How do you stop an internet addiction from diminishing your priorities?
November 19, 2012 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Need help breaking an internet addiction before school begins.

I am returning to university in January after failing out 3 years ago. I struggled with bouts of deep procrastination, hopelessly addicted to surfing the internet instead of getting my assignments finished. The problem is, my addiction to the internet continues, and I don't want it to impede my future work. I can't prioritize what is important, and I end up spending my entire day on the computer... self-control evidently does not exist. As a student, you need to access the internet in order to get work done, but this also makes it easier to open up social media websites and waste your time. Is it too drastic to think of selling my laptop? And only accessing the computer (either at a library or borrowing my mom's) when I need to get work done? Looking for any help or advice here.
posted by raintree to Technology (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, I suggest you get an ADHD consultation because I bet you're not hanging out online reading long technical documents or extended travelogues but jumping from Wikipedia article to MeFi thread to chat to a Flash game to Reddit to Facebook to Google Reader to a webcomic and back all in the span of maybe ten minutes. Am I at all close?

Don't sell your laptop just yet. For me, two (other) things that helped were getting a browser plugin that blocked certain websites and starting to use the Pomodoro technique (there's a great and free online timer for it here.) And there's also a lot of studying that doesn't require a laptop at all. I did all my reading in the library, far away from my laptop, taking notes by hand.
posted by griphus at 10:06 AM on November 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you're anything like me, your tendency to revert to playing on the internet over completing other responsibilities might be a symptom of some other problem. My focus issues were manageable in college but a dealbreaker in my career. I too fixated on "internet addiction" for quite some time, but as it turned out, my inability to focus for more than a few minutes at a time was a symptom of mild depression.

Browser extensions didn't help me. I'd just go surf on another browser or check my sites on my phone. You might sell your laptop, but what if you still can't focus and instead of Facebook, it's the state of your fingernails that has you enthralled? (I gotta say, my nails never looked more spectacular than when I was in the midst of undiagnosed depression. Too bad I could never complete a work assignment!)

For me, a therapy and medication regimen helped immensely and now I'm mostly able to focus at work again. If you have access to free therapy services at school, it can't hurt to talk to someone about this.

Lastly, I second the Pomodoro technique! It really helped to get me back on track.
posted by theraflu at 10:08 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would try two things first. 1) Not all your work needs the internet or a computer. So when you're reading your textbook, don't turn on your laptop at all. Or go to a coffee shop and leave your laptop at home and cell phone in the car, so you have absolutely no distractions. 2) For work that does require the internet and/or writing reports, go to a library far enough for it to be inconvenient. When I do that, I know that I better get my work done that day, because if not, I'll have to come back tomorrow. Also, when I do that, I want to be done and come back home to my comfortable couch as soon as possible, so I might as well get my work done faster. Depending on how bad your self control really is, this might not be that helpful, but it definitely helps me.

Also, do you have a desk/work space at home? I find that if I clear my desk and put my laptop on it with my textbooks and make a schedule for myself every day, I get a lot more work done. If I just lounge on the couch trying to read for class, I definitely get distracted more.
posted by at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2012

Procrastination is often a way of processing performance anxiety. Is it possible you're worried about failing your class or feel unprepared somehow, so you are sabotaging yourself so that when you fail, you'll be able to say "I am a chronic procrastinator"? That way you won't have to deal with the possibility of earnestly trying and still failing. This is the real motivation of underachievers, to protect themselves from failure. If you want to be free of your procrastination habit, deal with the fear of failure first by owning up to the fact that what you are doing is difficult and failure is a possibility.
posted by deathpanels at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, if you have a smart phone, get the Pomodoro app! I (a student) am pretty good at getting work done if I am interested in the assignment, but if it's one that I'm bored or struggling with I am hopeless at staying on task and end up in a black hole of website jumping. Pomodoro is a GREAT tool for getting back on task.
posted by beccyjoe at 12:05 PM on November 19, 2012

The best solution is likely to be willpower based, and will probably be achieved in increments. Having said that, technology can help. If you're on a Mac, Self Control is pretty nifty.
posted by djgh at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, before you actually sell it, you should try putting it somewhere hard to quickly get at it (friend's house, locked drawer with key given to someone else to hold or frozen in a cup of water) as a test. I think you'll find that it's far more inconvenient to not have any internet access in your living space than it might initially seem.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:34 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are various programs for the Mac and PC that let you set hours and blacklists etc. for your web browser. When I've found my Internet cycling out of control I've had good experiences turning blacklists on for a few hours -- usually my first automatic attempt to visit a site I've blacklisted (say, "") snaps me back into focus.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:04 PM on November 19, 2012

Seconding seeing a qualified person for a consultation, particularly for ADHD. Aside from that, look into why you procrastinate - the book Procrastination: Why you do it and what to do about it now is an excellent resource. Finally, technology can help - there's various programs for each browser that can restrict what you can and can't access for a self-set time period.
posted by Ashlyth at 9:05 PM on November 19, 2012

Nthing Self Control (the app)
posted by lalochezia at 8:38 AM on November 20, 2012

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