How to manage life with the internet

I was born in 1976 so my life can almost be split up into half life pre-internet, and half life with the world wide web.

Sometimes I think back and, through rose tinted spectacles, remember the halcyon days of pre-internet. Playing Chinese checkers with my grandma on the lawn. No video games, no computers, no internet, the only tv a 11” black and white set with 3 channels. Those were the days! It makes me feel positively old. You certainly didn’t have to worry about whether people were liking your picture of your cat on t’internet.

Would life have been more enjoyable with the internet? I don’t think so. It would have come in pretty handy for doing my homework, but apart from that I can’t say I lie awake at night – thinking if only I’d been able to read more twitter feeds as a child…

So here are some tips for navigating the world wide web.

Don’t read the comments.

I like this twitter feed,- don’t read the comments. I shall post a couple of my favourites.

“The problem with internet comments is that you can never really know who’s saying them.”

— Winston Churchill

“Whenever you see a smiling child, remember: she’s never read a comment in her life, and she’s doing just fine.”

A few years ago, I was quite happy to find newspapers online, you could read a few articles and save yourself a pound. But, then newspapers started comment sections, and against your inner will, you sometimes find yourself drawn to reading comment with a never-ending stream of  opinion and judgement.  There is something about comment sections in newspapers that seems to bring out the worst in people. I’m sure in real life, they are good people, but there is no enlightenment or joy from reading a few reactionary comments in newspapers. The interesting thing is even though you know comments are useless and a waste of time, you can still be drawn to read them. If you want to read newspapers without comments, try this comment blocker for Firefox.

If you read the comment section on this blog – you will of course find every rule has its exception!

When writing assume good faith.

The problem with the internet is that it is a never-ending playground for those who get a subtle pleasure from criticising, arguing and pulling people down. There are some internet commentators who seemingly scour the internet looking for a flaw or mistake to justify some self-righteous condemnation. The problem is that it can make writers defensive. We can start thinking – but if I write that, people will see it as angle to criticise. Our writing can become full of hedges and clarifications to sub-consciously pre-empt future criticism. But, great writers have the confidence to state the truth as they see it. People will make of it what they want. The best is to write for an audience where you assume good faith, common sense and a certain sympathy. The writing will be much stronger than an article full of hedging and trying to please everyone on the internet (an impossibility)

There is a very good article here on defensive writing on the internet.

Don’t seek validation from online

Sites like instagram, twitter, blogs and facebook can become a tool where we are constantly seeking some form of online validation. It can become addictive to seek validation from likes and views and people who agree. But, this is a superficial sense of validation, and very different from a lasting sense of satisfaction that comes from real interaction with people in the physical.

One Instagram star gave up because she felt her online presence and social media addiction was just a mask for what was going underneath. E.Oneill writes:

“Online it looked like I had the perfect life … yet I was so completely lonely and miserable inside. “

This can occur if we become too addicted to trying to show a certain online face, but ignore the real life underneath.

Don’t spend time on the internet because you have nothing better to do.

We have all done it. A spare 10 minutes – not worth starting something worthwhile, so we check a news feed or favourite site. Before, we know it we have found ourselves following a trail of links to sites and those 1o spare minutes have become 20 minutes. But, there is no sense of accomplishment, only a passing of time and perhaps a missed opportunity.

It requires a certain discipline to avoid  logging on because it is the path of least resistance. There is always something else better we can do.

Spend a weekend without touching a computer / phone and see the difference.

One problem of being online, is that it can become difficult to turn off and switch modes. One of the best ways to see how much joy we get from the internet, is to spend a weekend totally unplugged doing something completely different – like climbing a mountain with friends or whatever. When you have real joy, the attraction of surfing the net is really diminished and you can see there is much more to life than the endless checking of email and facebook.

Choose carefully where you spend time.

One of my favourite Monty Python sketches is the argument clinic. Back in the 1960s, if you want an argument, you had to pay £5. These days if you want an argument, there is an ocean of choice all available on the wonderful world wide web.

The world is ruled
By human opinion.
Even one opinion
Has the strength
To divide the entire world.

– Sri Chinmoy

But, an important thing to bear in mind is that we always absorb some part of what we read. We may think we can go to an internet forum and remain aloof from the silly arguments and strong opinion. But, consciously or even unconsciously there is part of us that reacts and is influenced by what we read. Even if we think a comment is really silly and misinformed, we have still processed it through our mind. We may react with a mild sense of annoyance or feeling of smugness we are not as stupid as that person. But, we have spent those five seconds we can’t get back. If we spend hours reading rubbish, it will definitely affect us more than we might ever think. It is a slow change, a slow impact on our mind. But, if we are always reading arguments and heated debate, it will affect our world view and it will subtly bring to the fore our own strong opinions and feelings of pride.

If you seek inner peace through meditation, it becomes even more important to protect that precious inner peace and inner joy we get from meditation. The arguments and opinions of the mind which are so prolific on the internet will steal away the childlike joy we can get from meditation.

Remember you are not responsible for correcting the internet.

duty_callsComic by XKCD

This is a favourite cartoon because sometimes we think – if only we could correct everyone, then the internet would be OK. But, how often do people change their mind because of a well-reasoned comment? I wouldn’t say no-one ever changes their mind. But, it is like straightening the tail of a dog, world peace will not dawn because people add a few more internet comments.

Create in your own space.

Rather than reacting to other people and  being limited by the space of big providers like twitter and Facebook, it you want to spend time in creativity, do it on your own terms. Write, create music or videos on your own blog or own channel. Feel it is under your terms. Don’t worry about pleasing an audience. People will want to read something authentic and original not just pleasing the prevailing attitude of the internet.

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4 thoughts on “How to manage life with the internet”

  1. Even the simple joy a bike ride gives is complicated.Strava,powermeters,
    Garmin and data ,there’s a lot to be said for just going a mindful ride just for its own end .

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