I know I can't say internet "addiction" but...
December 17, 2009 2:10 PM   Subscribe

What am I supposed to do with my time?

I use the internet enough that it negatively affects my life, but I don't know what to do instead.

When I cut down on internet, I end up doing nothing. I have no menu of hobbies or things I'd rather be doing, and I think that's from being online so much. It ends up being internet or nothing.

I'm partly asking for suggestions, but also for a way to find out how to figure out what to do for myself, and I'm fully aware of the apparent contradiction there.
posted by DerangedGoblin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
I have been thinking about this recently. I have a lot of things I think are interesting or would like to do. Some I forgo because I don't have time, or because I have to prioritize. The rest I am unable to do because I waste time or don't follow the priorities.

Find out what makes you ridiculously happy, and try to make this happen.
posted by gensubuser at 2:13 PM on December 17, 2009

Get outside, pick a directions and start walking.

I've been online, unproductively, all day long. It's 15F outside and I'm about to go for a walk because

a) it's not the internet
b) it's exercise
c) it's so mindless that I have nothing to do but let my mind wander, and that's the best and most important part.

I do this almost every evening. It's a great moving meditation.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:14 PM on December 17, 2009 [7 favorites]

This may require some self control, but turn your computer off and wait. Something will come up. Something always does.
posted by aeighty at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

I keep a notecard my the computer for when I'm actually working and think of something offline that I'd like to do but can't at the moment. This drives my offline time. Here are some things on that list. Some of them have online components, but they're directed, not just aimless clicking.

- read books
- return library books
- cook dinner
- bake
- make snacks for office parties/holidays/whatever
- do laundry
- clean this place up [it can never be really clean, if I've tidied up I'll mop floors or something]
- file paperwork
- take a bath
- take out trash or recycling
- write a letter/postcard
- organize/scan old photos
- go to the gym
- moisturize!
- get a haircut
- invite people over for soup
- do the dishes
- make a pile of crap to get rid of
- find things to sell on ebay
- communicate with a family member
- listen to the radio and/or podcasts
- frame some photos
- water the plants/feed the birds
- bleach the tub/sinks
- clean out my car [you may notice a trend here]
- organize my coin collection
- light some candles and meditate
- floss
- deal with taxes/receipts/$$$ stuff
- prepare for upcoming talks
- write someone a thank you note
- read backlog of magazines
- call my friend Lauren who says I never call
- figure out why $TECH_THING doesn't work right and fix it
- get rid of tech gear that I no longer use
- wash windows
- take photos [and then print and mail or something]
- thrift store shop for frames or shelves or little gifts
- sort change
- go for a walk/snowshoe
- sit outside and read
- pick wildflowers
- go work in a cafe [sort of computing but also sort of social]
- clean the oven
- mend clothing
- make rags from unmendable clothing
- make jam or candy
- volunteer someplace
- tend to pets/plants

That sort of thing. Basically think of things you basically enjoy but don't find the time to do. The hard part is prying yourself away from your computer to START doing it but often the doing it is quite fun. Note: not everyone enjoys the cleaning/organizing/sorting stuff that I enjoy but I'm sure you have something else that fits in that slot for your personal bliss.
posted by jessamyn at 2:23 PM on December 17, 2009 [114 favorites]

Learn to shoot a rifle at long range. Reload your own ammunition.

(You're essentially just asking for hobbies.)
posted by Netzapper at 2:26 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

i want to know more.

(1) what do you do on the internet? does it give you a different/better feeling than whatever you would do not on the internet does?

for example: does it make you feel (a) less alone (in a good way)?
(b) more alone (in a good way, e.g peaceful,
contained, independent, focused)?

(2) what are your alternative activities? you say you have no hobbies. Is that because your hobbies would have to be (a) more or (b) less social than your time spent on the internet?

I personally don't believe that it's about "internet" or "not internet."

I think this has to be further analyzed.

When I first got on the internet (in 1990) my friends thought I was becoming anti-social and I should "get a life." A few years later, when I invited them to my wedding (to someone I met on the internet), they reconsidered.

I have since argued with a whole bunch of "mental health" people (I'm one of those) who have no f**king idea what it actually feels like to be online, against the concept of "internet addiction", when that term is used in a global manner.

The internet is just a medium. It happens to be a medium that takes you into all kinds of worlds you can't get into any other way.

You say the internet is negatively affecting your life. I want to know how. I want to know what you think you *should* be doing instead, and why.

However, I agree with the person who says you should take a walk. Just see what it feels like. Then go back onto ____________________ .
(first choice of website)


What are you needs, and how is the internet fulfilling them better than anything else, and why is that?
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:28 PM on December 17, 2009

My understanding is you're trying to become a writer. So: write. Writing isn't fun, which is why you're going online instead of doing it. Disable the internet on your computer, sit your butt down, and don't get up until you've written 1000 words. Do this every day. If you can't keep yourself from turning the internet back on, use a typewriter. (If this doesn't work, consider not becoming a writer.)
posted by escabeche at 2:38 PM on December 17, 2009

DMelanogaster: Sometimes I have projects, but usually I'm just going from reddit to mefi to wherever. I just have a browsing addiction, and usually for all of the reasons you suggested.

It's negative because my happiness depends on being online. What I'm looking for is what normal people do with their day. When I try to get offline and read or something, it feels empty where the internet feels rich.

So far I really like jessamyn's list.
posted by DerangedGoblin at 2:45 PM on December 17, 2009

I have dozens of pure hobby activities and I still waste time on the internet. So it's more than just finding something else to do, you need to have the self-control to actually do it. The things I wish I did instead of surfing the web in order of the order I believe would be most beneficial to my psyche/most enjoyable:

1. Play music on instruments
2. Read books
3. Listen to recorded music with full focus on the music.
4. Exercise
posted by mzurer at 2:45 PM on December 17, 2009

And I really should have previewed. Writing takes an hour or two of my day, but internet is always on both sides of it, taking up the rest.
posted by DerangedGoblin at 2:47 PM on December 17, 2009

I build electronics when I'm offline. Trying to find someone local who can make cases as fast as I can build the amps.

A friend of mine grows psychedelic mushrooms, and is moving to non-psychoactive ones. Mushroom growing is VERY interesting.

If you have obsessions - Try to discover what you obsess about, and try to harness the obsession and create something from it.
posted by krilli at 2:49 PM on December 17, 2009

... I forgot to add: I spend WAY too much time on the Internet. I understand the question very, very well.
posted by krilli at 2:50 PM on December 17, 2009

You're me!
I spend hours online...doing what? Looking at my empty inbox.

I agree that you should lock your computer away, and something will come up.
I'd do it...but it's too darn cold outside and my car is gone; this is all I have.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 2:58 PM on December 17, 2009

I like jessamyn's list of activities. That is probably a great start for you, and it may be all you really need, but I wanted to expand on her point about volunteering someplace.

I'd like to put in a plug for volunteering, but maybe in a different role than you might have previously envisioned: lots of non-profit organizations are looking for board members, or people to serve on committees. In my experience I've found it is easier to get people to volunteer for front line work than to serve on a board of directors or do committee work. If you are looking to meet more people in your community, and if you enjoy working with ideas (and have a tolerance for meetings), it might be an enjoyable, meaningful way to spend your time.

Getting involved with a non-profit also means you will become aware of other opportunities for non-internet related activities, like events, workshops, courses, celebrations, etc. I'd recommend looking through a non-profit directory for your community (most places have one online) and checking out the ones that deal with your areas of interest.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:12 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

One good trick is that if your project activity can be done with other people - do so. Involve other people. You'd be surprised how many projects are amenable to that. Even writing - say, a screenplay - you can get a writing partner.

One of the factors that compounds the negative aspect of your problem is physical social isolation. Yes, I know you have online friends, and even friends IRL, but meatspace is where it's at. Nothing beats face to face interactions, or group interaction. This by itself releases hormones and stimulates the nervous system. There are multiple studies showing social involvement, face time with friends, people, family has an actual direct impact on your physical health - you expect the impact on mental health (and there is), but the physical effect is surprisingly strong.

Whenever I spend too much time working on a project alone, I tend to somewhat slow down, like an XP system that's not been rebooted. I reboot by meeting people. Just meeting a friend and talking about my project or their project or even some unrelated project, kicks my creativity and energy into high gear. It's really a very noticeable effect.

I understand your problem (or at least identify with large parts of it) - I too spend way, way, way too much time online. However, I find the best solution lies in our genes - by which I mean, we evolved to be social animals, and we function best in groups. So think about that - how can you involve others in your schemes - it will be of benefit to you... and to them too!
posted by VikingSword at 3:48 PM on December 17, 2009

I don't know if this is something that you are interested in, but I sew. I make quilts for Project Linus or gifts for friends. It is a great distraction from the blue screen. I also read alot - I have quite a few magazines that are always waiting for me.

I do still get internet overload. I can feel it starting to grate on me, and then I make the executive decision to skip a night (or a day, if it's really bad). I find the forced cutoff makes me more resourceful and so projects that I had been putting off now seem like good things to do.

Good luck!
posted by Leezie at 3:51 PM on December 17, 2009

What are you looking at online? What catches your interest?

There are a lot of posts on mefi and reddit about people doing cool stuff, while we sit on our asses and read about it and/or watch it. Well, you could be one of those people doing the cool stuff for us to read about. What cool stuff do you like to read about? Go through your bookmarks, favorites history, etc and see what's grabbed your eye. Maybe it was the talented guy on the guitar, or the woman who knits iPhone covers, or the person who walked across Asia. Then go do those things to the best of your ability.
posted by desjardins at 3:56 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

if you are looking for something to do that is fairly cheap, doesn't take much space, and your friends will think is cool (at least my friends did) make Chainmail. It takes an amazing, astonishing, mind numbing amount of time to make it. I gave some intricate weaves to friends as wall art and even got some dates out of it (it makes very attention getting, if heavy, clubwear).

P.S. at the time all my friends/dates were in SCA
posted by bartonlong at 4:56 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

What I'm looking for is what normal people do with their day

This raises the interesting question of whether anyone is really "normal" but here are some suggestions in addition to the great ones above about volunteering and/or getting into a hobby you enjoy:

1. Manage your daily life in the ways Jessamyn suggests -- you can always keep yourself company with music or podcasts or audible books.

2. Make a date to meet up with folks you know, via family ties or internet, and go to a movie or out for coffee or to a concert or shopping or for a meal.

3. Get a fun dog that will enjoy walking or running or going to the dog park with you.

4. Go to book readings by authors you like.

5. Get into the gym and maybe team sports -- physical exercise is a great thing for your sense of purpose.

6. Spend some time on planning, shopping for, and cooking meals. Invite some other people to join you or cook for a potluck.

One great thing about Jessamyn's comment is that it helps a great deal to structure your day if you have a list. Crossing things off also gives a huge sense of accomplishment.
posted by bearwife at 5:43 PM on December 17, 2009

Are you lonely?
posted by cleverevans at 5:43 PM on December 17, 2009

I was going to come in here and tell you to make a list, and then I was going to say that I wish someone would make me a list, and then jessamyn made me a list!

Personally, I thrive when I have a to-do list, which I keep in an open file on my monitor. It often includes things like "Take your vitamins" and "Read another chapter" and "Call Mom". I don't pressure myself to get everything on the list done or anything, it's just a constant visual reminder that there are things I could be doing that would enrich my life more than sitting around on the internet, and crossing a pile of things off that list makes me feel like I've accomplished something with my day.
posted by adiabat at 6:21 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pity grad school applications are due like this minute because if they weren't, the obvious choice for you is to work on a part-time master's. The idea of "free time" is a laughable fantasy for me. And in 2012, I'll have an MS in computer science from Stanford.
posted by crinklebat at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2009

Spend time with people. Make time commitments and keep them.
posted by msittig at 10:02 PM on December 17, 2009

I use Remember the Milk to keep lists of things I might enjoy doing. The ability to tick them off and see them disappear is bizarrely effective as motivation. Here are some ways to generate lists:

1. In an ideal world, what would the house you are currently living in look like? Would it be tidier? Would the kitchen be better organised? Would you have a better stock in your pantry so you don't have emergency take-out so often? Would you like a spare bedroom instead of a junk room? Would you have some brighter prints on the wall, or a better system of storage for the pile of clutter on the table, or a calm relaxing bathroom space? Iif you can think of some simple practical ways of achieving these things you can put them on the list. Just make sure that your list items are concrete achievable things like "Fill one bin bag with stuff from the junk room", not like "Sort out house and make it beautiful".

2. When are you happiest? Can you recall any moments in your life when you were particularly happy? What was it about them that made you happy? Can you do more of that?

3. What are you really good at? Could you do something that would make you better at it?

4. What would you like your life to be like in 10 years? Out of debt? Living somewhere different? In a different line of work? More physically fit? If there are changes you'd like to make, think of some baby steps towards making those changes, and put them in your list. Even if it's just "Read a book about X" or "Stretch for ten minutes".
posted by emilyw at 1:42 AM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yah, normal is a setting on the washing machine...

I was just wondering about this, I spend SO MUCH TIME online -- much of it here, I don't even know how to manage my time on THIS site, much less other sites / email / favorite chatroom / etc / etc. I was away from my puter for a number of hours today, then checked on this site and there were upwards of fourteen GREAT POSTS on the blue and I HAD to check out and this happens at least three times a week and I can't keep up and even if I had a list like Jessamyn does I could not keep up with it, and I DON'T EVEN HAVE A JOB -- I'm retired of sorts. I have no idea how the people that post here all day every day and have these complete lives do it, I want to hurl myself off a cliff because I can't come close, I don't want to let this pass me by but if I try to keep up with it all then MY LIFE passes me by and and and and ...

I was going to put up a post on MetaTalk -- I still may -- to discuss this very thing, to try to find out how others from here keep up with all of this. I don't want to give this site up but I may have to -- I have in the past had a very good friend do an intervention on my ass, as it was clear to her that I was totally living my life through a wire that ran into the wall and to an outsider it seems pretty goddamn lame, probably because it is.

So... I don't know that this is an answer, I guess it isn't, it's a lament, in sympathy with your plight maybe -- You Are Not Alone, etc and etc. I haven't even gotten my holiday cards in the mail, many of them are going to have to just be telephone calls, which I hate, but....

You Are Not Alone........
posted by dancestoblue at 3:17 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I find that often what I'm looking for when I go online really comes down to simply wanting something to read. So I pick up a book, instead. That takes me right out of the "click trance" and into a state of mind where I'm actually thinking instead of just floating and absorbing.
posted by jokeefe at 10:53 AM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

What's wrong with being on the internet all the time?

That is a sincere question. You're taking it as a given that using the internet as much as you do is a Bad, Abnormal Thing that Must Change, even though you admittedly prefer it to most other things you can think of.

But that belief itself doesn't make you use the internet less, so the result is that you're still using the internet a lot, but now you feel terribly guilty about it (and terribly guilty about liking it).

There's nothing to feel guilty about. You're not doing anything wrong. Even using the internet all day, every day, to the exclusion of other hobbies or things you think you should prefer, is morally and ethically neutral. Your decisions about how to spend your time are still perfectly valid, whether you're choosing to take a drawing class, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or link-hop on Wikipedia all day. Your worth as a person is still exactly the same.

If it's something you'd like to change, then that's one thing. But you don't have to. And if you decide to do X one afternoon, and still end up using the internet instead, don't view it as a failure. View it as a choice you're making. Guilt and self-flagellation are squatters on your valuable mental real estate. Kick them out so that acceptance, creativity, and productivity can move in.
posted by granted at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2009

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