Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Age of Distraction

My name is Chrissy, I have an Internet Problem.

The problem is that I like the Internet too much and that I post things to the Internet incessantly. I tell my life story on my blog, catalog my books on Goodreads, log my workouts on Dailymile, use Twitter as my own personal water cooler, keep in touch with friends via Facebook, save pretty pictures on Pinterest, forget about my Tumblr, have over 100 subscriptions in Google Reader, am figuring out Google+ as we speak, load my photos to Flickr, and, well, I'm probably forgetting something because seriously - have you seen the Internet? It's huge!

Up until this point in my life, my Internet Problem has not been an actual problem. In fact, it has saved me from many a boring day at my desk. I've made great friends through the Internet, learned new things, been inspired to try new things - marathons! minimalism! MFAs! mushroom burgers! - and altered my view of the world in important and profound ways. I am who I am, in part, because of the Internet, and I wouldn't change that for anything.

And yet, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but I was prompted to write about it today after reading Ashley's post about living in the Age of Distraction. Over the last few weeks, I've been trying to reign in the time I spent on the Internet. Don't worry - my blog isn't going anywhere. I honestly don't think I could survive without my weekly ramblings on The New Me. Instead I'm looking at the other sites I use and seeing where I can cut the fat, so to speak. Some of these communities are awesome, but they aren't adding anything positive to my life. They're taking up space in my brain that I should be using for other things - like writing, reading and being engaged with the present moment. Next month (!) I start my MFA program and my schedule will be flexible, fluid. It will be easy to fall back into old habits and idle away hours by refreshing Twitter and subscribing to anything that looks halfway interesting in Google Reader. Thus, in preparation for the Next Big Stage Of My Life, I have done the following:
  • I am quitting Dailymile. This website is awesome and the community there has been nothing but supportive. I probably wouldn't have run my first - not to mention second! - marathon without the advice and cheerleading that I found there. These days, I have a lot more confidence as a runner and I enjoy the solitary aspect of working out. I've been tracking my workouts using Running Ahead, keeping my account private so it's purely for my own records. It's a lot less time consuming and a lot more data, which is perfect for me, for now.
  • Goodbye, Tumblr! You were a fun little experiment but I never got that into you and anyway, it's easier to share things in one place, which might as well be Google Reader. (By the way, if you know how to delete a Tumblr account, let me know. I can't figure it out.)  
  • Oh Flickr, my flickr! I haven't uploaded photos in a while and I probably won't renew my Pro account next year. I post my best photos on my blog anyway and I need to just start organizing the ones of my laptop better.
  • Reigning in Reader. Y'all. On my own personal Internet, Blogs are the golden eggs and Google Reader is the basket which lovingly cradles them. Google Reader is also a great source of frustration - having unread items sitting there, unread, makes me angsty and I can't focus until I see that nice and tidy zero once more. (Yes, I am aware that this is a major white whine/first world problem. I apologize to those who have real problems.) I've been slowly combing through my subscriptions and deleting many of them. I don't need to subscribe to every blog or website that had a good post that one time.
  • Hiding people on Facebook. I like to check up on people every now and then, but I don't necessarily want every detail of their daily commute clogging up my newsfeed. Hiding people that aren't my nearest and dearest and/or interesting at least 80% of the time is my new best friend. 
These are small changes, but I'm hoping they yield big results.  If I can make my offline life half as prolific as my online life, then I'll be in business.

Do you have an Internet Problem? Any tips on keeping your online life in check? Let me know in the comments or email me at thenewchrissy (at) gmail (dot) com.


  1. I've been slowly doing the same thing with my Google Reader in preparation for my last but most difficult semester at school. I feel like my Reader constantly says (1000+) and no matter how many blogs I read, it never goes down. I never even get to reading half the I just need to pick my favorites and leave the rest. I can not only do it all, but I'm learning I don't want to!

  2. Chrissy, you are preaching to the choir!  I still spend a lot of time on the internet, but my habits have changed a lot because I just don't have as much time now.  I've basically quit reading the healthy living blogs because they are too time-intensive to keep up with and honestly, I got bored with them.  I read fewer cooking blogs, too.  But there have been some positive additions: you(!), Kate, Raquelita, and a few style blogs which have helped me to update my closet.  I'm happier with my new reading habits :-)

  3. Do you use folders in Reader? I keep my favorites in one place (such as your blog!) and those are the ones I always read first. If I feel overwhelmed, I can just mark everything in the political or running folder as read and move on. It helps a lot! (As does wedding out the ones I don't care about that much in the first place. Quality over quantity!) 

  4. I read a few blogs in each genre - healthy living, fashion, home design - and then a bunch of personal blogs, because those are the most interesting and entertaining. I am a sucker for a good story!

    That said, I'm also a sucker for Young House Love. Man, that blog is so good! 

  5. I'm figuring out that it's a delicate balance between limiting your distractions and having the self control not to give into them all the time. Because as much as I love twitter (and tumblr!), I'm not happy refreshing them every .2 seconds to find nothing new.

    To delete your tumblr account: preferences (second button from the right in the top right corner of the page) and then there's a link to delete in the bottom right.

  6. Great post, way to simplify, thanks for the inspiration! 

  7. Yep.  I have hidden many people on FB for those very reasons.  I would kind of like to leave daily mile, but I have so much workout data on there now that it seems like it would be a loss to jump ship.  I do feel like I'm getting better about carving out chunks of the day where I just don't look at email/twitter/FB/blogs.  It takes self-control and some days go better than others.

  8. I definitely have a problem with it. As we speak I am trying to get to all my unread reader items because it makes me kooky to have so many unread posts! My husband & I have computer free Fridays after work, but that's all we've done so far. With him being a programmer and me a designer it seems like we're always on our laptops.

    The Friday break gives us time to hang out and do things we wouldn't normally do since we'd be stuck inside typing/designing away.

  9. Chrissy, I am so, so addicted to the internet now. Yikes. I don't know how to use google reader, or half of the internet stuff but that doesn't mean I won't spend hours trying to figure it out. Needless to say I don't have the internet at home, which makes a world of difference.

  10. The more Google takes over the world, the happier I will be. Everything in one place so I don't have to check into all these different tools? Yes, please.

  11. Thank you! My tumblr is now gone. Not that I used it very much anyway. :)

    I definitely still have plenty if distractions to tempt me, but I feel better lightening the load a bit. Just knowing I have one less profile floating around the Internet makes me feel a little more focused. It seems silly, but it works. Now, to master the fine art of self-control... :)

  12. I've taken a hiatus from Dailymile, but I haven't left it completely. I have about two years or so of workouts and data there and I don't want to lose that. But one of the downsides of Dailymile is that it's hard to scroll back and compare this year to last year, which is what I'm really interested in.  The social aspect of the site is the main reason I'm taking a break - I have too many friends on there (I know, poor me) and I feel guilty if I don't congratulate them on their achievements or at least respond to their comments on my own workouts. And once I get on there I get sucked in, and an hour has gone by. Boo!

    Once I'm free of my desk job I'll have to be diligent about changing my habits. It's easy to monitor FB, Reader, Twitter, etc, when I'm at a boring job all day and it doesn't do any harm to my personal goals. When I'm supposed to be writing or reading for class, though - that's where self-control will be really important!

  13. I'm a writer so I spend a lot of non-work time on my computer as well. I try to be screen-free after 8pm on weeknights, and to limit my Internetting on the weekends. Having an iPhone has been a blessing and a curse. I'm not tied to my desk, but I am checking things like blogs and Twitter way more than I used to. 

  14. I will have to send you a primer on Google Reader. It makes keeping up with blogs so super easy!