Maybe this is because as a Gen-X kid I grew up with only rudimentary technology, but I go through periods where I feel like I need to take a step back from the “too-muchiness” of the internet and the always-wired condition.
It’s fricking everywhere. And I can feel myself getting scattered, going a million miles an hour but not actually getting anywhere. My email inbox is a cesspit; I have a stupid number of browser tabs open on my phone, and my laptop. I save digital notes to Obsidian, to Apple Notes, scribbled in notebooks. Not to mention the ghost towns of Evernote and One Note, where all those old ideas went to die. Instapaper. Maybe some crap shoved in Pocket when I was trying that out. Raindrop.io has a whole lot of junk saved there too.
The weird thing is that I have no interest in going back to look at any of this stuff. But because there’s so much information swooshing by at such speed I still feel like I need to grasp hold of things, lest they disappear forever. “Information highway” for sure. No pulling over, no turning around or going into reverse. If that toy goes out the window it’s gone forever.
Also, I really have no interest in “streamlining my processes” or improving my productivity. I absolutely did try these things once-upon-a-time, but to what end? So I can process more and more information? Our relationship with technology has seen computers become “more human,” yes, but it’s also made our way of thinking more computer-like, too. (See above, about processes and productivity.) And I’m not convinced that that’s the best way for us.
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. My husband, who’s worked in IT Security for twenty years, calls me the “CIO of the family.” (He has a love-hate relationship with tech as well.) I love tinkering with computer setups, poking around in networks and code and old computers.
I think there’s a difference between playing around with how stuff works and the current, rather insidious, creep of the internet and how we interact with it. I can see it with my daughter and just how excited she is with the things she sees online.
This isn’t / wasn’t meant to be a soapbox moment for me (sorry). I do feel strongly about it though. In any case, I’ve found myself increasingly scatterbrained and unable to concentrate. Easily distracted. I think a lot of it has to do with the doom-scrolling that started up when COVID did.
The last time this happened to me, I realised I was spending too much time on Instagram. I had a moment when I realised that when I used it I felt predominantly negative feelings. You’ll laugh (maybe) when I tell you it was nothing to do with body image or dream lifestyles, but knitting projects. Heh. I was overwhelmed with the seemingly-incredible speed at which people were sewing and knitting, with all of this amazing, expensive, wool and fabric. I felt like I was missing out! Which I’m shaking my head at as I write this (so lame), but that’s the thing; it’s a slow creeper. At first you’re just admiring something someone has made. Then you realise you’re beating yourself up for not “achieving” “fast enough.”
It’s like that with the blog, and the newsletter too. “Everyone says” you must do it this way, and this way, even if it doesn’t feel right to you. I feel like I’ve resisted with my blogging, but I’m still finding my way with the author newsletter. Its current incarnation isn’t quite right for me. But I’m still trying to figure out what’s better.
In any case, what I’ve done this time around is remove the Reddit app from my phone. I was just spending so much time poking around there in all the different subs. All super-interesting, sure, but as you scroll you leap from topic to topic as fast as your thumbs can take you. So if I want to check one out I have to actually go to my browser and actively search for it now.
The other thing I’m experimentally trying out is keeping a little logbook of my internet browsing. So if I look something up, or open an email link in my browser, I want to make a note of it. Actually write a one-sentence summary of this thing I’m looking at, and taking in. Yeah, it will take longer. But I think that’s the point. I want to slow myself down, and by adding some friction to the process, maybe not open every single damn link that comes across my threshold. Like counting calories, but brain calories.
Who knows! Maybe I’ll be back to mindless scrolling next week. But in any case I do think these things are important to talk about, or at least recognise the behaviours that the internet sort of drives us to.
I’ll try and get a newsletter out this month. I know I skipped last month, but in the end decided it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I just let it slide.