In my review of Hamlet’s BlackBerry, I mentioned that I was considering some technology boundaries for my life. For purposes of discussion I thought I would enumerate a few things I am considering or have already implemented to keep technology my servant, not my master.
- I culled my Google Reader. Since I have wide-ranging interests, I was subscribed to a lot of blogs, which I compulsively scanned in my reader every day, even though I knew I didn’t have to empty the reader daily. After months of scrolling through post after post it began to dawn on me that I was not getting a lot out of this type of reading, and certainly not as much as should be commensurate with that level of time investment. And so, I unsubscribed from a lot of very good blogs so I can focus on the few that really meet a primary need I have now. As the author of From Clutter to Clarity says, anything that is no longer useful or serving the purpose it once did in your life is clutter. It’s actually been really freeing to have fewer feeds in my reader.
- I changed to digest subscription for a few prolific blogs, set up auto-filters, and unsubscribed from all other junk email and email newsletters. Junk email doesn’t seem like it takes much time, but it DOES. I’ve been unsubscribing to all junk mail I receive, and I auto-filtered My Points and Inbox Dollars so I can check those when I have time. I did add two emails but they are digest forms listing all the posts on two blogs I read that publish multiple times a day. By scanning the digest list, I can see if there are posts I need to read or posts I can skip. Much faster.
- Unless I really need to, I’m not going to use tabs in my web browser. The author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry points out that multiple tabs just creates subconscious visual noise, and that has been shown to increase stress and anxiety. Y’all, what I do not need is more stress and anxiety! Really the only time I need tabs is when I’m writing book review posts and want to have Amazon open so I can build affiliate links. Otherwise, no tabs. I’m going to concentrate on one thing at a time.
- When I have something specific to do on the computer that doesn’t require the internet, I’m going to turn off the connection. Remember how it takes 10-20 minutes to regroup after a distraction? Imagine how much more quickly I can work on my novel or freelance writing projects if I don’t keep clicking over to Facebook every 47 seconds.
- I will not check the internet first thing in the morning. Having a smart phone makes it SO tempting to click into my email and blogs and the Wall Street Journal every morning while I cook my breakfast. I think it will only take a minute, but the next thing I know half an hour has gone by and I haven’t left much time for my quiet time or exercising, which is why I get up early in the first place!
- Maybe I don’t NEED a smart phone. The crowd gasps! My cell phone contract is up next month and I’m seriously considering downgrading from my iPhone to a more utilitarian device. Frankly, I often find myself sort of exhausted by the idea that I have to be plugged in to the internet all the time. If I have my phone with me, I feel like I have to check email, read blogs, scan Facebook updates, etc at any odd moment of the day. I call this The Tyranny of the iPhone, because even though I know I don’t have to constantly check it, the fact that I can makes my brain think I should and I sort of hate that. Plus I’d save the connecting fee each month. That said, this item is still under consideration to make sure I think through all of the ramifications (I can’t believe I’m even saying that, since two years ago I didn’t even HAVE a cell phone, much less a smart phone. It’s wild how quickly electronics become like a physical part of your body necessary for life!)
- I’m thinking of establishing an Internet Sabbath. The author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry and his family turn off their wireless modem every Friday night and don’t plug it back in until Monday morning. They use their computers as needed over the weekend, but not for the internet. I can see why they find this refreshing. Honestly, why do people think they need an immediate email response over the weekend? How much would I really miss if I just disconnected from the hive for two days a week? Would it make me more focused and productive with my online time during the week? Would I get more quality writing work done without the internet on? I like this idea. I like it for adults, but I also like it as I think about my kids being teenagers (only 8 years from now!) – kids need space to grow and think away from screens.
These ideas come from my own self-assessment of how I use the internet, so please don’t think I mean everyone should adopt them! That said, I’d be really interested to hear how you manage your online time and if you’ve thought much about the impact that has on your life and your family. I think this topic is really fascinating!