Weaning Myself Off of Checking Messages, Email and Websites
May 1, 2015 8:26 AM   Subscribe

How do I wean myself off this urge to constantly check the internet? Sometimes I use an app blocker or turn of the internet when I need to do a focused session of work, but I find myself feeling this strong, psychological itch to use the internet anyway. The urge is so strong it's distracting, even if the internet is inaccessible.

I'd like to find a method to reduce this itch. Can I do something to make the urge itself eventually disappear?

Do you have methods or techniques you'd recommend? I guess it's almost like a low level addiction...how do you get those urges dissipate?
posted by neeta to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The Pomodoro technique helped me develop good habits when needing to go into long focused sessions.
posted by Karaage at 8:34 AM on May 1, 2015

The Pomodoro technique helps me somewhat with this. Essentially you pick a task, set a timer for some short length of time (15 minutes or so), and have to work on that task for that time. No distractions. If you feel an urge to check your email or your messages or whatever, you put a little mark on your to-do list to note this urge, then return to work. After your timer goes off, your free for a 5-10 minute break.

I'm not super-consistent with using the Pomodoro technique, and I can only string together a few hours at a time of, but I find that the more I practice it, the more those transient urges go away (or the better able I am to ignore them) while I'm focused on a single task.

Another friend of mine with this problem was eventually diagnosed with ADD and reported improvement with medication.
posted by muddgirl at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

How long does it last? I find if I go without the internet for 48 hours (let's say, while out camping), I don't feel the compulsive urge anymore. Basically, it's like any other addiction, you're going through a withdrawal (dopamine in this case) and you need to stick it out until it passes. It's going to be uncomfortable because it's a compulsion you've developed. If you need it to do your work, then try logging off all weekend. You don't really need the internet, you just think you do. The more you give in to the itch, the harder it will be.
posted by desjardins at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you feel the same urge when you're, say, cooking, or doing something else fairly absorbing that doesn't usually involve checking the Internet? If not, you might have more success with "withdrawing" outside of your usual context. That might be as simple as working in a different location (conference room, library, kitchen, anywhere but your usual desk) and/or on a different computer. Once you've established different working habits in the new setting, it may be easier to apply them to your usual work environment.
posted by cogitron at 8:59 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I found an RSS reader really helped me with the website part of this problem. I didn't have to check to see if my favorite websites (other than Mefi, which I don't use a reader for) had updates. Instead once a day I look at my Feedly feed and read what I want, and I don't do the "maybe there's a new update" thing anymore.

Doesn't help for email, facebook, or mefi though.
posted by nat at 9:04 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Add more things in the physical world to your calendar.
posted by aniola at 9:08 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Things that get you away from the computer.
posted by aniola at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Like bicycling, hiking, coffee with friends, volunteering, events, etc.
posted by aniola at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you feel that powerful itch, can you analyze where it's coming from?

For me, it's almost always that I just want distraction from what I'm doing. If I can recognize that, I am often able to take a few breaths and redirect my attention back to my work, and delay clicking, though I need to use Leechblock to reinforce my discipline.

If the reason is that you are afraid of missing some particular piece of information, or getting information too late, then probably different strategies are called for.
posted by BrashTech at 9:39 AM on May 1, 2015

Thank you for this question. Logging off now and going to bed.
posted by flabdablet at 12:43 PM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank you for the answers all! They all provided some good insight; the two responses I've highlighted from desjardins and aniola seemed the most applicable to my situation. The itch definitely goes away when I actually DO stuff away from the computer, for an extended period of time.

It is, indeed a compulsion. To answer BrashTech's question, I don't even know where the urge is coming from anymore. It's just a thoughtless urge, almost like the urge to use the bathroom. There's no logical explanation behind it. There was probably one years ago, now it's just compulsive behavior.

The more I do it, the worse it gets. I think I need to be away from my computer more. And maybe find some new hobbies.

I use Pomodoro often...it's definitely helpful, but I just feel like that urge is still there when I'm done with a session. I want to get rid of the underlying urge, not just work around it, if that makes sense.
posted by neeta at 8:58 AM on May 2, 2015

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