Hey, I’m anthymn. I’m 22 years old and struggled with internet addiction (in retrospect) since I was 12/13 years old when I got my own computer.
To cut my story short, getting my own computer basically perfectly lined up with my parents’ divorce, our home situation getting even worse, and usual puberty stuff and stressful school things starting. So the internet was a perfect distraction to the awful things happening to me outside of it, and a way to vent to people who could understand. I soon spent basically all of my freetime on it.
The damage was basically:
- I stopped reading books almost completely, even though I used to love it. My attention span got worse, and I got nervous, easily bored etc. I only skipped over articles even though I was interested in the topic, and couldn’t just watch a movie. My brain was so used to all kinds of stimulation that watching a movie was only possible while scrolling a feed, so weird.
- I was getting obsessed with the internet and what people could post in real time about me that I possibly missed, so I was always anxious about it.
- My social skills suffered because I could only express myself well in writing and basically didn’t go outside except for school, later I even skipped that too.
- I was easily taken advantage of by predators online through guilt tripping, emotional blackmailing, etc. and was traumatized additionally. It’s easy for bad people online to abuse young, traumatized children or teens looking for some adult that validates them and their experience at home.
- The influence of all those accounts and everyone I had been following had a very negative effect on my depression and made it a lot worse. I was often crying and feeling hopeless about life because I thought mine was so shitty and could never possibly be as great as the ones I saw.
- I lost a tremendous amount of sleep. I also only could fall asleep to the sounds of Let’s Plays running in the background.
- My thoughts were also constantly racing and I couldn’t shut them off at night. Later on, I even developed stress-induced voices that I hear in my head, especially when it’s quiet and I’m trying to fall asleep. In really bad times with lots of internet use, they were basically screaming in my head.
- The internet made me lonely by keeping me hooked to it, but I was also hooked to it because of loneliness. I couldn’t reach out to people well, so reading strangers’ posts or chatting online was easier but not a good alternative longterm, in retrospect.
- Later on, my thoughts were very focused on being funny, relatable, getting recognition and validation from notes/likes etc. and my thoughts weren’t normal… they were about how I could frame something I just saw or did as cool, sarcastic, trendy, meme-y… just to get validation online. It was like my brain was trained.
- When I went shopping, it wasn’t about if I needed this product or not, or if it was useful or not - I was thinking about how cool it would look on my instagram page.
- It made my executive dysfunction worse. I just couldn’t get up, couldn’t do things, even things I enjoyed, things I desperately wanted to do.
So in short, I cleaned up my act starting around 20 years old, more intensely starting mid of 2017. I did so because of realizing a lot (at first not all) of this, and also because I couldn’t sit through a 20 minute episode of a TV show without getting bored and wanting to scroll on my phone.
My social media accounts are down to two (Reddit and Tumblr). Who and what I follow was drastically reduced from hundreds, to basically 20 people barely posting, and 8 subreddits. I reduced what and when I post drastically too, rather opting to tell people directly. That really improved my communication with people, because instead of expecting them to see it on the feed, I could send them the thing directly and talk to them about it. I’m done with all feeds in the matter of 10-15 minutes in the morning (8am) and then I don’t need to check again until the evening because there’s nothing new waiting for me. Knowing there’s nothing new, I am forced to do something else.
My goal isn’t to stop internet use altogether or get a dumbphone, as a sidenote, but use the internet consciously and healthily, and I feel like I’m on a good path right now.
These weren’t the only benefits. now to the rest of them, or the healing, so to say:
- Less checking and scrolling means more time available obviously. Things I thought I didn’t have any time for suddenly fit my day. It was just a matter of taking control, and setting priorities.
- I was finally able to get things done, feel proud of myself, feel like I had a little more control over my life, which is good for depression.
- Cleaning up the feeds, my devices etc. made everything easy to find and I know where everything is stored and it’s easily accessible. Digital minimalism doesn’t only get rid of distractions, but also saves you time and worries.
- My anxiety got way less because less posting means less possible offense or fights, same with profiles. Disengaging from a lot of things online lead to more calmer areas of discussion that had much less potential to be explosive, so there wasn’t this cloud hanging over me anymore that people are gonna tear me to shreds when I’m not looking (and being offline).
- Not having the internet as distraction really forces you to take a look at yourself and your life, cultivate yourself, do some selfcare, improve in some ways, finally build up some boundaries and really take yourself seriously, at least in my case. I am much more solid in who I am, what my values are, what I need to take care of, what I want for the future, what I need to defend myself against, etc. This makes me more prepared to withstand abuse, even online.
- I haven’t been crying about comparing my living situation to others for a long time now and feel much better.
- I sleep much better, my thoughts are much more clear and focused, and I can usually control them and the ‘noise’.
- My consumption mindset changed and my thoughts are normal now, and not sarcastic one-liners to post, and I don’t have the urge to post every little thing anymore.
- Books are fun again and I am basically reading every day now, the other day even multiple hours consecutively. I can also read longer articles online again, I have more patience, my attention span is back.
- Unusual sideffect, but reducing internet consumption also cut my gaming consumption. Reducing internet time and who I follow reduces me seeing game stuff, wanting to keep up and have/play the newest thing to be able to talk about it or not get spoilered etc. So now I’m only playing 2 games occasionally.
Maybe this will motivate some people or you’re just curious how others manage their journey. I’m still on it, because I’m still in the unhealthy home situation and still kinda lonely at times which can reinforce the internet use for me, but it’s going alright. If I can remove myself from the unhealthy situation soon and also get the opportunity to meet new people at new job opportunities, it’ll get a lot better even. I personally know that if I’d get my “social quota” met at least every other day, I’d be off of social media completely. I only scroll them when I wish someone was there with me, or if I want to talk to someone or listen to them.
What my goals are for NoSurf still, is to keep my phone usage under 3 hours per day if possible. I also want to get back to that feeling of when checking into the internet was a dedicated activity you took your time for for 1-2 hours before shutting off the computer and only checking back in next day, instead of this interwoven thing we do constantly. I think that would be peaceful. This is why I find this forum so great and want to support it. That’s also why I’m here, and because I still have potential to slip back a bit in my progress.
My newest successes as I’m typing this (March 2018) are going days without posting anything anywhere (would be unthinkable just a year ago), really identifying why I’m still on the social media I am at right now, and I brought the people I follow down to 20 (used to be 100, then 60, 50, 30…) and my subreddits down from 20 to 8 (used to be 50 a while ago).
A big one:
I started limiting my internet/smartphone use a while ago, but only really dove in mid-2017. That enabled me to finally get my butt in motion to change something about my life. For 3 years, I was studying something at a university that I didn’t want to study, because I’d rather do that while searching for something else. During that, I applied to a lot of places, but none of them worked out. I fell into a deep depressive hole again, and NoSurf helped me to get out of this slump of endless distractions and executive dysfunction to find an alternative to degree programs and instead look into trade schools. I got enough applications out in time even though it was pretty close; without NoSurf, I would’ve just hidden on the internet. I would’ve not applied because I thought it was hopeless, or I would’ve missed the deadlines.
NoSurf then continually helped me to follow up on that - I had to take a lot of online tests in a focused manner to get good results. It helped me to find enough time, focus and commitment to prepare for my job interviews instead of doing everything last minute or going in unprepared.
It rained rejections again. NoSurf helped me not to retreat into depressive, self-ironic and self-hating meme online culture again to cope, and instead I could focus on new hobbies to still keep control on my mental state and still feel productive and not skill-less.
So, what makes this recent? I got a call yesterday and I did get into an apprenticeship position at a federal institute with the kind of trade school thing I loved to get into!
While it was me who did all of this, I do feel like discovering NoSurf and therefore implementing limits and rules into my online usage really allowed me to even apply (in time), to put a lot of effort into my application/tests/interviews, and get where I am right now. NoSurf really allowed me to tap into a much better, maybe even my full potential for this.
I think this may be important to hear for a lot of people who feel like they are stuck in limbo currently, and they can’t find an alternative (or anything at all) or they’re unhappy where they at right now. It’s so easy to just browse to not think about all of that stuff. To just distract yourself from that soul-crushing feeling of being lost and feeling unwelcome in the world, like there’s no place. But the pressure won’t go away, things won’t change on their own, so you’re better off offline and searching for alternatives and opportunities and really give them your undivided attention. At least you will try.