How I’m Dealing with My Internet Problem.

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I’ve been in a bit of a January, gloomy, funk. It’s really cloudy in San Antonio in January, and in addition to that, it’s cedar season. If you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky. Cedar-Juniper is the most potent pollen on earth, or so says, well, science. It doesn’t fuck around, and cedar trees can release so much pollen at once that it looks like the trees are on fire. Welcome to Dante’s Pollen-ferno. Cedar season lasts about seven weeks (Christmas Day on the nose through mid-February) and I think this is week three, so we’ve nearly climbed the mountain at this point. February and March are typically the most beautiful weather months in South Texas, so there’s that to look forward to before the land and trees are literally on fire from drought, heat, and errant cigarette butts tossed onto highway medians.

So I’ve been feeling generally depressed but not unhappy, if that makes sense, and spending way too much time doing abso-fuck-all on the Internet as I am wont to do. Yesterday for funsies I challenged myself to not use the computer all afternoon. I made it from noon-6:30 PM (with copious help from a Neil deGrasse Tyson book, knitting, and a nap) mounted to physical pain when I told myself no. I started counting every time I felt the urge to surf, and it was, well. It was a lot. Like once every three minutes, a lot. But it tapered off radically after the first thirty minutes and I was able to push through getting some things done, like cleaning and working on a creative project. In the midst of sewing the edges of my spiral notebook cover prototype, I was pondering the root of my time spent on the Internet (about four hours a day on average) and realized that I go to the Internet for two reasons:

1) Boredom.

2) I’m sleepy and don’t want to calm my brain down enough to take a nap.

3) I’m hungry.

4) When there’s a decision that needs making and I don’t want to make it.

The last one is the most concerning to me. The decision can be big (“How do I start preparing my taxes?”), medium (“What size should I cut this piece of leather?”), small (“What’s for lunch?”), or embarrassingly minute (“Do I have the energy to pee right now?”). I’m presented with all four types of decisions, and my instinct and action are: “Computer time!!!” Taken over time, a lot of these snowball. Especially the medium ones, because they have to do with creative projects. “What color yarn should I use next?” or “How am I ever going to line up these stitch holes on this leather?” seem innocuous enough decisions to delay, but if I’m constantly avoiding them, the project never moves forward. Ever.

It’s been really helpful to me even in the last 24 hours to have this knowledge. I’ve realized over the last few years that if there is a behavior that I want to change, simply cutting the temptation out doesn’t work. I need the Internet to make my life easier. It’s easy to communicate, it’s easy to promote my business, I like blogging, I like gathering recipes. In the past I thought I needed to cut myself off from it entirely. But that isn’t the case. Because the Internet usage I just listed are not behaviors that need to be curtailed. It’s the mindless browsing for hours. It’s reading Instagram feeds that make me ragey. It’s engaging in fruitless discussion in online forums. It’s keeping up with other people’s lives, people I don’t even know. It’s sitting down “just to check my email” and then two hours later getting up and saying “What was it I’m supposed to be doing?” not knowing, and then going back to the computer again because it’s easy and it’s there.

I’m starting a part-time job next week (yay!), and I want my mornings to be productive creative times. For writing, for crafting, for resting. Instead of waiting for a routine to happen, I’m making it happen now. I’m instilling the behaviors I want to be instilling: reading a book instead of a website, cleaning up instead of commenting, knitting instead of surfing, meal-planning instead of browsing pictures of other people’s meal-planning, knocking projects off of the to-do list instead of reading about new ways to make to-do lists. I’m not banning myself from blogs this time, I’m not putting a timer on my computer, I’m not setting any rules or blocking anything that isn’t already blocked. I’m just making myself, for most of the time, do other things and confront my life head-on, especially when it makes me uncomfortable.

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  • sonrie

    this really sounds like my internal discussion. my husband warns me not to “get lost in the interwebs.” probably too late. but I would really rather read and crochet, not dry out my eyes, but sometimes it is just so hard. Congrats on the job and good luck with monitoring (no pun intended) the internet.

    • iamchesapeake

      It is so hard to tear yourself away for things that you know will be better for you, especially if you’re tired or feeling depressed. Or at least that’s how it is for me. Thanks for the congrats!