Navigating Internet Use with Mental Illness - A Journal


#1

[SKIP TO THE SECOND POST IF YOU WANT]

I just thought I’d join in on a journal, to hopefully inspire our other members to share their progress, and to document mine as well as post some thoghts about NoSurf that don’t fit specific threads or aren’t worth opening one about. I also find it interesting how specific journals from specific people can fill out a certain subtopic of internet addiction. Mine will be NoSurf with mental illness.


Introduction to the topic
I’ve recently read some threads in the subreddit about people on there suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, and generally specific smartphone or internet use is linked to depression because of the constant comparison our minds do when we see others seemingly more successful or more socializing than we are. For others, depression or other mental illnesses even drove us to excessive internet use.
The internet can distract us from our feelings; it can make us feel better through seeing cute, informative or funny stuff, and sometimes it sucks us in through groups that validate us - either getting too invested in (and reliant on) online support, or indulging in venting in the self-deprecating online meme culture that mentally reinforces the symptoms and thought loops that make us worse. It can make us feel better about ourselves through receiving validation in forms of likes, follows, clicks, and views, and make us feel less lonely when we feel alienated and disconnected in real life and surrounded by people who don’t understand (or we think they don’t). The internet is also a great distraction for when we witness a fight, or there is tension and/or abuse at home. In a permanently abusive home, the internet is a great constant escape to avoid it.

Excessive online use is a pitfall in itself through reasons mentioned a lot on here, the website and the sub. But especially for mentally ill people, it can be even harder.
It happens so fast that you base your entire self worth on how your internet persona is received, and a disagreement, or a flopping post, or online hate can quickly turn serious (ex. driven to suicide); online space is many mentally ill people’s only safe space, so if that gets invaded or destroyed, consequences are fatal. We might even obsess about what people think about us more than mentally healthy people do, to the point of panic attacks and anxiety.
Additionally, some online spaces for mentally ill people blur the lines between support and romanticization of mental illness quickly, and instead of owning one’s symptoms while working towards recovery, you are consciously or subsconsciously urged to be the sickest, the worst, the one most suffering in those environments. It can quickly become a competition about who had or has it the worst. It’s easy to only focus on the negative there - especially when only focusing on the negative is giving you access to a community, to feeling understood and liked. It’s easy to build an echo chamber for yourself.

Even if we are active in communities that aren’t about our mental illness, we are easily recruited into questionable online spaces or mobs/movements because mentally ill people like us are often directionless, hopeless, unsure about the future, missing a cause or reason for their life, and are devoid of a community in their real life. It is easy to go down dark paths online because of a community we feel is accepting us and giving us a cause to fight for, a cause to stand behind and talk about, a cause that unites us and connects us with others while distracting us from our real lives, or our illness and symptoms. Maybe it even makes us feel productive and like we’re taking control of our lives, like we have a chance to making it better because of this. There’s a reason for usual sects’ and cults’ pickup strategy, after all.

Not only questionable online spaces can suck you in, but predators online can have an easy game with you. Gaining your trust and blackmailing you with it, threatening to leave and scaring you with losing the only person you’ve trusted with sensitive info and vented to, demanding a kind of pay-back for being nice to you… these are all things that can happen to you in a vulnerable state online, and a lot of us mentally ill people lack the skill to set boundaries or have them respected (especially when we have already faced abuse) or to advocate for our needs and say no. That means our vulnerability online can leave us worse off, and victims of abuse are easier to get into abusive dynamics again.

Reducing internet use, therefore, is especially good for mentally ill people, but also a lot harder. It means distancing yourself from your support network or the only people that, in your eyes, understand you. It can rip you away from the validation you need but don’t get or can’t attain in real life. It rips away something that soothed some feelings, and distracted you from the difficult situations around you. If you’re in a country without sufficient mental health care or where mental health care costs an arm and a leg, you can’t afford it and reducing internet use might make you feel like you’re losing the only ““treatment”” place.
And: People with social anxiety, for example, usually have most or all of their friends online because online communication is easier to them than talking in real life; so controlling their internet use means effectively being lonely and losing connection with their friends (or, in the worst case, losing their friends altogether). It can be awful to miss out on a lot of the chats, not finding time to read the chat backlog, not getting references and inside jokes anymore until you feel like a stranger looking in, like the odd one out.
Even if you didn’t broadcast your mental illness online: It can be hard to let go of the perfectly curated online persona where you only showed your best side and got to be the you without mental illness, to accept the real you and start using the time to work on the real you instead of the fake you you had control over.

But it’s important to take control of your habits, take a look of how you spend your time, and start taking actions to get your life back together, and start on a track of recovery.
It’s important to cut sources of stress, anxiety, and reinforcement of negativity off - which can be people and content that’s only about debates and online fighting, negative news, online spaces where recovery is frowned upon or discouraged through encouraging getting worse, people trying to pressure you and disregard your boundaries, content that makes you feel like you’re not good enough or a loser in life, etc. It can be equally important to cut addictive elements that seem positive at first glance out too, so you can stop over-indulging on online life to feel happy, and learn healthy and other coping mechanisms or start changing things in your life.


#2

To the person
That said, this is my journal. I’m from an abusive home, and the internet/my own computer was my refuge. The online world was my only support until I could get help when I was around 17 years old, where I missed a lot of school, selfharmed and was actively suicidal. Therapy helped lay the groundwork and got me through about 70% of it all and was mainly for my intense chronic depression and to get me good enough to survive at home and not die; and I finished that one 2 years ago. Since last October, I’m back at it again to treat my PTSD with approaches such as EMDR. Stress causes me to hear a lot of voices in my head (not talking to me, not seeming real; more like standing between 5 different TV’s on different channels, and they’re talking nonsense), and I can get paranoid or obsessed about some routines to feel in control (basically mild OCD behaviors, in short). I’ve struggled with psychotic and seemingly manic phases in the past, as well as dissociation. I’ve been through most, if not all of the stuff more or less that I mentioned above. So if you can see yourself in some of this, you’re not alone.

I’m about 6 years self-harm free, and was done with taking antidepressants and other related medication [Opipramol; Citalopram/Celexa; Cipralex/Lexapro] years ago, which had a really good overall effect on my treatment and were weaned off because I got better. I finished school in normal time without a break and with a good average, and continued to university. I started to try and further restrict my internet use when it made me more depressed again by thinking other people had it so much better than me, that my life was forever ruined and damned to always lag behind others - because I was seeing their posts or the posts of big Instagram or Youtube influencers and advertisers. I was unhappy and insecure about my future, and disappointed I didn’t get into the uni program I wanted to get into, and that I did my current university degree as a plan B until I find something else (I’m not from the US, no horrendous sums of money involved here).

Restricting my internet use slowly by deleting or deactivating more and more accounts or cleaning up my phone and going digital minimalist meant getting out of the internet comfort zone I created myself (may even had to create myself) since I was 12.
It meant getting up and doing the uncomfortable work of searching for things to do, reading the application requirements (and often having to stop right there because I couldn’t fulfill them, which meant another option off the list), actually applying, and getting rejected - over and over.
It meant to actually sit down and teach myself things, which is something I never had to do (I can barely study, because I didn’t really have to aside from 2 subjects) and something that took a lot from me in terms of selfworth, patience, dropping my perfectionism, and letting myself make mistakes without dropping everything and never touching it again, or without hating myself.

You can’t learn something properly if you’re distracted by social media, and you can’t practice something if your day is 90% internet browsing and 10% sleeping or eating or walking the dog. You can’t start a new skill or hobby if you are always stuck at “research” (dicking around online to read 100 threads of info) instead of just starting to do it yourself.

So, I had to sit down, block websites, put my phone away, put aside the fear of failure, shush my mental illness that was waiting for me to make a mistake to take it as proof that I am a terrible person, and do my best. And watch as that wasn’t enough either. But I at least did something, and that filled me, at times, with enough energy to continue.
I don’t know exactly when I discovered NoSurf or where from; I know it was linked in a subreddit, and it was around almost a year ago. But I only started implementing stuff more rigorously around mid 2017, and get my butt in motion around fall/winter to make something happen. Without NoSurf, I would’ve just hidden on the internet and complained about my failures and procrastinated on keeping on trying. I would’ve just declared it all hopeless, my life cursed, nothings worth trying, and just hoped for a miracle I guess. But I applied for things just in time, got through a few interviews, got rejections again… but now I’m accepted into something I really want to do and am kinda passionate about, and it’s much easier to get into having and keeping a job than the other stuff I tried in the past.

Additionally, the reduction of the internet, therefore reduction of depressing content and a world to flee into to avoid things, helped me get out of depressive phases that had the potential to destroy or at least heavily damage my relationship. Getting my act together emotionally and academically also relieved a huge strain on the relationship. I think everyone with mental illness knows how taxing it can be on your surroundings, and how difficult it can be to navigate or to express your emotions without the fear of dragging people down, of being left, or without feeling like your partner deserves someone better, how your partner must think you’re a loser etc.

  • I stopped having Facebook over a year ago now.
  • I deactivated Instagram earlier than that because I was tired of the constant promotion and advertisements or the nice vacations of other people.
  • Then, I left most of the Discord channels I was active in because they ate a loooot of time while being useless.
  • After that, I reduced the content I follow on Reddit and Tumblr more and more.
  • I finally deleted Snapchat mid-2017.
  • Then, accounts like Twitch followed (and other accounts I can’t even remember…).

I started to actively schedule time for exercise, online courses, learning Swedish, reading, meditation, 3D modeling, drawing, embroidery, chores etc. Things I thought I didn’t have any time for, but it was a thing of prioritizing things and limiting others, especially excessive internet use. I still planned in a lot of time for my social media use, because I felt like going in baby steps that were challenging me, but were still in the range of comfortable. I realized when there isn’t a lot to scroll or check and a very slow flow of new content, it would only pay off to check 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the evening, and nothing new would be there for me inbetween. I wouldn’t feel like missing out. So I reduced content even further to really relevant, really good and useful things for myself.

In the meantime,

  • I got clearer thoughts and a much better grip on my mental health; I am communicating more with people (than to just expect them to read my posts or feeds), I see exactly the content I want on the feeds that remain and it isn’t much.
  • I get to read a lot and with much more focus, I can do a lot of deep thinking, I retain information much better.
  • I sleep a lot better, I work without barely any interruption.
  • I have stopped feeling anxious about my presence online.
  • I spend much less time on my phone and computer, and I use it for better things (calls, texting, scheduling, to-do lists etc. instead of mindless browsing).
  • I can get the nostalgic feeling back when the internet was an activity you took your time for, not something constantly entwined with your activities.
  • I always enjoyed walking my dog, but now I do even more because I am more motivated, there isn’t post after post holding me back from getting up and walking him, the brain fog is gone and I can appreciate my surroundings. I notice a lot more.
  • I started to not feel numb anymore but feel inexplicable happiness or excitement about the most mundane things.
  • I feel content and good most of the time.
    I got to start new hobbies which helped feel in control of my life, feel productive and good; one of them is embroidery, which is helping great against anxiety and my habit of biting my fingers and dermatillomania.

#3

My most recent changes have been that I got down to following 20 people on Tumblr, and 8 subreddits on Reddit [which is a pretty low number for me especially knowing where I started out].

I’ve also rearranged my phone so the icons are smaller and less distracting, and I started using TimeGuard on it to block Tumblr and Reddit, so I can only unblock it for whatever few minutes and then it’s blocked again without an option for me to unblock it again until 1 hour passes. I also implemented the grayscale option, but I’m currently not in need of using it. I had a 3-5 hour usage before that, and then tried to get it below 3 hours per day, which was kind of hard; since implementing TimeGuard blocking, it’s been much easier and I know even if I use my smartphone for more hours, it’s not been wasted on these apps but something good.
My gaming is still pretty rare (I used to game a ton each day, now it’s happening maybe every few weeks), and my Netflix use is limited as well and in healthy amounts, so I’m proud of that. Reducing your internet consumption can make other habits worse and I’m glad that’s not happening.

I’ve also managed to drop my music listening habit by a lot - even just 3 months prior, I’d feel anxious about leaving home without headphones, and when I forgot them at a place, I’d get them back as fast as I could. I was legitimately scared of not being able to listen to music somewhere to tune out, to disconnect to my surroundings. I also noticed since I willingly dissociated with music in public, I didn’t remember how I even got where I traveled (bus/train/tram/foot) and no other details either. It felt unreal. I noticed how it actually harmed me and how it’s not good to run awayfrom my feelings via music distraction… So now I reduce listening to music to getting ready in the morning when it gets me going instead of distracting me, or listen to it intently in bed, instead of outside. This made commute and going somewhere much more enjoyable, I feel much more alive.

My goals for now is… keeping it that way. Not letting any of it slip back. Normalizing it and making all of this a habit. I’m having a busy time anyway with sending out documents to my new employer, getting to doc appointments, ordering other legal stuff, moving into a new home, getting the home essentials and planning furniture… so excessive surfing time would take away from those important things negatively.

I’m also trying to do my best in improving the NoSurf forum/website/subreddit and gathering some info on the side about apps, science etc. when I can.


#4

Just checked my battery usage on my phone (iPhone: Settings > Battery and scroll down). While of course, some apps like TimeGuard take up battery while you don’t use them at all because their blocking mechanism drains battery, it is pretty accurate for the usage of other apps; more battery percentage, the more you use it.

In the past, Tumblr and Reddit used to be the top 2 in that list, with super high percentages - with Tumblr often about 46% and Reddit on 36%.

Now WhatsApp and TimeGuard are the top two with 29% and 15%. That means I’ve opted for better, direct communication than mindless scrolling. Tumblr and Reddit are on the 3rd and 4th spot with just 14% and 13%. It also becomes obvious that I use my phone more “evenly” than before, with the other percentages going to (actually useful!) apps like Clock, Notes etc. :slight_smile:


#5

Finally took a step and deleted the Reddit app off my phone! Not because I was terrible with it or hindering my process, just for curiosity and not feeling a need, actually. I don’t think I ever had excessive Reddit use, but it also was more than now in the past. I made an account on May 15th, 2015 to message a redditor because of an emulator software they made, and then abandoned it for a year because I found Reddit confusing. So I’ve only been on it for 2 years, all with relatively moderate use.

Of course you get encouraged to follow more and more subbredits, and many of them are so big that there is always new and exciting content. You want to be there before comments or threads get deleted/locked, or want to be one of the first ones to post a comment so it’ll be seen and upvoted, or you want to be there before a thread gets voted into oblivion or is stuck in New forever, etc. So the voting and moderating and visibility of threads and comments through that can be especially hectic in big subreddits with a lot of content flow and you’re afraid of missing out.

That was the only reason why I ever installed the app, I think. This wasn’t pulling on me as hard as I wrote down now, but that’s the mechanism behind why checking Reddit so much you need an app for it even works, in my view. But this reason vanished when I concentrated on 8 subreddits where about half are smaller, and generally with less content flow, and I’ve always tried to put my Reddit feed on Hot instead of Best (because Best removes those you have already seen if you refresh and gives you new content each time, while Hot only features the most relevant threads with the ones you have already clicked as well). That made the above thing not apply to me anymore; there was useful and good content, but good things were slow and none of the info there was info I immediately needed, it could wait. I didn’t care about visibility or missing out anymore - and Reddit turned into just a forum aggregator I could check once a day on my computer, instead of every x hours on my phone.

So I finally followed up on that and deleted the app. I don’t miss it. I’ve had the above thoughts for a week before I did this now, and it’s really just proving what I thought. I don’t even need to check every day. It’s good to have these subreddits for info, but none of it is immediately needed info I need multiple times a day. I do put a special focus on the NoSurf subreddit of course because of being a mod, but that’s about it.

It’s really enough this way. I didn’t even itch to check it on my phone. I think that’s also because the Reddit app kinda annoyed me. It’s weird how we can be stuck in habits sometimes - checking Reddit was a habit, but sometimes I was just so sick of it and bored but tapped anyway to check it, like getting a chore done. Realizing that made deleting it so much easier too. There’s really no need to keep or check apps you’re only checking because they’re there, and you’re not really looking forward to it (despite good content). :slight_smile:


#6

Something I am still working on is understanding my need for being social, and how it is tied to my internet use.

I’ve always considered myself rather introverted, shy, wanting a lot of alone time, etc. but I feel like that is changing. I think being like that in the past was an effect of how I was raised and how I dealt with some things. Also, seeking refuge online kind of makes you a recluse if you do it constantly, and just spending time alone in your room online might make crowds or real life interaction overwhelming, even though that isn’t your natural state or preference. So by now, I do feel like my introvertedness was something temporary stemming from abuse and internet addiction, and not something I would’ve been like without those; it’s not in my nature. I do need some alone time sometimes, but it’s not near as much as I’d consider an introvert to need, it’s in a really moderate, mix of introvert/extrovert kind of way. I’ve also found out that alone time doesn’t necessarily charge me up; sometimes it’s being near specific people.

To tie this additionally to my internet use: I am questioning if my online habits from age 12 onward for almost 10 years have been affecting my expectations of being social with other people. I was basically connected all the time; messaging with people who were like me, isolating themselves from the world and messaging every free minute. We wrote about all kinds of things, shallow and deep, short and extremely long messages. We only took breaks for sleeping and going to have dinner with family. I had this with multiple people; sometimes at the same time, but usually over the years, one after another. I wonder if this skewed my needs somehow.
I mean, these people were always available, were always up for any topic, were responding fast and as deeply as possible, etc.; I feel like a normal, reasonable use isn’t like this at all. And nowadays, I feel like you can’t expect that even from people who use the internet excessively, because texting is reduced to pretty shallow short conversations that are left on read after some point and there are things you just bring up in person, not online. People might post a lot, but they don’t respond a lot.

I think maybe this set me up with unhealthy expectations. To be clear, I don’t personally hold these expectations, but I mean this in a deep inner expectation, need-fulfilling kind of way. Did this spoil me in how much contact I can expect? Are my needs higher because of this?

When I think about the fact that people lived without texting, phone, etc. and just by mail or seeing eachother in person, it just seems so hard for me. Nowadays, our schedules are full, or not complementary, or it’s too late to meet up now, or you don’t want to bother by calling, or you’re only free for 30 minutes anyway and coming over wouldn’t be possible in that time… all these restrictions! If I didn’t have the ability to text or call, I would be insanely lonely. Sometimes it is too late or not enough time or just a weird time to meet up, but there is always the possibility of getting a little contact in through these means.

But the main point: sometimes I also sit there, in times where meeting up etc wouldn’t be possible, and wish to really be able to meet them right now and talk. The internet and other means give me the ability to at least have virtual contact, but past people didn’t. Is the ability to do so giving me this heightened expectation of contact, or did past people also live with this but just stuck through the feeling of missing someone and feeling lonely? They grew up that way, that face-to-face or mail was the only way to contact someone; but in my teenage years, I grew to expect constant contact even when far away, so what if that made me deal with a normal level of contact much worse than the average person? What if that made me much more needy in a social aspect?


#7

I’m a little confused :frowning: Are you saying that it’s the speed and immediacy of the contact that your used to or that contact with someone was always available through the internet and it’s harder to get in the real world?

Is this a feeling that just started recently? Because for me something occurred going from extroverted and outgoing, always being in contact with people to one day finding that when I stopped being as social I received much less overall contact. I remember it being kind of jarring and I felt alone but overtime it faded.

I’m not saying that your more needy or anything but if you do think it’s related to the internet then maybe they’ll fade in time because I know you’ve changed your habits a lot.

I find with every change that’s internet induced it’s taken me several months, if not years to go back to normal.


#8

Both, kind of. It’s just not realistic to have the intensity of contact in real life without technology, like I had over the internet, even though it wasn’t as fulfilling as real life connections. I know this sounds contradicting, but to make it more clear:

In my teenage years I got used to being in contact with people via online messaging the entire day, literally messaging all the time, with maybe 1 minute or two going between answering and getting a reply. In real life, this is not possible except maybe when you’re living together with a person and you both have no other obligations, but even then, people need breaks, and most of us have other obligations or don’t even live together. Since I don’t use the internet this way anymore since a few years, I don’t have this type of communication anymore, but still, when I’m spending time with people it feels so fulfilling that I wish I could make it last as long as these endless online conversations did, where we only stopped for 8 hours of sleep. It doesn’t matter how often I meet people, it still is that way. And I wonder if maybe, my teenage experiences of this constant communication have raised my ‘natural’ standards for communication to this unrealistic wish? Or if I’m just that type of person, of if everyone has this?

Because after I meet people, or have very fulfilling irl conversations, my risk of returning to excessive internet/smartphone use are a lot higher, because I seem to want to extend this experience the only way I know how, thanks to my excessive teenage internet use. I hope it is more clear now.


#9

I’m struggling with fitting morning internet time into my day, kind of.

Checking my phone in the morning while I’m still in bed helps me become awake very quickly. What otherwise would result in 3x snooze and accidently falling asleep over and over again before waking up and walking my dog in a sleepy haze, turns into 10 minutes of checking and then getting up energized and fully awake and ready to start my day.

That is super contrary to all the people who (rightfully) say you shouldn’t check your phone first thing in the morning.
And sometimes, by accident, I do immediately wake up fully energized and get up without checking my phone, and then I really do feel pretty good about not doing that, it just feels right. But it’s not happening often.

I really try to go to bed at the same times, and I always wake up at 8am, but I have sleepwalking and night terror problems on some nights so I don’t always get the right or sufficient amount of sleep, so checking my phone in the morning really helps after those nights so I can really get going.

I am wondering if my body is just so used to having my phone as a fast waking option that it doesn’t even try on its own anymore (except on those lucky days where I wake up feeling energized and don’t need it). I mean, before I had a smartphone (before ~2010?) I did just fine with getting myself out of bed even after bad nights. Maybe using my phone (and its light, and dopamine content) as a crutch isn’t so great and I should be doing it on my own.

But then I brainstorm when to fit in that morning phone check, and nothing else seems to be good. I like that I can check my phone (Whatsapp, Tumblr, Feedly), and then get up and start my day and not look at those until at least 8 hours later (except for Whatsapp, when I get messages, like getting SMS in the old days). I wanna have my morning walk nicely, afterwards I exercise and meditate, and then I usually want to be present with my breakfast and not scrolling my phone. And then I shower, get ready, and leave the house on work days. I don’t want to scroll on my phone during walking either, and scrolling at the public transport stations is meh. On non work days, I could do it after I got ready, but the point still stands: I feel like it kind of interrupts my day.

There’s something satisfying about being done for the morning and then properly starting your day without thinking about it again. Starting my day, and then somewhere inbetween going ‘Oh yeah I should check this real quick’ kind of feels like changing the trajectory of my day. When I check it in the morning before getting up, the pressure of my dog having to go for a walk really makes sure I check quickly and then take a walk which also helps clearing my head and moving on. Checking inbetween has much more potential to turn into a longer session and sucking away time.

I’m gonna brainstorm more on this, but the point kinda stands. I dislike relying on my phone for a, well I guess unnatural? Wake up ritual, also because starting my day without it feels good when I can, and I hate that I am still a person who looks at their phone before falling asleep and checks it again before leaving the bed. But it also seems to be a very convenient time, a quick and easy way to get up, and I feel like I am done for the next 6-8 hours or more and I can fully commit mentally and physically to other activities, instead of getting sucked in inbetween.

Of course, a valid question to this would be: “Why can’t you just not do it? If it feels a little bad in the morning and doesn’t fit into your morning routine, why not just check everything in the evening like you do with Reddit and NoSurf?”
I guess the answer is, because I maintain 99% of my online friends through Tumblr messaging, and also reading through their posts and seeing local important news on my Feedly is like reading the morning newspaper on the breakfast table to get started on the day. It’s like orienting myself and seeing my place in things; oh, this is going on around me, and this is going on with my friends, and maybe we check in briefly.
I like the habit itself because it’s not harmful to me. I just don’t like where it’s at right now.


#10

I noticed, retrospectively, how excessive internet use didn’t really give me the chance of appreciating the details.

It’s hard being depressed, and hearing you should find joy in a meal, or a flower you see. It’s just impossible at that moment and feels patronizing to hear that.
But thinking about it now, with my perspective on it nowadays, maybe it would’ve been just a little bit easier if I gave myself the chance. My entire day was modeled around my internet use, not the other way around, how it should be. So anything else - from eating, to sleeping, to getting ready, to using the restroom, to do grocery shopping - was done in a hurry to get back to where I left off, especially when I didn’t have a smartphone yet. Even when I did have that, that only served as distraction during those things.

So that didn’t let me appreciate anything. My mind was set on the task at hand to be done as fast as possible and without really taking it in, to be really present. It was something that just had to be done.

Nowadays my internet use is modeled around my day activities and something I consciously do in time slots before doing something else, and it has really helped. Not only in the scientific way with dopamine, but also how I treat the activities. That took a lot of adjusting though, and it’s something I still have to work on from time to time. Just realizing: ‘Hey, you don’t need to do this fast. You don’t need to do this absentmindedly. This isn’t something to be done and then forgotten about, there is no other urging thing after this, nothing to get back to.’

Because when I first limited my internet and smartphone use, I did the stuff (grocery shopping, getting ready…) like I always did, and then afterwards that familiar feeling arised, like “Now I’m ready for my hours of internet use! Now I can continue! Thanks to being fast, more internet time left for me!” except now there was no internet time (after that, at least; I didn’t block it completely). Imagine it like putting a DVD into the DVD player, but you remember you wanted popcorn so run to the kitchen, you go through the motions to make popcorn fast and then run back to the TV and throw yourself on the sofa with your popcorn just in time. But then, no movie.

So that was a weird feeling. What did I do this so fast and distractedly for? There’s nothing after this anymore that needs this behavior. I am not missing out.
I treated normal day to day things like unwanted breaks between my internet use, instead of activities in itself.
When I asked myself how to fill my day-to-day time when I reduced my internet use, this was one of the ways things could be filled. By acknowledging eating, getting ready, grocery shopping, making food etc. as own activities I can take my time with and enjoy. I was so used to just entertainment being something you occupy yourself with (movies, games, internet, music…) that I didn’t deem these other things worthy enough to take up time. But now there was time to be filled.

So I learned to enjoy the walk to the shops and walk slowly and let my eyes wander, instead of half jogging to the store filled with anxiety and picturing what post I could write or what YouTube video I still needed to catch up on. I practiced mindfulness: Really feeling each step, looking around for nice things, putting my attention on sound or smells, to counter this urge of hurrying.
Instead of just throwing things together and eating fast, I took my time in deciding what to eat, what I could do to make it nicer, and actually enjoying the food.
Getting ready wasn’t this thing you just did on autopilot, it became selfcare and treating myself well, finding enjoyment in doing normal hygiene, putting creams on, appreciating my clothes, etc.
Sleeping went from being a necessary evil to me that interrupted my internet or gaming time, to actual rest I connected with the selfcare view I got and that I also used to treat myself better - something radical when you’re depressed and with a history of selfharm and selfhatred (in the past I slept on the floor because I thought I didn’t deserve the bed).

That combined some really good factors for handling depression: Paying attention to your sleep, having secure rituals, learning to take care of yourself and your body, getting yourself enough nutrients, and seeing nice things on the street you wouldn’t have seen if you hurried or had your head down looking at your smartphone. Helping people find their cat, seeing nice dogs, smelling beautiful flowers, saving two baby chickens from the street…

Habits like this stick and grow, and since a while I get the most ridiculous outbursts of joy at the most mundane things. My past self would not believe this and call it extremely cringey and unreal, but sometimes I just look up at the sky and get extremely happy, or look extremely forward to that cup of tea at home, or using that new body lotion feels amazing and like the feeling you get when you’re doing something nice for a person you like. Depression makes this very hard so I am not feeling bad about my past self (age 12-21) for not being able to do this, but the way I used the internet prevented these habits from even manifesting marginally and making at least some percent of my depression easier on me.

That’s another reason to limit internet use to chunks of time with purpose. Extreme internet use makes recovery so much harder and you’re missing out on life.


#11

I am currently questioning my online news intake.

Admittedly, I was never much of a news person at all until maybe about a year ago. Because of certain political circumstances I felt compelled to be an informed citizen. I am politically interested, I was studying social science with a rather political science focus at university. Some exams were requiring us to know recent examples of global politics stuff. Through internet and globalization, it feels important to stay on top of things anyway, probably because those things just make every far away country seem so near and like their catastrophe will have a tangible effect on your life.

Additionally, of course this makes you feel safe and on top of things, and knowing what’s going on anywhere at all times especially politically is often seen as sophisticated, intelligent and educated. I’ve received some praise as well; we have the radio on at work, and it happens a lot that my coworkers and me start talking about what was just said in the news sections. I can often supply some additional info because they’re keeping it short and fast on the radio, which led to a coworker saying “You have to ask Ava, she knows everything!” when another coworker was having trouble understanding a political decision just mentioned in the radio.

All of this makes it hard to drop again. I think it’s an inherent need we have to know what’s going on around us, but this need can become catastrophic today. In old times, having physical space between countries, no internet and/or no easy way to access it and none/barely any online media limited our news intake. We’d be limited to the local newspaper once or twice a week. And how often did they mention other countries and their problems? I can only guess, but probably not nearly as much as today.

Now we can obsess over this need and check news wherever and whenever, from all newspapers, and they’re posting new content all the time.

Of course this has an effect on mental health; you might be having a good day and then hearing what a politician you disagree with said in an interview makes you annoyed. Or you are really struggling with depression and reading about another gang rape in India is costing you the will to live because your faith in humanity is lost.

It’s not that dire for me, but it did influence my mood on some days definitely. It is worse when you feel like you have to keep tabs on the enemy, not in the case of just disliking someone’s politics, but feeling like you need to see any early signs of a movement that could take away your rights, for example. Then it becomes not about being outraged at a celebrity’s recent behavior in the news, but being repeatedly subjected to dehumanizing views about parts of yourself. I have already seen the public discourse shift and certain parties change what can be said in public, making certain statements socially acceptable again, so I sometimes feel like I can’t look away. It can feel like turning your back on a danger and running the risk of being backstabbed.

But that’s what most of these things are: Feelings. Regardless of what article I read, what interview I saw or what awful tweet I heard of, my days stayed the same. It did have zero impact on my day-to-day life, aside from being sad about negative things. But these things wouldn’t even have come to my attention if I didn’t seek them out. And knowing about an awful thing didn’t prepare me for anything; maybe for an attack that never arrived, was never coming.

It is a noble goal to want to stay informed, but it comes at a great cost of mental health if it isn’t kept in check.

I used an RSS feed app and website to follow multiple magazines in the beginning; it was awful, over 200 articles a day just by following about 6 of them! So I unfollowed some of them, and I got about 30-50 articles a day. Still a lot.

And now, aside from negative news harming oneself mentally: it is just clutter. Even just following local magazines is a waste of time. I live for the deeply done investigative journalism or a big thinkpiece on a local political decision, a thorough explanation of the relationship between China and North Korea, how to design a public space in the city or how to make the city more environmentally friendly, but the reality is: This isn’t happening, except every few months. This isn’t the kind of journalism that generates clicks, this isn’t the kind that gets rewarded.

What gets rewarded is churning out lots of micro articles that just reiterate in more words what was already said in the headline with literally no more info than that, or talking about a celebrity’s life, or heartbreaking articles about horrific murders and war crimes, mixed with some medium article of an internet culture obsessed nerd thinking another group of people dunking on him on Twitter means the end of this world as we know it. Every detail is turned into an empty and useless article and when big things are happening, thousand articles are written instead of summing everything up when the outcome is clear.

My goals on reading news were to be aware of what’s happening around me, to stay on top of major political events and decisions, and read more thoroughly about interesting topics. These goals are all not fulfilled by reading the news, sadly. I can’t find an outlet that does satisfy this. Internet culture has changed the media landscape for the worse. Even my local newspapers online don’t restrict themselves to the relevant; instead I am spammed about how a 55 year old woman fell off a bike last month and died now, 3 weeks later. Like it’s anyone’s business. They don’t write deeply anymore, they just check off another article with a reading length estimate at the top because they’re only catering to people with shitty attention spans now.

It really doesn’t pay off to stick with this when just 1% of all articles are actually worthwhile and fulfilling my goals. I don’t want to read shallow journalism either where the headline says more than the 50-word article attached to it. I’m tired of giving weight to scandalous words of a politician and others who want to direct the discussion by provocation. When I am sleeping nicely, getting everything done, enjoying a book, walking my dog, making great food and loving my girlfriend, some words by an idiot do not change any of that. They are giving these people a platform but I don’t have to invite them into my life!

And do I really wanna dig through the articles arriving at my feed to find the one good thing? Isn’t this just a waste of time and attention? Too many times a headline sounded interesting but then it was vapid and short, offering the reader nothing more than an alert that something was happening. Not even an analysis! Useless.

I won’t miss out. I didn’t miss out the 21 years I went without the news. Really urgent stuff wasn’t missable. Things affecting my life were on my radar because of the vicinity and the way people talked about it, and that is enough. I don’t need recent political examples for my exams anymore either. I have knowledge on a lot of more substantial things, and a lot to offer besides explaining more temporary drivel to my coworkers (even though they like it and are impressed somehow). I will still know big important things, and I could rather research from time to time than be exposed to that garbage every day by choice.

The funny thing is I started writing that being unsure of what to do with the news, and now writing myself into such a definitive and clear mood about it that it’s obvious to me what to do. Perfect journaling purpose achieved, I guess.

I’m going to delete the Feedly app. I don’t even check it at desktop to be honest. I will instead research some opportunities that fulfill my goals better; things that send you an email at the end of each week, summarizing only the really big important things, for example. I don’t know if something like this exists, but I will find out. For local news, maybe I’ll just resort to he actual newspaper, or our neighborhood forum. :slight_smile:

Which reminds me: I’ve planned on buying and reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein for a while; seems to be a good time right now.


#12

Small update: I don’t miss the news at all. I don’t even feel like I’m missing out or losing my edge over other people’s informedness or whatever. Easier than I thought.

Another thing I noticed about my progress. I used to search in the subreddit and the entire internet about good things to do when you’re sick and tired or just something after a working day. I was just so used to the easy, convenient entertainment a smartphone or watching videos provided in the evening that I didn’t feel like I had the mental energy to do something else. I wanted an easy, comparable thing to do instead of scrolling.
I just thought reading a book in the evening was impossible. I technically loved reading but I hadn’t properly read a book in years; and even just sitting myself down for an hour of reading at lunchtime was straining enough when I started to read again. I just wanted something easy and relaxing to do! I just had learned embroidery as well, and I thought I couldn’t possibly do something that’s still taking a lot of focus instead of automated motions, and let it be my relaxing evening thing.

I’m happy that I’ve progressed and don’t feel that way anymore. Practicing reading again and reading every day soon made it less exhausting. Without thinking, I just grabbed a book in the evening at some point and it didn’t feel bad. The same happened with embroidery.

My experience is really just: You have to get over it and work for this to disappear.
We are getting used to extreme convenience, lots of joy and novelty and entertainment all from lying around and no deep focus needed. There is no equal alternative to late-evening-browsing or passively watching Netflix. If there is, it would just copy the shallow mindlessness as well, the thing you’re trying to move away from (or limit, rather). Your brain is so used to it that it thinks doing something requiring even minimal work is bad for the evening, because that wouldn’t be relaxing. That’s a lie. It’s taught laziness.

I’m jiggling my leg basically always when I’m online reading or writing something (right now too), and screens and the emotions caused by what we see on screen keep us awake and alert. While it often draws us in with all senses and keeps us occupied and distracted, at the same time it is such a superficial focus. Reading a book or embroidery took deep focus that of course, at first, was hard to generate when my brain would just be like “Why do this, when you can have instant happy emotions from just lying around and scrolling?” but once it was there, it was super calming while not being (too) tiring. It was perfect for a before-bed, after-dinner kind of thing. But internet-dependent-brain would’ve revolted at this instead of letting this happen, and didn’t yet have gained the motivation and abilities back to make this happen.

I see people sometimes asking for easy things to replace their internet habits. It doesn’t work like that; what your brain currently enjoys is getting entertained with minimal effort through just passively consuming something, and you can’t replace surfing with something equally this shallow and expect to feel better. You’re trading one thing for the same.
But it doesn’t take a long time before you notice changes when you start to train yourself otherwise, to appreciate other things again. To be able to sit somewhere, focus on only one thing, not multitasking, not being entertained by some screen at the same time to fulfill the need for a high amount of stimulation. I don’t jiggle my leg while reading a book or embroidering a cloth. It makes me a calm-tired, instead of this weird-tired you get from being on screens until you fall asleep (anyone relate?).
It doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed. It isn’t “too much work for a late-evening thing” like I used to think. We need to let go of that thinking.

Now in the evenings I not only read and embroider, but often also fill in mandalas, journal/scrapbook, self-care stuff, just lay there and daydream or meditate, play with the dog, etc.; all things I used to consider to be too much for the evening where I just wanted to rest and do nothing while not being bored. Screens don’t provide rest. I feel the most rested after a good deep focus session, one that is unlike the one you need at work or school. The one that comes because you actually enjoy what you do, a state of flow. It comes with contentment at the end, not exhaustion. I never felt any contentment after spending 2 hours just on my phone or computer using social media.

I’m glad I could move on from wanting an easy way away from social media and actually going over to doing things again, actively.

I’m still struggling on what to do when sick, besides just sleeping (or reading if managable). I know I wrote a lot here, but I am actually having a lot of pain in my arms right now from most likely a pinched nerve situation (who knew you can injure yourself that much by sleeping wrong?) which makes embroidery or holding a book all the time rather bad, among other things. You just use your arm for anything. The good thing is, besides this here now and a routine check in the sub, I haven’t used the internet much today for the same reasons. But I have no idea what to do when your arms are in huge pain besides watching Netflix… ideas are welcome.


#13

The previous stuff was more current musings than strictly tied to progress, but now I’ve got something. Being ill sucks, because you cant do much. Even sleeping or just meditating or listening to music or podcasts becomes too boring after a while. But for some reason, surfing mindlessly online doesn’t.

High internet use, for me especially in the past, was happening because of no hobbies, feeling too bad to do anything else, and distraction from my bad family relations at home.

Now since almost a week, I had to rest my arms and later on, the pinched nerve or whatever developed into a full blown neck injury with lots of tension and inflammation and I had to wear a neck brace. My neck was literally curved, I was in pain, and the healing plus the medication made me tired. So I didnt feel well, I couldnt do my hobbies or usual routine which keeps me too busy to try to surf mindlessly and keeps depression at bay (which would help preventing feeling too bad to do anything else) and also, my mother was home from work the entire week. I obviously couldnt go anywhere, so I was trapped.

Perfect conditions for going rampant with mindless browsing or at least attempting to - I’m grateful this forum wasn’t super active, I only have Reddit and Tumblr aside from this, and both are heavily limited in content, and Reddit not accessible from my phone. So most of the time, I just checked to find nothing. Or went to check with muscle memory and mindlessly, until realizing it and closing it again. But even this did damage: I’d rather read the same dashboard posts over and over again than not doing anything for a while. At first I gave myself permission to unblock services for 12 hours (yes…) as a small consolation for being sick, but that was already a mistake.

A heavy increase in just consuming entertainment for hours (Netflix, Spotify…) seemed to kind of have gotten my brain back on the track of craving mindless effortless entertainment, and increasing my access to things on my phone was like the last drop causing a dam to breach. There were no huge binges online or anything, just repeated short checking for nothing, any thought towards something productive felt like gum, and I took embarassingly long for things that usually don’t take me a lot of time (writing a text for an article). I felt this thing again where I can concentrate for a while and then, suddenly there is this inability to focus, inability to think of anything, just this plain emptiness, until I give my brain that dopamine fix it asks for. I havent felt that in months now.

I know this is temporary and not a full on set back, but it proves NoSurf is a journey, and something you have to apply every day in every situation, and mods are not infallible. I am already experiencing this lack of motivation again, and my discipline is eroding too because just laying around watching stuff is more interesting to my brain than effort, and I wasnt able to do my daily discipline exercises, so to speak.

Restarting my usual life (probably next Monday which is still 4 days away) will initially take a lot of energy and forced discipline again but that’s how it is. Maybe its also a good reminder of how far I’ve come and an exercise to bounce back fast from this.

I definitely need to come up with an Illness Plan for NoSurf for myself. I know my ‘triggers’ that result in mindless use and checking and they’re hard to avoid when being sick and having to rest. Being ill is so versatile though, and it’s different to have, say a broken leg but intact arms and mind, than to have a cold that weakens you and turns your brain into mush from the fever and cold medicine. I’ll have to come up with a versatile set of plans.

Rules for the remaining days:
No forum on the phone, like before this injury. Forum only once a day on the computer.
Also, setting the Time Guard pause blocking delay to 2 hours instead of 30 minutes until I have this under control again.
Forcing more reading and Swedish practice again, if the pain and medication permit it.


#14

The rules are going well. The rest… not so much.

I’m now sick since over a week. My usual routine and getting outside and working and meeting people has been so helpful in keeping me healthy and functioning mental health wise the past few months, so to not have this is risky. I used to binge on Lets Plays and Twitch Streams to feel less alone, but it slowed down by itself almost 2 years ago by now. Then since a year, I didn’t watch at all.
I never realized how much wasted times watching these streams and videos is, until I recently thought about it. Of course it’s exciting to watch, and you have someone entertaining you. There’s a real dopamine rush just seeing others in the chat watching as well; like watching some soccer game together with friends in front of a TV, I guess. Just this feeling of connection by watching the same thing. The rush to be funny, to talk to people, to get your message read by the streamer. But essentially, you’re just watching someone play and they often don’t even know you exist. At first, you wanna see content from a game… then you’re thinking the streamer is nice. Then you hear more about their life and it’s like this one-sided friendship begins, internally. You wanna know more, you wanna be updated on their life, you’re not necessarily there for the games to be played but for that person and what they’re saying. You maybe even start caring about them. So it’s like hanging with a friend, watching them play, connecting to others… but sitting there for hours just watching and typing, and knowing a lot about their life, but they know nothing about yours. It’s so asymmetrical. Unhealthy, wasted. That’s whats bothering me with streamers, insta idols, etc… you know so much about their life as if you were their best friend, but it’s not reciprocated. I don’t think we can yet handle to basically know so much about a stranger. It just creates feelings of closeness that aren’t real.

But damn, yesterday late evening was so bad. The feeling of being disconnected from everyone, not being able to do my usual routine and just wanting to be healthy again for all these days are just starting to get to me. I felt so extremely lonely even though I had a visitor that day, it was unbearable and I’m a person that usually enjoys alone time a lot of times. I just kept stressing about everything… what if this is the beginning of a bad disease? Worries about moving out, about starting a new job, about my dog… it’s not that my usual routine distracts me from bad things in my life like the Internet does to people, it’s rather that my routine keeps me stable enough to not turn good things into bad worries and convincing me I will fail. So it’s slowly creeping up on me. I don’t even know if any of this makes sense, I took a heavy dose of muscle relaxers to help my neck and arms that are stiff with constant anxiety today. But anyway, yesterday evening was so bad I went on Twitch, caught up on a favorite streamer of mine for hours, stayed up until like 3am for that, just binging videos and pausing blocking on my phone to see their Insta and Twitter, and ugh. Why. I mean, it’s better than to stay up with anxiety and worry, but I’m not proud of it. It just kept me up. Now it’s kinda back in my options mentally, and I hope this doesn’t become a problem again. Twitch is blocked now too, I guess.

What did people do when they were sick, before the Internet? Just lying around? What if they got sick of that? I guess even NoSurfing pretty well the past few months with ‘controlled’ use just still isn’t enough for my brain to not opt for the easy entertainment that’s available when it’s sick and unable to hold a book, tablet, or an embroidery hoop, a pen, and can barely hold a phone. Meds make it hard to read as well. Other things can be hard if you have to rest your neck too. Googling what to do when sick is a joke as well. Suggesting to rearrange furniture or plant herbs. Where in the world is this possible when you’re sick?

Anyway, I need to develop a NoSurf illness plan. I just have no idea how.


#15

Anthymn I don’t really know enough to give you good advice; but I hope you get better from your illness soon. Look after yourself.


#16

Thank you a lot! :slight_smile:

I’m already doing a lot better at the moment. My neck is getting better, my arms feel good too, and the last few days I was able to do a lot outside again (shopping for furniture, gardening, renovating the house, reading…) and it’s been very fulfilling again and making it so much easier to bounce back into healthy internet use :slight_smile: I only shortly ‘relapsed’ on Twitch a second time but then remembered something very good to remember to stop watching that stuff.

Not to go off on a tangent, but even back when I watched so many Twitch streams and esports people, I noticed how unhappy the streamers were. Everyone, even the popular ones. Of course they’d play, smile, laugh with the chat. But then so many sad Instagram or Twitter posts, drunk streams where they suddenly let the facade down and rant about their loneliness. People think playing games is fun, so doing it all day for money must be heaven. But honestly, a lot of things are only so fun because they’re treats and taking time for them, doing them occasionally or in a limited manner is nice. The second it becomes a force, or work, or overwhelming your life, it’s bad. And honestly, lots of these people lost irl friends to their streaming schedules, or only have friends in the streaming community all over the world.
Their schedules just allow getting ready, eating, sleeping, and streaming or preparing Youtube vods to promote the stream on social media. I’ve seen enough streamers being super sad about being so isolated and being uncertain about their future. They don’t get out a lot, they often only get delivery food, their houses are a mess, they don’t know what they’ll do once streaming might not work out anymore and how to justify it to a future employer… plus, it’s just mentally unhealthy to just sit inside so much and talking virtually to thousands of strangers via chat while eating unhealthy too. These people destroy themselves mentally and sometimes even physically, if you think about it.
And I really like the ones I watched as people, and of course they’re adults and have their own agency and can make their own decisions, but remembering that I don’t wanna be complicit in someones unhappiness like that is helping me quit. They may be short-term happy, but not longterm or behind the scenes. I don’t wanna be entertained for hours basically doing nothing and wasting my time, just so someone on the other side stops having a life, eating healthy, going outside, and is even messing up their sleeping schedule or getting drunk a lot to get views.

So that’s why this is solved again as well. I’m getting back on track :slight_smile: The rest of the rules are going well too. I’m still developing a NoSurf illness plan. Will post here when finished, maybe others (especially chronically ill people) can use it somehow.


Edit: Just bought the Pro version of Cold Turkey and am therefore joining the CT club on here, haha. I read so much good things about it and wanted to try it for myself.
This is how it’s currently set up:

I really appreciate the scheduling and frozen turkey feature.

Some explanations:

  • One goal with this is to prevent excessive late night computer usage, especially because of the Internet or Games. This doesn’t happen often anymore anyway, but this way it’ll not happen at all.
    The Focused Work List takes effect at midnight until 1am, because it blocks my usual websites but leaves the computer intact for writing. This way, I’m prevented from letting the Internet keep me up past midnight, but if I’m currently writing something in OpenOffice, I can continue to do so until 1am when the computer I’m locked out of my computer by the Frozen Turkey feature. I often start writing late in the evening because I get a burst of productivity or inspiration, so leaving this tiny window to get some writing done and being able to save it before getting kicked out is good.
    The software blocks are Discord and Steam.
  • Frozen Turkey from 1am to 7am is self explanatory; no late night PC usage… not just no Internet, no computer. I cut it at 7am in case of emergencies (forgetting to print something out and then printing it out before I go somewhere, for example) and that’s why the pre-5pm list takes effect.
  • I usually dedicate 5pm-10pm for Internet stuff on PC (this forum, the subreddit, any things I need computer Internet for instead of the phone…).
  • Before 5pm, I don’t want to use the computer at all; if I do use, for Spotify/Netflix/Productive uses only or for retrieving docs/accessing Email. The way this is set up, I still have internet access, but to none of the sites I use; just for gathering info or googling anything if I need to. The 1 exception is my Inbox on here for Mod Communications.
  • The No Internet list is for spontaneous activation.

Let’s see how it goes.


#17

Small update:
The Cold Turkey thing complements my usual rules and habits really nicely! It really keeps me in check just mentally, just by being there. I don’t even touch the limits I set myself there, and I don’t try to access sites that are limited during the block times, because just knowing it is there and active makes me pay so much more attention to what I am doing, for how long, and if it is mindless or not. So, it really pulls its weight. I keep the clock in mind, I keep the content in mind, the urge to access the computer in ways I blocked before 5pm just makes me remember that (and the values that stand behind this decision) and that’s that. :slight_smile:
I’ve often thought I don’t need this kind of software because I am far into my journey (except for illness escapades like last week) and very controlled in my use by myself, but it really is a nice fallback/crutch to have. Like knowing some info yourself just fine, but writing it on a post-it note just in case. Having something external like a software embodying and enforcing the rules you set yourself and the values you want to impose on your internet use gives it more weight, like making it official. And there’s no room for an occasional slip up, or ‘just an exception’ or a false ‘reward’, which is great.

All in all, I would say I now spend about less than 2 hours on my phone, and less than 3 hours usually on my computer. It really depends, some days I don’t manage to turn it on at all, and some days I check the sub and the forum for 10 minutes and am done; but usually I also put in effort into advice and welcoming people, so sometimes I spend an hour or two on NoSurf, but I consider that okay use, since those are obviously Mod duties for something I want to grow and build with the other mods here. The most time I spend writing text, and not just mindless browsing or short tweets, but deeper and actually useful things.


Which kind of brings me to something I thought about lately. At the beginning of realizing we have a problem with our internet use and especially when we rely on it for emotional support, we try to justify a lot of what we do online as productive when it isn’t, or how we carry it out isn’t.

Catching up with friends is good; but it’s not catching up with friends if we mindlessly scroll meme Facebook pages. And whenever we want to reduce Facebook time we remind ourselves of our good intentions of catching up as a reason of keeping it, but in the end often continue the bad behavior.
This is kind of tied to aways researching information instead of finally starting a hobby, or keep checking a subreddit because it could help your future (productivity subreddits) but is instead just a distraction from actually doing something in your life.

Very related to that, something that I went through at the beginning was not looking to cut internet time, but instead substituting with allegedly better things. Kind of like ‘If I am already spending so much time here, I could at least make it benefit my life!’
Better subreddits, better blogs, starting to read online news from good sources, all that. It’s so easy to try and mask your internet addiction with ‘productive’ things, or reasons that sound good and productive. But it really comes down to what you do, not your intentions. You can mindlessly binge blogs/subreddits/forums that are supposed to be good for you and help you as well. Or it’s exactly these sources that make you go back to an unhealthy, addictive website. News can be another way to waste time online or on our phones, but we tell ourselves it’s important and we are good for it, even though we just quickly skim headlines. TED talks can be extremely good for us, but not if we binge them 8 hours each day and let our addiction justify it with good intentions of putting the content to good use.

I feel like this is another way addiction or dependence can try to trick us.
“I don’t want to let go of my 8 hour internet use per day, so I’ll make it better! These guys online talk about ‘purpose-driven internet use’ as well, that means me scrolling motivational subreddits for 8 hours a day is a good purpose since it could help me get my life on track!” but it’s really just fooling ourselves.

It shouldn’t be filling hours of internet time with something that eases your guilt about continuing the same addiction behavior, but going online for specific things only and then going offline again; like checking email or your bank account, buying things online, or researching on Wikipedia or important correspondence, for example.

As I said, I’ve been through that as well. I followed so many motivational subreddits in the past, but once realized it didn’t even serve as a reminder or inspiration and didn’t impact my life at all, it was just empty advice filling my feed the same way other subreddits did. I could binge them just in the same way. They were just one more thing to be checked, and one of those addictive sources that make you go 'I can’t miss out on that, what if they post THE advice I need, the one thing that will finally make me get up and take control of my life?" but that never happens. I’d even argue that these are the most addictive sources, because it can be harder to let go of something seemingly productive and good, than something everyone knows is bad or unproductive (ex. a subreddit about building habits vs. gaming subreddits).

Following that stuff and using it to binge, without meaningfully participating alongside of it in your actual real life, is just another excuse of the addiction. Same with news, I begun the news reading from the above post not only for the mentioned reasons, but also because I thought if I was checking my phone or having the urge to do so, I might as well be informed and ‘do some good’ while checking. But it’s much better to conquer addiction/dependence/urges head on than to simply switch, especially because the alternatives aren’t better. It’s more important to stop the urge of constant entertainment and the urge to scroll feeds, than to make the content in the feeds make us feel more sophisticated. The core problem persists.
I used to follow so many 3D artist blogs on my Tumblr in hopes I could learn from them and be inspired and model a little more myself again, but all that happened is just a longer feed to scroll, just more content and less time, all while not being honest to myself about how this isn’t substituting for something better and helpful in my life, this is just a subsitute.

This is even worse for people with mental illness, since this problem spreads to ‘supportive’ online spaces. Spaces about mental illness, abuse, drug use, etc. can be an important place to vent and seek advice, but they can also be number one addictive spaces because we can’t stop venting, we can’t stop with the advice, we become super attached to a space that finally ‘gets’ us. But oftentimes, these places become a waste of time as well after they have done their job of helping you, or even stagnate or actively discourage your recovery and make you worse. Reducing internet time, we might argue that keeping a place to vent and be understood is healthy and good, but the reality is that it’s another thing you check for the thrill of relating to others, have others relate to you, and the painful search of the perfect advice; and always checking in with these bad or even triggering topics can just keep you in that mindset, in that trauma, for much longer.

So, it’s really important to see these things for what they are, and either be responsible with them and actually use them to better your life and as a tool for your responsibilities, or cut them out. Don’t try to find productive things to fill your internet time with, even if it’s the first urge. Don’t make productive sounding excuses for things that aren’t. The problem is your internet time, not just your use.


#18

Another update:

I’ve really went from thinking Reddit is super important to me, to not needing Reddit at all. I do have a multireddit of subreddits to save for later, but I never use it. It’s basically just to remember the exact names of some subreddits if I ever want to look them up again, but I never had to so far. I have added new ones to that list and then unsubscribed from them so they aren’t on my frontpage anymore. Now I have two subreddits on my frontpage; one is Science, the other is NoSurf. And if I wasn’t moderator, I would be gone off Reddit completely by now.

I remember when I realized I would spend an hour or so in just one AskReddit thread, reading funny stories or personal anecdotes or horrifying stuff, or lifehacks… I unsubscribed like 3 months ago, thinking I don’t want to be sucked into that every day. I planned on checking it voluntarily once every day or every few days to catch up on things, to limit how much time I wasted on it.
And I completely forgot it. Honestly, AskReddit was the one thing I thought Reddit was so good and important for (for me personally). I thought it gave me so much insight to other peoples lives and important information and entertainment.
But unfollowing content and noticing if you think about checking it voluntarily or not, really shows how important it really is. The threads are intriguing, but without being constantly reminded of their existence on your Reddit frontpage, you don’t even think about it or notice something is missing. Really taught me how we all misjudge what we really care about and need online. If it was really so important and good for me, I would’ve noticed when it was gone, and would’ve checked it every day still or even refollowed. I didn’t.
In retrospect, I loved these threads because they were usually filled with stories and a writing style of how you are talking to a close friend while hanging out later at night or in a café. It was like listening to good friends. It was absolutely a substitute for not being social enough in real life at the time.

Another thing: I gave a physical paper journal another try. I used to hate journaling because I had such high standards: write every day, make it look pretty, fill it with interesting things about my life… but nothing happened in my life, I didn’t have anything to write in or any ‘good enough’ thoughts, and I forgot about it. It made me feel worse, because of my own standards.
Since then I’ve changed a lot in my thinking and what I’m interested in and what I could write inside of it, and I also dropped the standards. Just writing when I want to, and what I want. Not necessarily about my day, but thoughts or ideas or notes about stoicism, personal goals, debating with myself on paper, etc. which makes it so much easier and so much more rewarding. I’m already feeling a huge benefit from it. The only thing that’s gonna be a challenge is taking it with me everywhere, not forgetting it, keeping it intact in my bag, and also my awful handwriting because I think faster than I write. But we’ll see.

I am also currently planning to do a week off of Tumblr, Reddit, this forum, Discord, etc. and only allow WhatsApp, Email checking, bank checking, using the internet to learn Swedish etc. It’ll probably happen from the 22nd to the 30th June, but it’s still open to change. :slight_smile:


#19

I think in many ways, addictions are just a way to avoid facing trauma. From what I’ve gathered your subconscious is automatically processing trauma. I suspect that’s the reason why old people in general are so much more easy-going than when they were younger. But when you’re distracted, you’re to a large extent preventing your subconscious from addressing trauma, as your attention is directed at something external and not the self.

I see you’re diagnosed with PTSD and getting treatment. That is very good. Not the fact that you have PTSD, but the fact that you’re aware of the trauma and getting proper treatment. As you’ve got a PTSD diagnosis I suspect your trauma was pretty severe. But a lot of people suffering from trauma don’t even know it, because their trauma wasn’t obvious. In my case I grew up with a mother with BPD and an emotionally absent father. I was never physically or verbally abused, but emotionally I lived in torment because of the unstable environment. Hadn’t I stumbled upon literature about it I would probably have lived in ignorance for another 20-30 years. A lot of people that enter therapy have no idea that their mental health problems in fact stem from early childhood. And since they (and their therapists) are not aware of their trauma, they receive an inaccurate diagnosis, ineffective treatment and thus end up getting nowhere. As radical as it might sound, I do in fact believe that 99% of all mental health problems stem from trauma (an idea that is somewhat supported by the increasing acknowledgment of C-PTSD as a diagnosis). Luckily, you’re getting help processing your trauma. I would like that too, but I fear they will never take me seriously as I was never physically or verbally abused. But the shame, false self, depression etc. stemming from my upbringing still lives with me today, and I’m doing my best to heal my wounds.

To make that clear, I’m in no way saying this to minimize your trauma. I just want to make sure you’re aware of the possibility that there could be a lot more trauma besides the more serious stuff. Especially neglect is particularly hard to see, as it can be hard to see what wasn’t there in contrast to what was. My mother considered herself healed even though she were in fact far, far from it. She revealed to me that she had been physically abused in her childhood, and that she had been to therapy for it in her 20’s. But, despite having processed her trauma she still passed on so much trauma onto me. How could that be? Well, because she had only addressed a small fragment of her traumas. I really don’t wish anyone to make the same mistake.

Anyway, you seem to be doing well and you seem to have a clear plan ahead. I honestly think doing this Nosurf thing is one of the best things you can do for mental health. Keep up the good work!


#20

Thank you for your response! :slight_smile: I completely agree.

I am lucky in the way that I seem to be very selfaware in where different traumas come from and that they exist, which is why therapy has always been much easier than it often is for other people. I was lucky that I was basically documenting different traumatic events through online sharing from a young age, and always questioning my feelings and delving deeper into the origins of them through trying to document it and share it. My current therapist says that was super beneficial in surviving the times before I had access to therapy, and that my ability to really pinpoint a lot of different feelings and scenarios has been super helpful. Other people I know with similar struggles just sit there like “I don’t know. I just feel that way.” and they just accept it and never go deeper than that. I couldn’t live like that, haha.
I’m also so blessed that my current therapist is also very on top of new trauma theories and recognizing a lot of things as contributing or causing trauma, which has been a very healing experience for me. C-PTSD is so important, because I feel like with usual PTSD stuff, therapists and patients as well try to lead something back to just one event, one trauma. This can be good for a car accident that caused it, but is nowhere near enough for people like us who have been in traumatizing situations for years, and those years even being the years where we form a lot of our coping mechanisms and skills as children. Here where I live, we don’t have this diagnosis distinction yet, so I usually just go by the official PTSD diagnosis, but both me and my therapist recognize the C-PTSD aspect of continued trauma over a period which is not confined to one single situation. This also makes treatment sometimes a bit difficult, because a lot of trauma treatments are focused on one event; like with the EMDR, you’re supposed to get into a traumatizing event. Tackling years of emotional abuse, some physical abuse, and neglect is limited there, because certain situations can be assessed, but not the whole thing. It’s better than nothing, because certain situations have been contributing to trauma or caused trauma of their own, but I hope we move forward in the future and have some better options.

Thank you so much! :slight_smile: