenannt

I wrote a huge post on how I ended up here, what problems I’m facing and how I’m planning on conquering them. It’s posted below. I tried to add headlines so you can read exactly the parts that are important to you without getting lost in consumption.

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So it’s back to day 1.
No Podcasts. No YouTube. No Reddit. No Video Games. No netflix. No Dating Apps.
Let’s go.


#2

My Introduction and Plan

THE PERSON
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.

THE SITUATION
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 PROBLEM
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.
podcasts

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!).

THE START
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.

NOSURF
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.

MESSING UP
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.

RESTART
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.


#3

Hi, willkommen im Forum :smile:

Great first post (and great title as well)! It’s inspiring to see how well you planned your goals. Dividing them into different steps seems like a great way to structure your self-improvement journey.

Thinking that you have everything under control is always incredibly dangerous. I’ve been there before. I thought that I had finally conquered my surfing habits, which resulted in me becoming less strict with myself, which, as it was bound to happen, resulted in me regressing back into my old self. Realizing that you need to start over is important, so it’s I’m happy that you’ve realized this!

What are you going to do differently this time you attempt to get your habits under control? What are your plans to prevent yourself from slipping back once again?

I look forward to reading your future journal entries :+1:


#4

Daily Tasks

Hi @MaxWolf, thanks for the warm welcome :smile:

Good question! My daily goals still remain the same:

  1. Don’t Surf
  2. Go to a Meeting
  3. Take on a social challenge

Meeting describes some kind of event where I can meet people in a friendly environment. A college class doesn’t count, as the main interaction is with the professor - but a group work does count, as it’s about interacting with each other.

The Social challenge is something I set for myself every single day. It can be something I’m anxious about (e.g. talking to that cute girl) or something I’m bad at (e.g. presenting in front of the class). It has to be something to push myself out of my comfort zone - to challenge me.

I’ve used this system before I slipped up, and it helped me a ton. What I’m going to change is my accountability process - to make sure I actually complete those goals.

  1. Daily bullet journaling to track the progress (I used to do it every few days)
  2. Exchanging progress with people in a similar situation (= this forum)
  3. Publicly updating this journal, even with bad or no progress.

Although this isn’t really an accountability act and more of a motivational measurement, I’m going to include it: I’m going to prominently put my “Day 0” (= the day after my last relapse; or the first day of this streak) in my life. Post-Its on the mirror, date as a screensaver, big fonts on my to-do list etc.

Any additional tips? :slight_smile:


#5

Sounds like you have a pretty solid plan!
I especially love that you’re actively trying to get out of your comfort zone. It’s (in my opinion) the most important thing someone can do on a daily basis.

I honestly can’t think of any additional things you could implement right now. You’re pretty well prepared. Nwo comes the hard part: actually sticking to all of your goals and habits! But I’m sure you can do it :+1:


#6

Welcome to the forum!

Well, this sure hit close to home. I am proud of you to have conquered your internet problem for a stretch of time. This should show you that it indeed is possible even if you have relapsed since. Keep us posted how it’s working out for you this time.


#7

Day 2: Another Small Relapse

I had another slip up on Tuesday. I gradually consumed more and more content, until I called it a day and spent the evening watching youtube videos.

Triggers:

  • Overslept (because I couldn’t fall asleep at night) + Low Energy -> Not enough willpower to resist
  • No concrete plan for the day -> Too much room for failure
  • Bad Mood -> Started typing the cause into google, looking for solutions - but ending up on Reddit.

Lessons Learned:
Already have a plan for the day when waking up. Not just the big items (e.g. go to the college class, work out), but also for the small situations you might glance over. What are you going to do immediately after waking up, how do you start your day after your morning routine? What are you going to do during meals or downtime? Get specific - “after I eat brush my teeth, I’ll start summarizing chapter 3 for course X” instead of “I’ll do some college work in the morning”.

Oversleeping messed up my routine and my plan for the day, so suddenly I was in trouble. Normally I read during lunch, but I finished my book the day before, so I listened to music. That lead to searching that one song on youtube, which lead to watching the music video of the next song, which ended in a small youtube binge. Both could have been avoided with a little more planning or conscious decisionmaking.

What normally helps me in these types of situations:
Waking up, immediately starting to surf and then giving up on the day used to be one of the big problems for me when I started NoSurf. Kind of ironic that I experienced it again right after restarting lol. Here are some things that work for me on a normal day, without an additional trigger (like low energy or oversleeping):

  • Don’t keep your phone anywhere near your bed(room). If that’s not possible, at least deactivate the wifi before going to sleep - that way you’d have one extra step in the morning to realize what you’re doing.
  • Come up with a simple morning routine that gets you out of bed fast. At least for me, once I completed a few simple tasks, I’m not going to stop my ‘flow’ and start surfing. Tasks can be stuff like “do a few stretches or exercises”, “take a cold shower” or something as simple as “make your bed”
  • Plan for the slow spots in your routine. In my case, that’s sitting at my desk right after I finish breakfast. Up to this point, I followed the routine and kept myself busy, but breakfast is the last point on that list. Problem is, during breakfast I’m quite relaxed, so it’s quite hard to get up and start working - and much easier to remain seated and start surfing. That’s why I follow my breakfast with writing my to-do list - and try to immediately start with the first point.

I’ll cut the post of at this point since I’m starting to ramble, but maybe it helped anyone - at least it helped me to review the situation :slight_smile:


#8

Thanks for sharing. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not trying to be judgemental but it may come across that way.

My question to you is that you’ve peppered your posts with, “feeling lonely,” “I’m lonely,” and “feeling alone.”
I’m curious, what does “not lonely” mean or feel like to you? What is not happening that makes you feel that you are alone, lonely, or experiencing loneliness? What activity or interactions are happening in your life that make it so you are alone?

I mean, are you mistaking loneliness for something else? What is your expectation/idea of what you think it feels like to not be alone? What mental model do you have going on that tells you that you are living a life of loneliness?


#9

Some thoughts on keeping track of your streak

Thank you! :slight_smile:
That’s the kind of mindset I trying to build up lately: If you managed to keep your addiction under control for two weeks but relapse on the 15th day, you don’t lose the two weeks, you just lose that one day. And if you can find some kind of lesson in that one day, it might even help you win the next three weeks. The next lesson (combined with the first one) might help you win the next four weeks - and so on. One step at a time, so there is no need in giving up because you lost one day.

It’s not that helpful on the day you relapse and feel like shit, but it helps me get back on track the days after the relapse.

That’s also why I’m not a big fan of keeping track of my streak. Yes, it’s super motivating to see the number and have a reminder to NOT surf that day. But (at least that’s how I feel) it kind of suggests all of the days you’ve won no longer matter if you relapse.

Here’s the alternative I’m using in my Bullet Journal:
month
Green = NoSurf, Red = Surf, X = falling back to the old habits.

It still gives me some kind of motivation to not break up my green streak with a red box. At the same time it puts those red days into perspective. If I were to keep a traditional streak number, I would have ended the month with a 4 day streak. But in reality I won 26 of 31 days!

But maybe the terminating character of a streak is what keeps you going in times of real trouble. If you don’t have any willpower left, maybe knowing your 150 day streak will turn to a 0 will stop you from watching that one video. Maybe the calender version is too forgiving, so a relapse doesn’t feel as bad beforehand. Maybe I’m rationalizing the negative parts of a relapse away lol
Who knows? :man_shrugging:

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Thank you! Yes, that’s so true - I feel like the more I get out of that zone, the easier it is to not surf.


#10

What I mean with “loneliness”

Those are really good questions, thank you for asking. Don’t worry, You didn’t come across as judgmental :grinning:

Hmm, my answer will probably become wayyy to long, so I’ll try to add a little structure:

“Loneliness is a perceptual state that depends more on the quality of a person’s relationships than on their sheer number.” (Source: Great Psychology Today article)
The article differentiates between objective isolation (= not having people in your life) and subjective loneliness (= the gap between your desired and actual social relationships).
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OBJECTIVE ISOLATION
Let’s start with isolation: I don’t have many friends in my life. I know people in my college classes, I have acquaintances, but I don’t have many friends in my immediate surroundings. I have a few friends in different cities, and our once-a-month meetings are great. But I don’t really have friends in my day to day life.

If I want to hike, I have to do it alone.
If I want to take pictures, I have to do it alone.
If I want to watch a movie, I have to do it alone.
And most importantly: If I just want to hang out, I have to do it alone.

But it isn’t exclusively about face-to-face meetings:
If I create a new design (like my avatar), I don’t have anyone to talk to about it.
If I want to build a new furniture piece, I don’t have anyone to discuss the ideas with.
If I find a new recipe, I don’t have anyone to share it with.

TLDR: I’m missing people to meet with and people to talk to.

I tried to fix the second problem by joining online communities (i.e. Reddit) to discuss niche hobbies. It worked, but it was like using a band-aid if you’re in need of stitches. Helpful in the short term, damaging in the long-term.

Solving this problem is simple (but far from easy!):

  1. Meet a lot of new people to increase your “potential friends” pool.
  2. Work on your character and social skills to turn those acquaintances into friendships.
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SUBJECTIVE LONELINESS
The second problem, the subjective feeling of loneliness, is a little bit more complicated. For me there are two parts to this:

First comes the desire to discuss my niche interests. One prominent example: I recently started taking cold baths (at around 8°C water temperature). I tried explaining this whole thing to some friends, and all of them declared I’m going crazy. But if I were to head over to the r/icebaths subreddit, to discuss personal records and best practices. That’s why this NoSurf stuff is so important: I shouldn’t take the easy route of using online communities instead of building real friendships.

I don’t really have a solution, but I guess it’s just a matter of finding the right kind of people (by attending niche specific meetings).
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Second comes my social anxiety and bad social skills. If I’m talking to people, I often don’t get to bring up the topics I’d like to talk about (because I’m afraid) or fail to bring my point across (because I have a hard time breaking down complex thoughts into easy-to-understand sentences - just look at this post! :smile:). Most of my social situations end with me thinking I should have done X and said Y.

My current solution is forcing myself out of my comfort zone (to beat the anxiety) and practice my social skills (to get better in social situations) as often as possible. I’ll have to see if it works out, but so far the results are promising.
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DISTORTED SELF PERCEPTION
One last problem that isn’t a specific part of loneliness, but still plays a huge role in this battle, is having a distorted view of my situation and character.

For the last one or two years, I had this inner commentary of me being lonely, not having friends and being a social failure. And to be honest, in the beginning, it was mostly true. I couldn’t even look people in the eye while buying groceries.

Now that I’ve been on this journey for a few months and have put in quite some work, I’m in a much better place. But while my situation and character have changed, my own self-perception didn’t.
I can look my counterpart in the eye all I want, as soon as I mess up the slightest, I’m back at the old monologue. I attend much more meetings and am part of much more friendly situations, but I can have a single day without a meetup and I’ll restart the self-talk.

And I honestly don’t really know what to do about it. I started my bullet journal to keep track of meetings and challenges, just so I have an objective way to examine my progress. It works okay, but it only helps when I read the book - and I can’t do that every time I leave a conversation.
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I have the feeling the last problem will play a huge role in answering this question:

I don’t know. And now that you’ve asked me, I’m getting concerned I’m chasing a mystical creature. I’ll have to give this a lot more thoughts, so thanks for throwing the question into the room! What are your thoughts about on the topic?


#11

Day 12 | Social Success - Karaoke!

NoSurf: 8 days (out of 8)
Meetings: 9 meetings on 6 days (out of 8)
Challenges: 11 challenges on 6 days (out of 8)

What went well?
I don’t want to go into detail, but on the weekend I had to organize a bunch of activities for a youth club. And somehow I acted confident enough for them to respect my role of ‘supervisor’. I was able to control the group when things got out of hand, and even got them to clean up and set the breakfast table!

The whole experience makes me question my own self-perception. Maybe the distorted view I described in the last post is the biggest problem I’m facing when it comes to loneliness and social skills :man_shrugging:

Memorable Moment:
We wanted to end the end with a few rounds of karaoke. Right before we could get started, one of the shy kids came up to me and asked if I would join the singing - as he was afraid to do it alone. I didn’t want him to go down the same route regarding karaoke machines as I did (= not getting near them, ever), so everytime it was his turn, I tried to chant extra loud. I’m deliberately saying chanting instead of singing since I’m not hitting any notes. And it worked - at the end, he was performing like crazy!

The next day we had enough time to do another round, and a few other kids asked me to join their team. Since my musical talent can’t be their main drive, I’d guess I made things less awkward and more fun during the singing. I have no idea how the fuck that happened.:joy:

What went wrong?
Being an introvert, action-packed weekend drained my energy and I didn’t do anything social the last two days. In the short term, it’s not the end of the world but isn’t a sustainable approach: I find myself facing a lot of social situations in a few days, just to take the next days off and recharge. I’ll have to watch out to evenly distribute my social situations among the week when planning my day.

What can I do to make the next days 1% better?
I noticed I’m in a really bad situation to spontaneously invite people over. My room is a mess, the trash can is overflowing, the sink is packed with dirty dishes and the bath should have been cleaned last week. Similar to social situations, I have an all or nothing mindset. Either I clean the complete apartment, or I don’t do anything at all. But scheduling a 2 hour clean up phase before the meeting will break the spontaneous part.

The next few days I’ll try to reserve 15min before bedtime for cleaning. That means I’ll go around and pick up any clutter and wash the dishes. Baby steps.


#12

Well done, Dino. Truth be told, I was very skeptical from the get go that you would be as socially inept as you coloured yourself. It‘s good to see that it turned out not to be the case.

As for cleaning up: Please invest time into this. I sincerely believe that orderly surroundings are the foundation for a life well lived.


#13

Day 19: The Depression came back

To keep things short, the last few days I felt restricted by my own rules, routines, and activities. I didn’t feel like I was living, I felt like I was functioning, just to get by. Since there isn’t much time to actually live outside of my routines, I realized my self-improvement was no longer about making my life better, but about making the self-improvement process better.

I can’t really put the feeling into words, but the only important part is that this weekend it became too much and I caved. For a few days I let go of all my healthy habits: I ate all the sugar I wanted, I surfed as long as I wanted (= the whole day), didn’t care about socializing, cleaning, exercising or even getting good sleep.

It’s no surprise to hear that I immediately fell back into the hole I tried to crawl out of. Feeling like shit, not having any motivation, being hopeless, and having a fun combination of low energy and bad sleep - you know the drill.

On the bright side: It’s good to know all of the habits I forced myself to take on over the last 6 months actually make a difference in my depression. Which means they will help me crawl out of the hole once again.
The bad news is: It’ll take a few disciplined weeks and 100% dedication to get back on track, which means I’ll have to take all habits as serious as I did in the beginning. Which also means absolutely no internet (apart from work) for me, which includes this forum.

I’ll get back to all open PMs or posts once I come back! If any of you have any tips on how to find a balance between optimizing your life and actually living your life, all help is greatly appreciated.

…sooo, I’ll see you in a few weeks! Have fun without me :grinning: