Over the past few weeks, I have been making a conscious effort to spent less time on the internet. It’s been a mostly successful endeavor.
At the beginning of March, I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish. At the top of the list was walking away from the distractions keeping me from writing and reading more. Those distractions prevent me from fully embracing the things which bring me peace and a sense of calm.
Twenty-seven years ago, I fell in love with the grand possibilities of the internet. It allowed me to obtain knowledge and keep in touch with distant friends, but it hasn’t been an entirely positive influence.
I left Instagram. It wasn’t difficult. I didn’t really go there. I had already left Twitter other than to post links to the things I have written. I reduced the subreddits that angered or frustrated me as well as subreddits that made me sad or kept me mired in my mental illness instead of being helpful. Facebook, however, proved more difficult.
I have left Facebook several times, deleting my account twice. I always end up logged back in and mindlessly scrolling or getting into pointless arguments. I struggled to stop logging in. Then, the coronavirus pandemic struck and I found I didn’t want to be online anymore.
I’ve always had a hard time not reading too much news. If there is news I’m interested in, I tend to read six to ten articles about the topic. I’m easily overwhelmed with too much information and the pandemic was a terrible recipe for my brain.
Not only was I reading too much news, but my friends on Facebook were sharing facts, information, and opinions. I tried to stick to just one friend’s feed. He posts updated information on cases and deaths worldwide as well as only Nebraska. It didn’t work. I became so overwhelmed, I had to walk away.
For the past two weeks, with the exception of one or two days, I’ve mostly stayed offline. As each day passes, I feel a greater sense of calm. I am visibly agitated whenever I get on the internet. I notice I automatically shift to angry when I log into Facebook. This is not how I want to feel. On Friday morning, I logged into Facebook, started to scroll, and thought, “Why the hell am I doing this?” I logged out.
There was a momentary silence. Everything stopped. It took my mind several seconds to realize my house was quiet. The cats were sleeping. Paul was working on an assignment for his graduate class. It was peaceful. More than that, I realized I didn’t really need Facebook to keep the near-constant intrusive thoughts that swirl in my mind away.
In that short moment of peace, my brain knew there were better, more productive options – options I actually enjoy – that will allow me the calm I desperately crave.
I have a list of at least twenty-five stories for Wyobraska Magazine I need to write. I have several dozen stories I plan to write here. I am writing and reading. Most days, I can keep my head clear to process the discussions I’ve had with my therapist.
When I work on my hobbies – drawing, coloring and building things – I can focus intently on the task at hand, keeping intrusive thoughts at bay. It’s a coping skill I don’t have to think about and is less exhausting than most of my other coping skills.
I am learning to live in the moment. I have found joy in the hot cup of English Breakfast tea combined with a pen in hand, writing the stories of my life and the ideas in my brain. I am living in the present, in the moment, allowing myself to just…be.
When I go to our home office, I leave my phone downstairs. I don’t need it. I don’t have to respond to a text or call right away. I’m treating my cell phone like a landline. It doesn’t need to go with me everywhere.
Spending more time offline has allowed me to gain a better perspective of my emotions. I have been attaining a deeper understanding to what makes me tick. I struggle with emotional self-regulation, but with the bullshit of all things online cleared away, there is room for introspection and an ability to identify what makes me, well, me.
This solitude has revealed how incredibly angry I am and how it has permeated nearly every aspect of my life. If I am going to reduce the anger and better understand myself, spending less time on the internet is a necessity.
As weird as it sounds, I now savor the moments after I have calmed down and can think, “why did that upset me?” and actually be able to figure it out.
The silence of my home provides the space for attention to be where I choose. It doesn’t have to be in mindless endeavors.
Only I can keep myself from the goals I want to achieve. I am capable of making these decisions and choosing to create beauty through the written word or making progress toward a better me.
As I work toward taking advantage of the opportunities placed in front of me, peace is just a click away. All I need to do is hit the “X” at the top right of my screen and I’m all good again.