I have kept a daily journal for almost ten years now and I always dread reading past entries. It’s because I will invariably be greeted with the same lamentations and disappointments, all stemming from the root cause that I feel miserable because I waste away my precious lifetime by surfing the internet. Few things of my own volition have had the chance to bloom in my life, almost everything I have achieved I only did because of outside pressure. I am able to create and do if I have to, but as soon as no one is looking I will fall back on filling the void with mindless media consumption. It fills me with great shame having to admit that, looking back on over of six years of full-time employment so far, I can probably count the days where I have not surfed the internet for most of the working day on two hands – if I subtract those on which I have felt the dire pressure of a looming deadline. It’s comical: I feel like a caricature of a person, like the very protagonist Tim Urban is describing in this procrastination articles on waitbutwhy: Forever wasteful with his life if not for the do-or-die situations of dire panic. I can honestly scarcely believe I haven’t already been fired many times over. Looking from the outside in, people would probably not expect me to have this problem: I managed to get a master’s degree, a well-paying full-time job, have a wife and kids at 30 and recently finished renovation of a historic house. But still, it’s eating me alive to know that I so far have never been able to live up to my abilities. Since I have failed so far in this venture, after oh-so-many new year’s resolutions, this is another way I would like to try out, keeping an online journal about this vile habit of mine and hopefully therefore keeping me accountable.
It’s important to forgive yourself for the past and be kind to yourself going forward. You can think of yourself as having wasted so many years surfing and beat yourself up for it or perhaps you can have the perspective that only after having wasted so much time surfing you know how valuable time really is. And because of that you have the strong desire to not waste any more of it going forward. The future might be a lot better for you, compared to others who don’t riot graso the value of time.
Posting here your story here seems inconsequential, even trivial, but it’s an act in the right direction. If you take tiny tiny steps in the right direction each day you’ll be at your goal before you know it. So just make a commitment to incremental progress each day rather than trying to change the past 6 years overnight.
You’re self aware enough to recognize the problem. You have some idea of what needs to be done. Now you just have to execute.
I’ll be following your progress and will drop some advice on the way. You can check out the learn section for more help (its being built right now).
And by the way, nosurf will help you a lot with the procrastination. I don’t really believe it’s an inherent quality l, I really do believe that the dopamine effects of the internet play a great role. My procrastination issues have gotten a lot better since I cut down my browsing.
good luck dude
It’s hard but you are - of course - right. The only thing I can influence is the effort I put in from now on. The past is done and dusted and dwelling upon it may be luring but it’s pointless nonetheless.
Have you seen the Mind Field episode on Isolation? I just had to think of the experiment about Pain vs. Boredom where people preferred to be electrocuted than to do nothing at all. If all the tempting distractions are mentally labelled taboo, it’s inevitable that real work netting real achievement will look more favorable than boredom.
Yeah, I think in a book I read called Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow he mentioned it.
You could perhaps go a step further rather than simply labeling things “taboo” to remove themselves entirely. In that scenario work itself becomes the opportunity to give yourself a shock, in a positive way as to boredom.
Not sure what OS you’re running but if you’re not using in already cold turkey is great.
With no looming deadlines I made no progress those last two days, spending a lot of time at work watching YouTube videos. I would love to say that getting away from surfing is important to me but my actions speak otherwise. They speak of comfort and ease being of paramount importance.
I‘ll be on vacation the next two weeks and I am planning on spending only little time online.
As for the Cold Turkey recommendation: I have an aversion against using digital crutches and would prefer to achieve my goal without it. It may well be I‘m deluding myself.
I’ve noticed that one repetitive pattern is that some some believe it is somehow more honorable or more “noble” to achieve our goals through the exercise of sheer will alone. That relying on software tools, essentially labeling them “crutches”, “band aid solutions” etc. is somehow implying that they aren’t part of a “real solution”.
From my viewpoint, it’s quite the opposite. The software tools are aids that allow you to get to the “real solution” much quicker. From my observation, many people who are averse to using software to help end up staying the cycle of mindless surfing to the point where they can’t step out and start making the changes really needed to get the “real solution”.
Basically what I’m saying is that it’s great that you don’t want to rely on digital crutches at all but it’s also important to be pragmatic. If you’re trying to get to a chosen goal, and the current strategy you’re employing isn’t working you must be more intelligent and think of a new strategy instead of relying on a “brute force” approach.
In essence, if your goal was to chop down 10 trees a day, it would be a lot smarter to use a chainsaw than grind it out with an axe.
The other reason is that perhaps people don’t take internet addiction seriously enough, even their own. If we remove ourselves from the equation and look at people addicted to other things, we find ourselves most likely agreeing that it would be smart to rely on tools, aids, and systems.
Tim is a pack a day smoker. He tries to get over his addiction without relying on any tools. He repetitively finds himself smoking.
Dan is also a pack a day smoker. Hey uses nicotine gum to successfully quit smoking.
Dan is happy and has quit smoking. Tim is still involved in the daily struggle.
Now I’m not saying that we solely rely on software tools and remove all importance of choice, willpower, and other lifestyle changes. I’m just saying that it’s important to have a multifaceted strategy. If you’re sitting in front of you PC and just trying to resist youtube or reddit then it’s gonna be really hard for you (I’ve been there)
I’m think that we should leverage our intelligence to create strategies that make our life easier. That imo is the whole point of technology.
You might also be interested to see the strategies other people in the tech/software sector utilize to keep their internet use controlled.
Nir Eyal, who advises startups on how to make their applications more habit forming, has set up his router to automatically shut off at a certain time making it inaccessible after.
Matt Might, CS professor with the Bioinformatics division at harvard and is advising the white house on tech stuff I think(something like that anyway, I have google disabled so I can’t search exactly) blocks reddit. He was so addicted that he’d find himself automatically typing it into the address bar despite knowing it was blocked. He also only reads news on a physical newspaper.
Paul Graham founder of YCombinator uses a separate computer for work and a separate computer for email, web browsing etc. He doesn’t own a smartphone.
One of the founding engineers of facebook has his assistant set up restrictions mode on his iPhone blocking access to Safari and the app store. (I do this too).
Btw, have fun on your vacation, I disconnected completely when I was on vacation a few weeks ago and it was great!
Using technology to mitigate bad effects of technology - A discussion
It never ceases to amaze me how much effort some people here on NoSurf put into their postings, making them more of an essay - kudos for that alone.
I had a thought about illness. The best cure is to rest and sleep. But sleeping is hard when you feel nausea, vertigo, pain or the like. This is where medication is useful - not as an outright cure, but as a means to facilitate recovery, a catalyst for getting well. It‘s the same with internet addiction and crutches to get the process going.
As for today: No surfing. Not because of willpower but for a lack of opportunity and time. In my mind avoiding something you do not have the time to do does not count as an achievement.
What did you end up spending your time on today instead of surfing?
I’ve been working on my French . Before that I was learning about the blockchain. I thought that I just didn’t have the capacity to learn these things but, now I can see that I just wasn’t making enough time for it.
I find it hard to justify posting an update when there has not been happening much. I don‘t want to bore anyone. But, alas, here I am, currently on a three day streak of not „swamping“, as I like to call it. Vacation makes it easy to be occupied with other things.
A very true and important realization. If something is truly important to you then you will find a way to at least try to achieve it, no matter the obstacles.
For the last two days I have a hard time calling myself a true NoSurfer because I have to admit that I seldom am successful in resisting the urge to pick up my phone whenever there is a moment of emptiness - which occurs quite regularly right now on vacation. It‘s not so much the total amount of time spent on the internet as the frequency of lookups that bother me. I have watched quite some YouTube videos that I definitely did not need to watch and I had to ask myself why I watched them. There always are recommendations that on the surface seem tempting but have nothing to do with my life and core interests.
I could not bring myself to post yesterday. I felt too ashamed.
On vacation I started to track my internet usage by the minute. It rarely was below 90‘ per day and I looked at my phone half a dozen times per day.
But this is not the issue, getting back to work is. I relapsed hard and these last two days were abysmal, getting next to nothing done. I could not bring myself to stay away from YouTube, which is where I waste my time away the absolute most.
If I am unable to change this by myself I will have to use blocking software, there is no way around it.
Today is a national holiday here in Austria. My resolution is to only read NoSurf once in the morning, which I have done now, and then not touch it until tomorrow.
NoSurf has become another reason to pick up the phone, it‘s ironic. So I will restrict myself. Once a day is plenty and I will not miss something going on here.
Yesterday evening I used my diary for a hard look at my YouTube habits. It‘s self deception to think I am actively learning things by passively watching ‚educational‘ content. It‘s just another outlet to zone out. Most videos have nothing to do with the things in my life and, as they are competing with other things for the rare resource of free time during the day, are an inferior use of time. I find that I have a hard time imagining a day where I do not watch at least a couple of videos if I have time. It‘s a very uncomfortable thought for me which probably means that I have developed an addiction. This is not something I want to have in my life, but on the other hand I dislike the idea of forcing myself to abstain from the platform completely. An ideal scenario would probably look something like this: I take a good hard look at every video before watching it, becoming more and more decisive in my content consumption over time.
Why? Could this be the addicted part in yourself that is wanting to see a useful part to it?
What would you miss out on if you abstained completely? Is this worth your time, or is it a crutch for the emptiness or that you possibly hate your work…? What is it that makes you come back for more even though you don’t want this in your life? I feel like those questions would be worth exploring as well
Of course it is.
There is some great content I wouldn’t want to miss. But, as I have implied, it’s few and far between and the challenge is resisting the urge to watching this not fitting the bill just because I’m on YouTube already.
As for yesterday, I was mostly able to abstain from using the internet. I watched one YouTube video after lunch which I do not regret, unlike the four videos I watched in the evening, of which I regret watching at least some. But it’s peanuts in comparison to what I often do when I have free time available to waste online. So I label it success in this respect.
It’s been a long time. I have been hesitant to post here. Mainly because I haven’t found much success in staying away from the internet - especially at work, where it’s most important that I change my ways.
I thought about how to continue with this journal. I like the format @magis uses for his very much and will try to emulate it somewhat in mine. The last two days I have found it helpful to reflect upon what went well as well as what went wrong and consequently how it can be improved. So I will stick to these questions.
How I feel: Deflated. I had high hopes for my day at work but ended up doing hardly anything of value. I faced a constant struggle to avoid going on the internet at my work PC. A tightness in my chest everytime I tried to apply myself. At last, I broke and there was no coming back from that. The whole afternoon wasted away.
What went well: That I actually tried to withstand my urge. I normally just give in to avoid the bad feelings.
What went wrong: I didn’t get anything of value done at work.
How to improve: I have to find ways to lower the barrier of entry of actually doing something. I have, time and again, experienced that when I finally get going I want to keep going. Getting over the hump is the hard part. I have to dissect the tasks into smaller ones until I have something on my hands that I have no fear of acting on. I have to do this in writing. As long as it’s only in my head, it’s chaotic and I do not see clear.
I’m sorry that your day didn’t go so well. However it seems that not all was lost. I think what you are doing by reflecting on the positive aspects of your day is a great way to slowly improve going forward.
I’ve found that in the past I can be my own worst critic. Sometimes the world, family members, friends can all make you feel worse about yourself. Must I make it harder for myself by criticizing myself?
So it is really important to practice self kindness and positive mental speech continuously. It’s a habit that we must maintain constantly. In the garden of the mind the weeds of negativity are growing constantly and we must continuously uproot them lest they take over.
I like the idea of adding a positive reflection at the end of the day, however small and think it will be a good habit to get into (for everyone here).
I also think the strategy of breaking things down to small actionable steps is great. The first step is the hardest, a bit like taking a ice cold shower if you’ve ever tried it. Once your going and in the “flow” state it’s much easier.
Perhaps you can write down on an index card one tiny piece of action you can take first thing at work. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with many tasks on my plate and it can be really helpful to focus on doing one thing well at a time.
This sounds like a good idea. I will try it out. Thank you, for this as well as your whole response. I will keep trying not to give in to negativity.
How I feel: Good. Occupied all day. Had no chance to surf. Time is precious. So many things to do.
What went well: Wasted no time online.
What went wrong: Can‘t think of anything in particular.
Nosurf is easy when there is no time for surfing and all the tasks have nothing to do with a screen.
How I feel: Mixed feelings. I watched some long videos in the evening and as a consequence of that lacked time for more important things.
What went well: I got some things done until then. Went for a walk with the dog, to the pharmacy, picked up an oven for our living room with my brothers, made lunch - burgers with delicious homemade buns - went for a hike with colleagues from the church choir in stunning weather and scenery, played a game of Pokémon TCG with my daughter.
What went wrong: Wrong is a heavy word. There is a mostly weekly show on German gaming channel Rocket Beans TV called Rage of Empires where the cast plays the classic RTS game Age of Empires 2, a game I played a lot in my teenage years and have a soft spot in my heart for. The show runs for about 2 hours and I usually watch it at 2x speed. It‘s entertaining and all and since I watch it from its inception I have formed some kind of emotional attachment to it. But I ask myself if it‘s really worth my time, since leisure time as of recent has been limited.
How to improve: I have to make good decisions what to and what not to spend my time on.
I find it helpful to compare the time you spend on the internet to something you value highly. For example in your case, equating the 1 hour you spent watching the show to 1 hour with your children and ask yourself what would you rather do. It really makes you cut through the emotional connection you have to the show because of the positive and stronger one you have with your children.
Also it seems like so many of us are completely fine when there’s no need to use the computer for anything. Sadly it seems like it’s harder and harder to find well paying jobs that don’t require the use of a screen.