This weekend I took the first step towards creating sustainable peace in my life. I de-junked my internet.
In some ways, this was harder than I expected. I LOVE to be “in the know.” It’s part of my personality. I have been asked at least ten times–in all seriousness–if I have memorized the internet (ha!). This desire to be everywhere, know everything, and to have it all right now has severe, but often unrealized, consequences.
A few weeks ago, Pilo and I were at home chatting after work. We were sitting on the couch in the living room with our laptops. We chatted for fifteen minutes or so and then both started into our own little internet browsing worlds. One wall of our living room is a large window, and the vertical blinds were open. We were still there (on the couches, using our laptops, with the blinds open) three hours later when the sun had set and it was very dark outside. Neither one of us had even turned on a light or shut the blinds because we were too involved in the internet to notice. It was a sad realization.
Why is de-junking your internet important? It’s important because it will help you feel more at peace. You control the computer/internet, not the other way around. You do not need to be a slave to Facebook or to your email. Focus on the people and information that is most important, and be willing to let the rest of it go.
Here are the steps I followed to de-junk my internet:
1. Evaluate EVERY SINGLE blog that you read
Why do you read it? What purpose does it serve in reaching your overall life goals? Do you already get similar information elsewhere? For me, this involved paring my Google Reader down to a total of five blogs. You’ll laugh at my five: One is about living a purposeful and creative life, one is about increasing the safety of birth, one is a recipe blog, one is a family blog, and one lists classes available at a local store. That’s it. Your numbers and the blogs you choose to keep are going to look different; but, the concept remains the same. Pare down your list to only those things with true value and worth.
2. Stop the Facebook/Twitter/social media obsession
I know this is the most controversial of my suggestions, but delete all of your social media accounts *gasp*. You don’t need them. There’s no reason to know that your great aunt’s second cousin went on a vacation to Finland, or that your friend from Girl Scouts (who you haven’t seen or talked to in well over a decade) ate a hamburger for lunch, or that your college roommate for two weeks of your sophomore year is now expecting twins. It’s just mind clutter. I can honestly say that I have never learned anything of eternal significance on Facebook or Twitter. If you aren’t ready to actually delete the accounts, stay off of them for an entire month (no cheating) and then decide.
Work on establishing REAL relationships with the people who matter most in your life. It’s amazing how freeing this can be. Rather than giving 500+ “friends” a little tiny bit of your time, focus on 5 (or 10 or 20) people and be truly present for them. It’s worth it for them, and it’s worth it for you.
3. Turn off your alerts
Does your phone beep every time you get an email? Do you get an email every time someone posts a comment on your favorite online message board? Turn off the alerts. You don’t need them. They are unnecessary interruptions into the mental and physical flow of your day. Set a pattern of checking on the truly important things consistently enough that you get the information. Then there’s no need for alerts.
4. Unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists
Is your email inbox overflowing with sales from stores you rarely visit, news articles that you don’t actually care about, and vacation deals that you don’t remember subscribing to? Unsubscribe from all of them. At the bottom of each email, there should be an unsubscribe link of some sort. Use that. If you can’t find the unsubscribe link, use Google to find the company and then email/call them and ask to be removed from the mailing list. It will take a few minutes to do this, but it is worth the time savings in the end. When the information in your inbox is limited to things that are actually relevant and important, you’ll trust your inbox more and sift less.
5. Use timers
There are a lot of good, fun, interesting, and entertaining things on the internet. It’s important to have some downtime and to be able to browse and play. The key is to keep those things from taking over your entire day. Find a timer that works for you (there are online ones, apps, small ones from the store, etc.) and set time limits. Yes, you’re an adult and feel like you don’t need a curfew, but you do. For me, I give myself 20 minutes per day for random internet browsing of whatever I choose (this is where Pinterest, online message boards, etc. belong). When the timer goes off, stop. It’s a pattern of discipline that you can establish.
You can also add a timer to your modem. Simply plug the modem into a timer that is used for Christmas lights. Set it to go off at a certain time each night. Mine goes off at 9:30 pm. You can always bypass the timer if you do need to be using the internet for a legitimate purpose later than usual. Most of the time though, having it turn off will be enough to remind you to get off of the computer.