This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"The internet is where people are."

"One year ago I left the internet. I thought it was making me unproductive. I thought it lacked meaning. I thought it was 'corrupting my soul.' It's a been a year now since I "surfed the web" or "checked my email" or "liked" anything with a figurative rather than literal thumbs up. I've managed to stay disconnected, just like I planned. I'm internet free. And now I'm supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I'm supposed to be enlightened. I'm supposed to be more 'real,' now. More perfect.  But instead ..."  - Paul Miller

If you’re like me, you’ve found that constantly updated web content is the archenemy of productivity. You may have struggled through the past decade of an increasingly web-based lifestyle, trying to find the right balance between living in the real and virtual worlds.  As a perpetual traveler, I go through phases of intensive internet usage in an attempt to maintain relationships with family and friends on the other side of the globe.  At other times, I disappear from the net completely, leaving loved ones to ponder my e-footprints while I’m off cavorting with indigenous peoples in the depths of yet-to-be-networked hinterlands.

These profound changes of environment have turned me into an "all or nothing" internet user.  It's either completely absent and irrelevant to my lifestyle - or I'm constantly connected.  And I've been all too connected during my past eight months in grad school.

When I read Paul Miller’s story, a lot of his motivation to leave the internet resonated with me.  But by the end of his odyssey-like essay, I was convinced that my presence and interactions online are a largely positive force in my life and for others.  The internet is where people are.  I have a passion for encouraging people; if I hope to make the most of this gift, I need to be where people are.

From Miller’s experience, I learned that any extreme internet-boycotting actions on my part would be a mistake.  In response to some drift I’ve seen in my own life – i.e. too much work, time spent isolated from people while my eyes suffer in front of a screen, and far too little exercise – I decided to put some limits on my internet use for all reasons, including work. (After all, no matter how many bills need to be paid, it’s simply not healthy, nor sustainable to work 20 hours/day.) 
Here’s my new rule: No internet after 9pm.

If I need to get up at 5 am to get an early start on emails, so be it. But I’m forcing myself to take meaningful breaks during the day – real breaks, not Facebook breaks – and to be more mindful of how easily I tend to become distracted online.  In one week on the "off the grid at 9pm plan", I’ve seen a big improvement in motivation, inspiration, and energy levels. I’ve also been sleeping better, eating better, exercising more, and keeping my house cleaner.  Little decisions in the right direction seem to perpetuate more positive decisions and help create good habits.

Paul Miller’s story is a fascinating exposé on human nature - read it here on The Verge.  Also, watch the documentary about the year he spent wholly disconnected from the internet.

Note: There are a lot of other themes emerging in this documentary. Maybe later we'll talk about the chronically depressive, pessimistic outlook on life woven into the way Miller and the others talk about their goals, careers, and identities. It's distressing and saddening to watch. 


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