My relationship with the internet

I have been thinking about my relationship with the internet recently.

It’s weird that I have built a strong dependency toward the internet through out the years without noticing it. Or, I noticed it but it is too weird to stay distant from it, given that everyone is there and using it everyday, right?

I have to admit that internet is addictive, and it’s addictive in many ways. For example, I have a bad habit of reading a random Wikipedia entry and dig into related entries. It’s reading for pleasure with the sense of learning something new. The thing is, if I don’t try to memorize the details or at least write a note about it, I won’t be able to recall anything.

The whole internet though, is a media that contains too much interesting content. While a single person won’t be able to read all the available books in their life, the internet content is way beyond that. If I am not careful, I may save more than 20 interesting articles that I want to “read later” in a day. This habit has leaked into Youtube videos. I have thousands of articles to read and videos to watch, they all seem to be interesting to me, at least for the past me. “Interesting” is now an insufficient criteria to determine if something is worth digest.

This may be fine when I was young and didn’t feel the stress of time. But as I am closer to my 40s, I started to realize that I don’t have infinite time and I care about too many things. There are too many interesting things in the world but I cannot care about them all. There must be a priority built for myself, otherwise I am dragging around by others' priorities.

Another source of the internet stickness is from the social networks. I shouldn’t care about the social pressure because I quitted Facebook back in 2019. There shouldn’t be a pressure for me to keep checking Twitter timeline because most of my acquaintances are not on Twitter. But why is it still a problem?

The reason is that the social pressure isn’t from my acquaintances. It comes from those numbers on the social networks. We human likes to compare and subconsciously I can’t stop comparing to others. The term “peer pressure” describes it, and the social networks make it worse. One may compare the number of Likes received with other people they follow; one may feel depressed if a new post didn’t receive any Like; one may try hard to earn Likes.

I have to remind myself that quality is more important than quantity. Because quantity is far easier to measure, it’s easier to set up a goal using quantity as the measurement. For example, number of books read in a year; number of notes written in a month; words written in a day; number of posts/pictures/videos posted; number of likes or comments obtained. I won’t say those measurement is meaningless, but each one has its own pitfalls. Relying on a single measurement gives the wrong target to chase after, and that may misdirect me. What I want is an improved internet experience with better quality.

I started to build a new set tenets for myself, that will be the north star for me to deal with my relationship with the internet with the quality in mind. The tenets include:

  • Slow is fast.
  • Less is more.
  • Far is near.

Previously, I always try to hunt for interesting people to follow and make my timeline as rich as I can. Now, I only follow a few people when using a new platform and keep a short list of “must read” in the existing platforms. I try to have a short list of ongoing subjects that I want to explore and be more mindful on what I read. I try to keep distances to “news” or “modern stuff” and leave room for me to reflect. I remove any social media app if I started to scroll through the timeline aimlessly on my phone and use them on my iPad or laptop.

What will the result be? I don’t have a solid answer yet as I started it half month ago but it seems to be promising.

Related readings that inspired this post:

Reder Tseng @reder