Growing up with the internet as a teenager (and growing out of it)


#1

Hi, I’m Ramirez. I’ve been asked by a reddit user to share my story with other nosurfers here and I’m more than happy to do so. I hope someone out there will perhaps find it helpful in some way.

My 19th birthday is coming up at the end of this month and it’s probably going to be the first time I ever reflect upon last year not wondering where it went. As a teenager, I have been wasting nearly all my time on the internet when I could’ve used it for the process of self-discovery. Doing things like pursuing my passions, taking up hobbies, learning new skills, building up my self-image or even just recognizing my sense of responsibility but none of that happened. The internet was taking over at that stage.

It all started around 4 years ago in November of 2014 when I discovered gaming youtubers for the first time. I never thought youtube was a place I would spend so much time on in later years. I used to go out to play football, go out with friends or attempt to learn some cool new magic tricks but with the internet, I could spend my free time without getting dirty, without having to leave the comfort of my own house and without having to take up the effort of learning something new and interesting. It was like the perfect free time activity. Except, it wasn’t.

At first my usage was normal. I could browse only when I got home for about an hour and then do some other stuff but that changed during the course of the year. An hour became 2 and then that became 4 and then I would sometimes spend an entire day just mindlessly switching tabs from site to site following my cravings wherever they take me before realizing it’s 12 pm and I’m going to wake up feeling groggy the next morning before I go to school. Eventually, school became more boring than it should’ve been, even though I was known for having good grades. I became lazy, in the sense of coming to school late as well as in my school performance. I knew I could do well like I’ve always have but I couldn’t bring myself to study like I used to. I was marginally less interested in school at that point. All I wanted was for summer to come so that I don’t have to come to school anymore and just sit home watching all the videos, scrolling through all the websites and playing all the games without any concerns. I somehow convinced myself that all this consumption was making me happy. It was all I had planned for myself. Play and browse whenever you get the chance and when you grow up, you will get a job that will enable you to afford all the games you want and just keep playing them until you have to work again. Because that right there, that is happiness. I really had no idea what the consequences were of having such a naive mentality and loving this comfort zone of mine way too much.

Then things got real bad. When summer came I was doing nothing but playing as many video games, youtube videos and live streams as possible. I stopped taking care of my hygiene, my hair grew into an afro because I just stopped caring about getting a haircut and my default sleeping time became 3 am. Discovering porn made it even worse. The definition of my life was consumption, consumption, consumption at that point. It was pretty much all I was doing and I hadn’t realized I was slowly destroying my soul.

Fast forward to the start of my second to last year of highschool, I was depressed. Everybody in my class was making fun of how my hair looked, of how quiet I was and how scarcely I engaged in social interaction because I lost nearly all interest in talking to other people. My self-confidence was at an all time low. I cared what people thought, I kept comparing myself to others and in some classes, I sat as far away from people as possible. I even remember pretending to be asleep so as to “justify” my antisocial behavior. Though it was all ok, I thought. I just had to wait until I got home and then it’s all going to be ok. I’m safe from all this pain in the virtual world. I don’t have to think, I don’t have to worry about anything, just open the laptop once more and everything is ok. Unfortunately, that only worked until I turned off my laptop and had to face the fact that I did not live in the virtual world but the real world. Yet the cycle continued, every day, until the end of the school year. I was down in the dumps by then, living my life as if I was an animal programmed for just survival and nothing else. Surprisingly enough my grades weren’t affected that much. I got by pretty well for someone who crammed everything the night before the test. That worked pretty well for a while although it got harder as my subjects required more effort.

Now fast forward another year to my last year of highschool. When the time came for the tests that would decide whether I’d study my desired degree in my desired university, I failed miserably. My average was around ten points lower than it usually was. It was at that moment that I felt as if I was humbled. I felt as if life just slapped me in the face and told me that I needed to become a better person. I can’t just wait for my dreams to come to me, I need to step up and take action. I depended on the thought of me being smart and able to get good grades without much effort but it never did work that way.

That was probably the first actual shift in the paradigm experience I have ever had. I knew I had to do something, there were still the second semester exams that could fix my average and I wanted to do better in those. I also knew porn for example was keeping me up at night and was holding me back from studying so after a few tough days and mood-swings, I managed to quit. But over time I noticed that there was something more deep-rooted than porn which was affecting me. It wasn’t so easy to become mindful of it at first but over time I started wondering why when I wanted to start studying at 4 I’d start at 5. Or why I always felt like my subjects needed much more time and I just couldn’t catch up. Porn wasn’t my only problem as I once thought. After a while the mood- swings returned, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on my studies even for a little bit. It felt lonelier without porn and that made procrastinating via the internet more desirable, but I came to know that that wasn’t the solution but adding more to the problem. My depression returned, I took long naps and convinced myself that I was going to wake up and study after but that was only an excuse to escape from the loneliness I felt back then. I slept for way too long and woke up with bad headaches. I’d barely study for mock exams and I would come to school late again just like I used to in previous years. My resolve to fix my grades - and myself- was falling apart before my eyes.

Then I had enough. One month was left until my second semester exams and I wasn’t making any progress. For once I decided to leave the comfort of my own home to study in my grandma’s house. No internet over there and she barely opens her T. V so I thought this was the time. The time to try something else and long story short, that one month was one of the best things that ever happened to me. For once I felt like I was making things happen. I was waking up everyday getting to closer and closer to achieving what I want and there were no distractions to hold me back. I experienced what it was like for once to live without the internet and I began to see what I had been missing throughout all those years, the joy of pursuing your dreams and fulfilling your potential. It’s during that time that I felt most alive because I had a reason to get out of bed everyday.

Eventually, I raised my average. I was out of this world when I saw that. I remembered what it felt like to taste the sweetness of achievement after hard work. There was even more good news after that. In my country, you get a few perks if your father works in the military. One of which was that you got to study in a public university for free. I almost couldn’t believe that was possible at first but due to my average, I was able to make use of that and study my desired degree. It was phenomenal news!

Everything was going perfect. It was all going the way I wanted it to go so there was really no reason for me to go back to being an internet junkie again right? Except, that was exactly what happened. When I got home to all the same distractions, the same old habit loops returned. Mindless browsing, gaming, loss of focus when reading a book, barely showering and eventually, you guessed it, my depression returned. What I did when I left home before was getting rid of external distractions but that didn’t work in the long run. The problem was that I was a mess. The problem was internal and trying to change the outside will not change the inside. And so my browsing habits gradually returned. At first it was one video in the afternoon, then two, and eventually browsing would take up my entire day once again. The familiar old patterns didn’t go away but reappeared when they had the chance. At this point I thought It really was impossible to change. That I’d stay like this forever and that it was useless to try. Once again the child in me was trying to convince me that video games and the internet were all I needed to be happy. But deep down I knew there was something wrong, that there was more to life than just this, that I will not be able to handle myself going to university if I stay this way. My last summer before university was a great deal of going back and forth between trying to quit and browsing for hours a day.

I think I began reading more about nosurf around that time. I saw all the helpful tips from reddit users on the forum and started working with that knowledge and experimenting more and more. I found other people who were suffering from the same problems I was and that made me feel a lot better. It put my addiction into perspective and made me take myself and my problems more seriously because even if the people closest to us had never heard of internet addiction before, it still exists and it’s effects are real. The nosurf community helped me realize that and seeing all the helpful tips and various posts helped keep trying different ways to quit. Yet relapses happened throughout that journey. Some were less severe than others but some were so bad and lasted weeks. But every time it did happen, I knew I had to try again. That thought didn’t come instantly all the time of course, but it was necessary nonetheless even if all of it seemed hopeless and for nothing. Yet the belief that I was meant for more than my current state helped me keep going. Reading a lot of inspiring success stories from people who were in the depths of addiction and found their way out helped me strengthen that belief despite my feelings because simply enough, we were not made animals programmed by instinct, we were not made slaves to our bad habits but we were made humans full of unlimited potential. We have the power to believe and make our own choices. And let me tell you having knowledge of that isn’t enough to know how powerful it is. It’s when you go through the toughest of situations that this power presents itself to you. And when you exercise that power, it will grow from a tiny seed to a tall powerful tree. It just had to be buried in dirt before it started growing and that is what happens with each and every one of us.

So what happened when I decided to believe in myself again? Well before university started It was still pretty messy, except I knew it was time to do something before it starts so I tried again . And I was pretty nervous going into my first day of university that I wouldn’t be able to handle myself there but I went for it anyway. I did fail, A Lot, but I didn’t let that be the end of the story.

And with the help of all the different posts, with the sympathy, support and encouragement of the people on nosurf, I kept going. My addiction was pretty bad still but I kept trying regardless .And day by day, as I was experiencing relapses and failures throughout all my attempts though I was starting to notice that I was getting back on my feet pretty quickly. I guess it was because I stopped trying to rationalize the situation anymore. I knew that I failed and that I will try again the next chance I get. I realized that failure was an inevitable consequence of what I was trying to make happen. It wasn’t in my control when or how it was going to happen but it was gonna happen. It’s what you do after you fail that is within your control and so realizing that and coming to terms with it will help you greatly influence the situation through your actions.

So I kept trying, trying all the different methods, all the techniques and finally thought it was best to root my phone and limit my options further so that I don’t worry about the internet anymore and focus on my studies from now on. I asked a friend if he would help me and he said he would see what he can do. However, two weeks later, I realized I hadn’t gotten back to him. It caught me even by surprise that I was… Free? It was unbelievable that throughout those two weeks I didn’t abuse the internet like I thought was going to happen. I was getting used to a new life without the internet and my brain was gradually healing without me even realizing it. I went on to live what I think were the best few months of my life. I was enjoying my time at university, getting good grades and meeting new people. It felt incredible that I was alive again.

I didn’t want to get too deep into what I did to get here. I guess it doesn’t really matter because not everything works for everyone but everyone has the power to believe that they can be free. Just believing is very underrated but it makes a huge difference. A study on alcoholics has shown that people who did not go back to alcohol after a period of time where they were clean - unlike others who did - were the ones who genuinely believed they could be free from their addiction. So if you take just one thing out of this, remember to believe. You are a human being. Better than all the animals on the planet so don’t settle on living like them as I once did, but believe in your human potential. Believe that you were made for great things and no matter what you end up trying to do in order to quit, you have to believe that it will eventually lead you somewhere. Please, whenever you feel stuck and hopeless, don’t lose sight of that.

Thank you for reading my story. I didn’t anticipate how long this would end up being but I really wanted to share it with you. I really wish it inspires you and keeps you going like I did. It’s not easy but it really, really is worth it so please, give it your all until you see the end in sight. Remember to believe, and I wish you all the best of luck!


#2

Thank you, Ramirez, for sharing your inspiring story with us. I wish you a internet addiction-free life going forward and great success with your studies.


#3

Thank you very much horaito. I wish you the best in your life as well.


#4

Wow man I thought your original thread on reddit was amazing but it’s incredible how much extra effort you put into the one you posted here! You were so truthful and honest in your story and I resonated so much with it, especially the sentences you wrote about how easy it is to escape pain by going into the virtual world. I also thought this was very beautiful writing:

It was also really cool to read your thoughts on how important belief is in changing and achieving success. I also believe deeply in the power of believing (fun sentence to write :slightly_smiling_face:). Have you ever read the “The Magic of Believing” by Claude Bristol? If not, you would LOVE it. Based on your words I can tell it’s right up your alley of interest. Would highly recommend it!

Congratulations on all of your newfound success. I’m sure your success story already does, and always will, serve as an inspiration to countless NoSurfers that massive change is possible.


#5

Thank you very much man. I’m really glad you enjoyed my story. I’ll be sure to check out that book sometime.