The Success Story of Ava


#1

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. :slight_smile:


#2

Thanks being so honest and personal. I think i’m going to rewrite my intro now so it includes a bit more of the backstory. I’m really glad you’re depression has gotten better and that you’ve started reading again :]

It seems like we share a lot of interests (minimalism, stoicism, meditation, books, and privacy) I’m looking forward to a lot of interesting discussion in the future anthym!


#3

I feel like my experience with internet addiction is very similar to yours. Instead of voices, I had terrifying hallucinations upon waking up and gruesome hypnogognic imagery while trying to fall asleep. But sometimes my hallucinations were auditory, too. Before I got married, I had to fall asleep with the TV on. Otherwise, I was too scared I might hallucinate. I felt like I couldn’t turn my brain off at night, just like you.

I have purely-obsessional OCD, which one of the symptoms is disturbing thoughts. The internet triggers my disturbing thoughts. Primarily social media. I quit social media all together (except for occasional isolated forum use, though I try to avoid it), and my anxiety faded. No more fights with people online to worry about. No more disturbing news articles shared on someone’s wall to worry about. No more worrying about if I worded something perfectly.

I was 7 years old when I got my own computer.


#4

This was fun to read. Good luck with your future. :slight_smile:


#5

Feel free to PM if you need help with the Swedish language or have any questions about Sweden.


#6

Some update is needed on this success story! It was posted March 2018, and now it’s September 2018.



Changes in my surroundings:
In the meantime, I have moved out of the abusive home, and started my new job. :slight_smile:
This has both had a great effect on my device usage. I don’t have any reason to use the internet as a refuge anymore, I have gotten out of the uncomfortable situation and feel good in my own home now.
The new job is interesting and I always get great feedback about my work; it’s just the right mix of difficulty and ease so that I get really into the flow and there’s no need to check my phone.
Otherwise, I am really glad to be surrounded by and meeting SO many people who are interested in mindful tech use! I keep running into people with the same values as NoSurf, and it’s been amazing. Even my new school has its own kind of class where we talk about mindful and healthy media use (material I will soon share onto here).

About the phone:
I only keep essentials and productive stuff on it now. Excluding obvious stuff like settings, I only keep the phone as camera, alarm/watch, notebook, music player, messaging/calling device, public transport helper, and use useful apps like banking apps, Duolingo or Headspace. The only social thing on my phone is WhatsApp, I have deleted Reddit and Tumblr off of it a while ago.

Thanks to ScreenTime, I have now found out that I use the phone 1 - 2.5 hours a day. I do have a limit set for 3 hours, but I rarely cross it and I also wanna focus less on time spent vs. how I spent it. Some days require more screen time than others, like practicing Swedish a lot, or taking a lot of notes digitally. So it means less to me how much I used it, just that I used that time for good reasons and feel good about the usage. No use shaming myself for being on my phone for 3 hours when all of those hours have been spent reasonably.

I have offloaded a lot of apps I previously had on my iPhone onto my iPad since I rarely use it. It often sits at home, battery empty, and I get it out to read an eBook, not much more. That’s been useful for apps like the Discourse app and Slack which is both needed for mod stuff for NoSurf; since I am gone 10 hours a day most days, I can’t always get on the computer. Checking the iPad on some days quickly once a day before moving on to other things has been very good. It’s not on a device I use a lot, it is big and hard to take with you most of the time, and I can focus on the essentials with the phone I have always with me while putting other less important or even ““addictive”” stuff onto the iPad.

About the computer:
RescueTime tells me I average around 1-2 hours per week. I just don’t get to be on the computer much these days, and I mainly use it for Emails, or writing for NoSurf (blogs, or long posts like this one). So Sunday is usually the only day I spend some time on it, if any.

As a comparison:
I used to spend like 10 hours on my computer on many days especially with gaming, and often used my smartphone for 6-7 hours, if I had to estimate. Every day.

I have deleted TimeGuard and Cold Turkey off my devices because I don’t need blockers any more, at least the kind that they are. They served me well and I don’t exclude them from my future, maybe I’ll need them again some time, but for now I don’t. I like ScreenTime and RescueTime for time tracking.



About the media consumption:
I try to focus more on creation/activity than consumption, especially passive consumption. I try to actively improve myself or do something, even when it doesn’t create something (think: learning a language, walking the dog, gardening). Or I create embroidery, or a nice meal, etc. I don’t watch much Netflix anymore, I basically only game with my girlfriend right now in a Co-Op setting (I don’t avoid other games, this is just the situation right now by chance), and we play a lot of board games. It feels good to use games and media for our gain, and not only passively watching all the time (sometimes is good though!). Otherwise, I try to not go on my phone the first hour I am awake at least, and no phone after 8pm. Works most of the time, and is very good for my sleep and getting out of bed quickly.
My long commute of almost 2 hours is not much of a problem; I just relax, do breathing techniques, read, or look outside the window or listen to music. Sometimes I journal or message people, or see if there’s any pressing mod matters.

About the mind: I obviously experience a lot less anxiety, and a lot less checking urges, and still gain the benefits of all the advantages listed in the original posts. My thoughts feel a lot clearer and more like mine, not some relatable algorithm machine set out for likes like it was ;D

I feel like I really developed a solid character and interests, and have found good values to stick by for myself. Recently I heard some compliments about my character from a person [in real life] I initially really disliked, so that has to mean something :stuck_out_tongue:

And for the first time in my life, I am not the last person to follow the group of people around that I wanna be with, hopelessly forcing myself to whereever they wanna go, or having to search out specific people and approach them; I am the person that people follow and choose to sit with. I am actually getting asked questions. People approach me. Yes, and this is so unusual to me! Focusing less on online just helped me focus on me, my character, my values, furthering my knowledge, and seeming more approachable by not being distracted and sucked into my phone all the time, and building my self esteem up further (and therefore, already seeming more open and having a different posture, which can already make a difference).

I feel a lot more connected (in real life, not virtual connection) and everything feels more vibrant and real to me. I focus on details, I am present in the moment, I can actually enjoy things and take my time.

I think I have gotten a lot calmer, more collected, and developed a better tone online, but that’s just my perspective.
Since removing myself from the internet so much, I remember again that there are actual humans on the other side, and it feels more like talking to people than screaming into a void. A lot of negativity, cynicism and misanthropy that was caused by excessive internet use and online spaces has lifted.

I used to have this intense urge to post a lot of my opinions and other stuff online; I mean, we get trained to do that. The websites ask us: What are you doing? and we post. We are glad to see people wanna see what we have to say thanks to followers and likes, and feel the need to post everything. Keeping it to ourselves feels like bottling something up, like it might as well have not happened if we don’t post proof of it online. I am not talking about posts like this one or blog posts for NoSurf, I am talking private opinions, what I had for dinner, gifts from my girlfriend etc. I still felt this urge for validation, to show people what a great life I lead, to have an online exposé of me. This has faded.

I realized: The only people who need to know that stuff are people I can talk to directly. People I have conversations with, where we touch on these topics on our own. People around me that will see and know how I am, what I do, what I created, what I ate. I don’t need to profile myself, present myself to the outside world, do a kind of online CV of my life.

Now I am really disinterested about posting about myself online [aside from this forum, for blog or progress reasons, which is obviously in a rather educational/beneficial/support sense] because naturally talking about it just feels a lot better. I can keep stuff inside, I don’t feel the need to rant and post and publish everything. Social media turned me into a ““narcissist”” who thinks that their opinion really needs to be heard and posted immediately. I am not like that anymore. If you know me, you are gonna see my embroidery, or see what books I take with me. You’re gonna find out my opinion about coffee culture once we get coffee together. No need to post on Tumblr about my embroidery progress, or the books I read, or how much I hate coffee culture to somehow seem more productive or interesting to nameless people.

I also pick my battles. There used to be this urge to comment anything. I tried to scrape together a reply for anything, anywhere, even if I knew not much about the topic, or if that petty fight was senseless. Nowadays I mostly shut up until I feel like I have something worthwhile to say, and I can also sit back and say to myself “This is a task for someone else.” and let it go. I answer when I can and when I have to, and that’s it. No more feeding the self-important ““narc”” or the inner police officer that wants to be right and correct everyone in every petty online fight. I actually realized this because recently I logged into Reddit again after weeks of absence, and someone had commented on a post of mine from 5 months ago to pick a fight. I realized, this could be me from the past, and realized I have moved so far away from that.

To quote from my journal:

Since reducing social media further and further, implementing healthy rules about what I keep, how I use it and why, and installing blockers to eliminate choice and reserve willpower for important things and reading some books, I was able to divide myself from that old view and see the Internet for what it is: a useful tool, but I was overusing it, using it for the wrong things, and there was a lot of bullshit in it as well. Irrelevant stuff, stuff I would forget within 10 minutes, stuff that doesn’t justify a lot of shitty nights and sleepy days and missed opportunities for hobbies. Are funny tweets, memes, relatable shitposts and Tumblr discourse really worth having miserable sleep and nothing to show for in my free time? No.
It just made me a generic, kind of miserable and boring person. In comparison to now, at least.

But now there’s no fear of missing out anymore, I have a healthy relationship to the internet, my use is purposeful and also not excessive. I feel good about my internet use, I feel like it serves me instead of me being a slave to the endless feeds. I can objectively see now that most online content being churned out every second really doesn’t have any bearing on my life and is also not interesting enough to be more important than my real life pursuits, which are a lot more fulfilling and useful. Walking the dog in the forest, or seeing people post pictures of forests on Instagram? Seeing studyblr blogs study with their bullet journals, or being organized myself and learning a language? Spending time with my girlfriend, or looking at memes? It becomes so obvious what is the better choice.

So now I feel fine and very content just not looking at any online stuff for the majority of the day.
[…]
NoSurf really helps putting real life commitments first, training your discipline, and realizing what is worth your time and isn’t. Without it, the lines would be blurry, I would be undisciplined and giving myself constant excuses to engage in stuff I shouldn’t, and struggling to do what I do now. It gave me a lot more confidence and competence indirectly. Now I know where to put my focus, and I can bring up the necessary discipline to do what’s right and good. I really need to sleep like that to start my new job as a trainee in a federal institute, and if the Internet was still so present in my life like it used to, it would be impossible. I would only sleep 4 hours, be too late because of lying in bed scrolling feeds in the morning to slowly wake up, I wouldn’t exercise or meditate, eat properly etc.

Now I have standards, a routine, energy, willpower, and something great lined up for me and I can make proper use of it. I will be focused, giving my best, and at the same time have enough time to spend on hobbies, people, my dog and other things that matter.

And now, for a thrilling season finale: While writing this sentence, I am deleting my Tumblr because I don’t use it anymore. Maybe I’ll do the same with Reddit, but the thing holding me back for now is keeping it for mod purposes. :slight_smile:


#7

I don’t really have anything to add. I just want to express how happy I am that you have found so much success :slightly_smiling_face:

Just one question: What exactly is your new job about?


#8

I don’t know if I told you this before,

But when I was young(er) I was a lot like you. I didn’t have anyone close so I stayed home and surfed the internet and played video games all day. I wasn’t abused but as I got older my life became waking up, coasting through school, going home and surfing the internet and playing games for the rest of the day. Finally going to bed and doing it all again. Never really saving any time for my family, not eating at the dinner table or even socializing. It was all just the screen. Of course they to also had smartphones and my dad had a computer. So that just made things harder.

Just some food for thought.


#9

I have a suggestion. Why not make a new fresh account, in which everything is blocked and ask the other mods to transfer the mod power to your new account. This way, you can still moderate, but you won’t be reminded about your old post history or any obscure subreddits you might have saved.

I did the same with Facebook. I blocked my account and will delete it after a year if I could not find a reason to keep it. Now I’ve found a reason to stay on Facebook, but I just made a new account for just that purpose (being aware of certain events for a new sport I am participating in) and still plan on deleting my original account.


#10

That’s a cool idea I thought about as well, but I don’t think it would solve anything for me personally. I’m not addicted to Reddit and the mod stuff isn’t a danger to relapse. If I wasn’t mod I would have deleted it weeks ago. It’s rather about having a Reddit account at all, and this “just in case”/backup mindset about the account because of mod status.

An incident lately has reminded me that it could be beneficial in keeping the account around for when something happens in the sub; or stuff needs to be edited, like when we recently reworked the wiki. We aren’t too many people and some of us have blocked Reddit completely for addiction reasons, so having some people who have no problem with Reddit is good.


#11

Ah, clear. Sometimes one has to sacrifice something for the greater good, right? :stuck_out_tongue: