Have you SUCCESFULLY reduced your screen time? How did you do it?
October 22, 2021 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I've been "addicted" to the internet since I was a young teen and browsing and scrolling are my go-to activities. I really want to change this. It's hard!

I would like to hear how YOU PERSONALLY managed to significantly reduce your screen time.

I know about:
-The Self-Control app
-Putting screen time limits on my phone
-Other activities to do instead

I don't have facebook, twitter, or instagram accounts.

I find ways around hard blocking using screen time apps, e.g. Self Control doesn't seem to work as it should when using Firefox, meaning I can still access sites that are ostensibly blocked.

My main issue is I have to use the computer for work, I work at home, and I have no fixed schedule. So I might log on to check my email and five hours later have refreshed MeFi and made my rounds of blogs, youtube, and the news countless times.

As well as work I also use the computer for studying a language. It's hard to stop myself from following the habitual patterns, so a "study session" can easily unravel into hours of semi-studying, semi-scrolling.

I think that unlike almost anything else there is no innate signal to stop. I don't get tired or full up or just DONE like with other activities. And without the internet time stretches out like an endless gulf.

I know I'm not "addicted", as in certain settings can merrily go for days without the internet or my phone and not miss them at all- but these are situations imposed externally (e.g. meditation retreats or holidays in places with no wifi or data coverage) and not something I can recreate for myself on a daily basis. Besides, I need my computer for work! I can't just get rid of it.

I'm tempted to not have a smartphone any more but it's my main way of staying in touch with my close friends and family, and we share a lot of photos, memes etc on whatsapp. It would be a diminishing of our long-distance relationships to only have SMS and phonecalls.

If this sounds like you, what did you do? Is it just setting a designated time for work/study computer and being super vigilant about it? I feel really powerless to change these habits that are making me unhappy.
posted by Balthamos to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Turning my phone to black and white helped (for a while, until the languishing of mid-pandemic hit hard). What it really helped with was giving me immediate feedback when I picked up my phone that it was slightly discomfortable, so it helped me remember that "hey, this isn't quite right" which would give my brain enough to time to remember to put the phone down instead of scrolling.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 2:51 PM on October 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestion but I have tried probably almost every little hack like changing phone to black and white (worked for maybe 2 days), leaving my phone in another room etc. I guess my problem is more structural and I’d like to hear from people who re-structured their lives from being online a majority of the time to... not. (Although it’s probably a bit insane to be asking this question... on the internet).
posted by Balthamos at 2:57 PM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only thing that ever helps me is to stop even thinking about my screen time, and start focusing on boosting other things: like "I'm going to go on more walks" or "I'm going to cook more" or "I'm going to do more video calls with friends."

It helps if some of those Other Things are totally dumb and lazy and self-indulgent, like "Take very long showers" or "Watch incredibly bad television and paint my toenails," so I don't fall off the wagon just because I'm in the mood for something trashy.

(I still suck at this.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:07 PM on October 22, 2021 [19 favorites]

It's not the perfect solution, but I purchased a lifetime subscription to Freedom.to last year (currently $64). It's been well worth it for me (when I use it!).

I work from home, and some days I just find myself cycling through my various sites that drag me down a wormhole. When I start spiraling, I can set Freedom to start in X minutes and last until Z time. I give myself a few minutes more and then it kicks on. When it's on, I just cannot access Metafilter, for example. You can use their list of time-wasting sites, or create your own.

For me, it's enough to just set it, and then when a page won't load, I get knocked out of that spiral and move on with my life. There are likely ways to set a daily schedule so you don't have to think about it. There's a free trial - see if it works for you.

For your language app, if it's a website, for example, you can start studying at 9am, but set Freedom to kick in at 9:30 so you'll get a half hour of studying in, but not more than you want.

I don't know what the Self Control app is like, or how this is different, but it definitely works with my Firefox on a Mac. I haven't synced it to my phone, but that's also an option.
posted by hydra77 at 3:11 PM on October 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Internet is often a thing that fills the space between things we have to do. Reducing that spare capacity helps a lot. Find some world-outside things to commit to. Whether it's volunteering, a club, a college course, music lessons or whatever, fill some of that spare time with things you'd like to do.
posted by pipeski at 3:13 PM on October 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Have you tried using RSS instead of "making the rounds" for MeFi, blogs, news?

I find it really helps to curate what you are really interested in and only get those RSS feeds, then just check those once or twice a day. You only see new content since you last checked, it's much easier to skim headlines/teasers and only click through to truly interesting content, and there's a definite end.

I personally use inoreader.com.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 3:14 PM on October 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I haven't successfully reduced my screentime but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how to do so, like you. The conclusion I came to is that if external blockers don't work, then it has to be an internal blocker. It has to be an inner strength that you consciously strengthen through practice, like a muscle. It's just that the internet provides a pleasing sensation of gathering information with almost no work, so of course our brains are going to eat that up like candy. And like candy, the only way to not do something is to decide not to do it.

So it's not just "knowing about other things to do instead" it's more about consciously choosing those other things when you realize you're in a loop. Not judging yourself or beating yourself up for being in a loop again, just noticing it and having something on hand to use to pull yourself out. In theory, the more we do this the easier it will get. AND, every time you do this, you're helping yourself. Every second spent offline counts, even if you can only do a few at a time.

I know this isn't what you want to hear, it's just that having thought about it a lot, every day, for many years, I don't think there's any other way, although I will be following this thread with interest and would love to be wrong. The only reason this hasn't worked for me is because i don't have that many other things I can do instead, but if you do have some already then you're ahead of the game.
posted by bleep at 3:25 PM on October 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

I use forest. I haven't set up permissions so I actually can get around it, but the little reminder that I'm growing a tree helps redirect my attention.

Adjusting my environment helps, too. Example: normally scroll during the 4pm breastfeed, but if we are out (at the playground by the river) I look around at my environment instead.
posted by freethefeet at 3:27 PM on October 22, 2021

It's hard to take away, easier to add. Give yourself other things to do at set times that you'll actually do. For example, in my household we generally have dinner at X time and after that there's no more independent screen time.

Also, it is maybe not so much the screen time that is the problem, it's that you want to do other things. What other things might those be? What gets you excited about doing something that's not on a screen? If you can't think of anything, that might be more the issue. It's worth doing some self-discovery to see what kinds of things you value and prefer to do.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:38 PM on October 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I started considering "screen time" a specific time, a specific task. A lot of the little tricks you've already tried can play into this.

I leave my phone in airplane mode. When it is time to look at my phone, I turn off airplane mode. A day's worth of information pours in. But that's really only about ten minutes worth of information. I star RSS stories/videos, I archive emails that require no action, I ignore things. Then the phone goes back into airplane mode. I tend to do this when switching between work and personal time. Or if I've just arrived somewhere. Or if I'm about to head off somewhere else and a message might redirect me.

My work PC is similar. I have slack and email, but I turned off all the popups. When I'm between tasks, I look at the messages. Five minutes worth of information pours in. I flag things, I respond to things, I ignore things. Then I go on to the next task.

I basically remind myself that even if I see an email or a cool thing, I can't really do anything with it in bed. Or on a bike ride. I really only need to know about cool videos if I'm sitting down to watch videos, you know? The list is best viewed on the TV itself.

And that leads to things like leaving your phone in another room, because there's not really anything you can do with a software release as you're falling asleep. There's not really anything you can do with a new book recommendation while you're eating dinner. It's nice that a package was delivered, but you're at the grocery store, etc.

If I'm, like, meeting someone somewhere, the phone stays on with sound/vibration on. Because that's when I actively need it.
posted by Snijglau at 3:42 PM on October 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have a huge problem with aimless internet usage that is exacerbated by my chronic fatigue issues. Being online is something I do when I'm too low in energy to work (or more accurately, to make myself work), yet not quite tired enough that I feel I must sleep. And like you, I work at home, and need to use the internet for work and other practical purposes, as well as what is almost my only contact with other people, since I live alone, am single, and seldom spend any time with anyone. So, it's hard to stay offline.

I don't have a cell phone because I can't afford one, but it also terrifies me to think how much more difficult it would be for me to control my internet usage on two devices when I'm having such a problem with just one.

Here's what worked. I made a rule that I could only have my laptop on when writing first thing in the morning, when working in the afternoons, and in the evening, for entertainment. And I made a few other rules that supported my internet usage policy: that I could nap whenever I needed to, and that I would get to bed at a set time every night (which made it less likely I would need a nap). When I follow these rules, they work very well and I am much more productive and feel much better about my life and myself. I work if I feel able, and when I don't feel able, I take a nap rather than mindlessly cruising the net for hours.
posted by orange swan at 3:45 PM on October 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: (Uh, this may not apply at all, but another thing that helps me is reframing my compulsive scrolling from "this is an addiction" to "this is a place I end up when I dissociate.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:47 PM on October 22, 2021 [14 favorites]

This is tough for me, too -- I look forward to seeing the ideas in this thread. The only things that have ever worked for me for more than a couple of days are...
- Setting off hours on my router so the internet didn't work during those times. Worked great for months, but might not work today in the age of plentiful data plans.
- Going camping somewhere with no internet. It was a good break and when I got back, I had a little more self-control for a while, and did better with cancelling subscriptions to Netflix & such and scheduling my time with other things.
- Unfollowing everyone on Facebook. Didn't help with the rest of the internet, but turned FB from a hateful every-ten-minutes addiction into a pleasant thing I looked at every couple of weeks or so.
- To some degree, reading books can take the place of internetting, but when I get to the end of a book or series, then it's generally back to the screen again.

I, too, have considered switching to a dumb phone, but I haven't been able to commit to that for the same reasons you list.

Good luck -- you're really fighting against the current on this one. There are many, many companies out there working hard to steal your attention.
posted by ourobouros at 5:06 PM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have tried a number of things to make me less tied to my smartphone to little avail, but recently was phoneless for a few days (after accidentally pouring apple cider all over my phone) and it was revelatory to not have the internet live in my pocket, both in making it impossible to compulsively check my phone and the knock-on effect of making it easier to timebox my laptop usage. I was inspired to order a dumbphone that I can switch my SIM card into to be able to force myself to only have text and phone capabilities in my pocket when I choose. I lose some text continuity between phones, which may be an issue in your life but is a price I'm happy to pay to have the dumb phone as an auxilliary option in my life for the times I don't want the internet to be handy without being fully out of touch with the world. This is trickier on some carriers than others, and sometimes impossible so you'll have to research if it'll work for you, but might be a feasible middle path between smartphone and full-time dumbphone for you too.
posted by lhputtgrass at 5:19 PM on October 22, 2021

Changes of kind are always easier than changes of degree.

If I want to stop eating 3 cookies a day, I have to stop eating all cookies (or at least stop having them at home). If I want to not be surfing Facebook, but need to be on a device, I need to get FB off my device (for me, just logging out is a good enough reminder "oh yeah, I turned that off..." But you may find you need to actually unfollow your Twitter folks, delete your accounts, etc).

And if that's hard or unimaginable to do, maybe sit with that feeling a little and figure out what it's giving you.
posted by Lady Li at 7:20 PM on October 22, 2021

The other answer, of course, is to be out and about all day, busy with physical things, etc. and not on your phone/computer.
posted by Lady Li at 7:21 PM on October 22, 2021

Best answer: This is more like harm reduction - but I have started listening to documentaries, lectures, etc - as a replacement activity for when I want to read all the things on the internet. I use Youtube's watch later feature and keep a list of Vimeo links/Kanopy titles. Obviously this doesn't work with all video material, it depends on how visual the film or webinar is. And then I can cook, or play with the cats, or do stretches (omg my hip flexors). I know this is what podcasts are, but I think my magpie tendencies do better with non-series resources, a la carte style info, like I can think - oh this person mentioned Daniel Wildcat and their work on indigenous knowledge and climate change, let's see what talks by them are available on YT. Or oh I just spent an hour reading Raiot and watching proletarian TikTok vids, I wonder what documentaries on Indian politics are available, ok let's save this to watch later.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:23 PM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

You need an actual plan for what you will be doing instead of scrolling. If this is something that’s taken up a lot of your time for years and years, it’s not like you’re just gonna drop your screens and immediately know what you’re going to do with that time.

So instead of, “I want to reduce screen time,” think about it like “here are all the things I’m going to do instead of being on the computer.” Then it’s not like you’re depriving yourself, you’re just adding something.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:45 PM on October 22, 2021

Stuff that’s helped me attack the phone component of this:

- having a smart watch (Apple Watch in my case). A lot of the stuff I used to do on my phone (check the time, the weather, set a timer, etc), I can now do on my watch without accidentally going down an internet rabbit hole.
- turning my phone off completely when I won’t need it! I try to turn it off after dinner.
- understand which things are only available on my phone vs also on my laptop, and be extra aware when I’m doing using them that I don’t end up opening a million unrelated things.
- have no-phone zones, like my bed. I’ve thought about a rule that I can only use my phone while standing. Haven’t implemented but could work.

These are all phone-centric because I’ve noticed it’s way easier for me to sink countless hours into my phone than it is for my laptop (gets uncomfortable). I’ll be reading the rest of the answers with interest too. Good luck! It’s h-a-a-ard because the internet fills so many emotional needs.
posted by estlin at 9:06 PM on October 22, 2021

I use screen time on my phone with a lot of apps limited so I'm at least conscious of when I've run up against things and have to purposefully agree to give myself another 15m or hour on something. My ebooks, podcasts and some learning apps are left unlimited, and I will wind up reading as an alternative quite often.

The biggest thing for me in reducing aimless time has been beeminder for lots of positive things I want to do - read books, clean house, go for a walk, write letters, study etc. Keeping up with those, I end up with only the weekends for completely mindless surfing which is part of my weekend bliss and by the weekends, I have lots of interesting content to read rather than refreshing reddit again and again. I've read other people who use it as a stick, linking RescueTime via IFFT to a goal to keep within X hours/day or pay a fine.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:19 PM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I look forward to diving in to these replies later, for now, THANK YOU for asking. I struggle with this SO MUCH (and seemingly always have).

I quit social media in Sept, for the first time successfully! and dramatically reduced my overall screen time after many failed attempts. Some thing that worked were:

1. Unlike in the past, I really, really wanted it.
2. If I was tempted to scroll on my phone, I would literally remind myself OUT LOUD: "You don't want to do this." "I am increasing my capacity for boredom" "I need to protect my dopamine"
3. Temporary. I love a month-long challenge.
4. Was working on a major publication project and so had "eyes on the prize" in a new way. No space for brain clutter, I'd tell myself.
5. Harm reduction: so much YouTube yoga and guided meditation. Podcasts. Crossword puzzles. Anything marginally better was a win.

posted by athirstforsalt at 3:50 AM on October 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Some people throw shade at me for having a "dumb phone" for my mobile phone. But this is EXACTLY why I have one - it reduces the number of screens I have which have access to the Internet. So when I'm stuck somewhere sitting around waiting, I don't have the option of just reaching into my pocket and scrolling - I have to have something else on hand to do, and that thing generally occupies more of my attention and is more fun anyway, which in turn reinforces the "meh, I don't need to be online as much" attitude.

I also leave both my phone and my laptop plugged into the chargers when I get home or when I'm not using them, and I only have one cord and one charger and they both live in the same room (my office), and when I get home I plug my phone in the charger and walk away and leave it there. My phone and my laptop them become tools I need to consciously choose to go get instead of being something that's just always around. I can bring them TO other rooms when I'm using them - I'm sitting in the living room right now, but in a minute I'm going to turn my computer off and bring it back into my office and plug it back in, and leave it there while I go about my day. If I need it for something later I will have to go get it from my office and turn it on again.

My mobile also isn't my main phone; I also have a landline. So if people want to call me at home they call the land line, which is only a phone and can't do anything but make calls.

So yeah - physically remove yourself from access to the Internet as much as possible, so it's not a convenient it's-in-your-pocket thing, but something you consciously have to choose to go get.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:09 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Keep your ideas coming. Solidarity to those also struggling with this.

I think one thing that is really important that the internet gives me that I can't access anywhere else is having a sense of a greater existence and identity outside my little world of my daily life. A "presence", not to coin a phrase. There are better ways to have this feeling than scrolling through my old whatsapp conversations or my own Ask reply history, so I've set up a website where I can post my writings. These will probably be a lot about the internet. I find writing about the internet helps me stop mindlessly going on the internet, and might be of interest to other people too. The link is in my profile.
posted by Balthamos at 5:29 AM on October 23, 2021

I keep my devices in a certain place. For instance, laptop is on the kitchen table, and most of the time, I am looking at things in the morning, when I am drinking coffee. Then I get up and do all of my chores, and go do errands.

In the afternoons, I will maybe check email again, then I close the laptop and do something else, put on a nature show and do crafts, go outside and walk around the yard, sweep the doorstep, etc. I won't open the laptop again, maybe for the rest of the day, unless I am referring to a recipe for making supper, for instance.

I might use my phone to look up things on IMDB, while watching a show, or check the news headlines. No phones or devices, or TV, in the bedroom, it all stays out in the main living area. Paper books only in the bedroom. Also, my phone is pretty old, so web browsing is pretty limited, except for sites like IMDB. I don't use most of the apps on my phone (such as FB). Some days, I will not use social media at all.

So for me, it's just habit, I will use the laptop in the morning, but once I am up and about and doing things, it stays closed. I don't bring it into the living room. Also, I have cats, and they get whiney if I don't stop the computer stuff and go sit with them on the couch.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:17 AM on October 23, 2021

For a while I had logged out of all social media, deleted all the apps, but still allowed myself to access through incognito browser mode - just to put a little more of a road bump in the way. It helped (but then COVID really did a number on my willpower.)

On-phone alternatives also help me sometimes. I read an ebook or do a Duolingo lesson. Technically no less screen time but marginally more productive/virtuous.
posted by february at 6:46 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Would setting your own reminders, like a half-hourly or hourly reminder on "are you doing something productive?" be enough to break you out of your habit?
posted by kschang at 6:46 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with orange swan; having a schedule -
get up at the same time every day, with an alarm clock that stays set.
Have a routine, eat breakfast, work 4 hours, go for a walk, eat lunch, work 4 hours.
do tasks X number of hours/ day. Grocery shopping, laundry, clean the house, service the car, etc.
exercise/ move X number of hours/ day.
Use a calendar to help yourself stay on a schedule/ routine, it really helps.

Moving away from a habit is hard; replace it with new habits. It takes time to create a new habit, but is effective.
posted by theora55 at 8:04 AM on October 23, 2021

ColdTurkey. You can set it up so you literally cannot change or uninstall it until the timer is up. There are ways to make the block less severe if you want, but it doesn't sound like you want that. I am also someone who will find ways around any blocker and this one has stumped me.
posted by Anonymous at 8:39 AM on October 23, 2021

If WhatsApp is the reason you are still using a smartphone, look into some of the newer KaiOs featurephones. They have a bunch of apps, including WhatsApp, but you're not going to want to do much webscrolling on a 2.8" screen that's controlled with physical buttons.

(You could also try to get your friends & family to switch from WhatsApp to regular old SMS/MMS, or even to Signal if you can get a Punkt MP02 which is a basic barphone with a Signal client. I know how hard that sort of thing can be, though.)

Also, a while back my partner read Tiny Habits and told me a lot of the key points. It seems like a pretty good approach to behavioral change.
posted by sibilatorix at 9:04 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

On my PC:
Bought a program called "Cold Turkey", installed it, set up blocking rules for the sites I don't want to visit. You can also set it up for time limits/schedules and even limits on apps. If you try to disable the browser plugins or remove the app it blocks you from trying to use the app with it disabled. I haven't looked too hard into getting around the restrictions, but seems pretty bulletproof. I personally have it set up to where if I want to disable or modify a block, I need to manually enter a 500 character string of text to unlock it. This is the only program that has stopped my Reddit addiction in its tracks. I have never had other social media except MySpace way back in the day, so didn't have to worry about those, but it should work just as good. Other plugins I have in Firefox are Privacy Badger, uBlock Origin, DF Youtube (blocks all the algorithms and social media nonsense in YouTube), SponsorBlock for YouTube (skips all the ads, subscription requests, sponsor plugs, recaps and other "filler" inside YouTube videos), CleanURL's (removes tracking from links), and a few others. Made browsing the internet MUCH nicer like it was before corporations took over everything online.

As for my iPhone SE:
Set to black and white in accessibility settings. Removed ALL apps except the ones I use (Phone, Messages, Apple Health, LoseIt, Discover Bank, Wallet, Mail, Healthcare provider, AdGuard Premium, Music); the apps Apple wont let me remove are either blocked in parental controls or hidden in the app library to rot. I then set up ScreenTime, blocking installing/uninstalling of apps, restricting access to other apps that apple wont let me uninstall, and blocking websites I don't want to see (Reddit, etc...; the same as Cold Turkey on my PC). I probably did a couple other things as well that I have forgotten.
ScreenTime and restrictions are easy to disable yourself if you don't have good self-control (as you have found), so the easy way to get around this is to have someone else that will hold you accountable make the passcode for ScreenTime, and when it asks for an AppleID for recovery, have them use theirs as well (so you cannot disable it). I had my partner do this, and it has been working great for me.

Doing these two things has killed my Reddit addiction and reclaimed so much time throughout the day to put toward more meaningful hobbies. I hope my advice helps!
posted by BiteForce at 9:37 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Spending one day a week screen-free is helpful to me. It helps get me into the habit of doing other things with my time, and that carries over to the rest of the week. I made it Sundays so work was not affected.
posted by metasarah at 12:10 PM on October 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My therapist recently told me an anecdote about her own life that gave me the epiphany that social media is a Very New thing for humanity.

I’m of an age where I remember pre-internet, but it was common when I was in high school, and social media got its hooks into me in my early 20s.

The epiphany boils down to: common background knowledge of the lives of people you do not spend time with is *not traditional*. (The temptation is to write “not normal”, but normalcy is a red herring).

It helped me recalibrate my expectations about how I’m spending my time and sharing my life, and I think a similar line of thought might help you step back from screen time in general.

As you’re working on this, remember that willpower is a finite resource! And if you catch yourself gravitating towards doomscrolling, try to take a beat and ask yourself what your brain is *really* hungry for. Do you need stimulation? Transition? *REST*? (I’m very guilty of doing things in my downtime that don’t actually relax me.)
posted by itesser at 2:48 PM on October 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My relationship with the internet (at age 40) is considerably better than it was in my 20s and 30s, the unwieldy and ever-growing presence of social media notwithstanding, but it does require constant vigilance. I agree with you completely that hacks like turning on grayscale or inputting screen time limits or setting timers or installing BlockSite are but extremely tiny parts of the solution and not anything resembling a panacea. I mean, certainly I still use them on days when I'm feeling particularly distractible or have a deadline or need to get more sleep, but they are not what brings any measurable control over the situation, as what I need from the internet is not a monolith but varies considerably from day to day.

One thing that was like hitting a giant reset button in my head was reading a tweet (which I now can't find back but) that talked about how a hundred years ago, most people's "range" for information was no more than a hundred miles at most, usually even smaller than that, and that we as humans are simply not built to be able to absorb and withstand an entire globe's worth of news and information and events and calamities. And on a much smaller scale, to consider how much I was taking in from the humdrum daily inner lives and workings of thousands of people I'm not in any sort of proximity to and don't have an established relationship or community with, like itesser pointed out.

Another was hitting a wall one night where I realized that when looking back over the entire day, I could go back and link just about every thought and reaction and feeling I'd had to reading someone else's content that had been automatically pushed to me. And how uncomfortable it felt that my head was full to overflowing all the time of everyone else's thoughts and opinions and recommendations and complaints and whines and musings about everything in the entire world, rather than my own. And also I was so tired of the noise of the internet. So tired. Everyone shouting their opinions on literally everything all. the. time. I wanted a quieter mind, I wanted to strengthen the habit of forming my own thoughts and opinions first and then seeing where they led me. I wanted the thrill of discovery that I vividly remembered from when the internet was new, rather than the simple convenience of a feed. I still wanted to consume, to be informed, to be uplifted, to laugh at funny stuff, to listen and learn and understand, but I wanted it to happen in a more meaningful, intentional way. I wanted to get in the habit of checking in with myself and deciding what I needed from it or what I felt like viewing or consuming that day and then go look at it, rather than the internet deciding for me, which is how it felt at the time.

Another was realizing that most of my unplanned scrolling sessions reliably happened when I was tired or procrastinating or anxious or in need of a break or just wanted to just check out of the world for awhile. And sometimes that is exactly what I need, but the crucial difference is that during those sessions I'm aware of it beforehand and I'm intentional about what I go look at and it definitely fills me up and brightens my mood. But most of the time scrolling and refreshing is not a proper break. It's not restorative or fulfilling.

Over time I also curbed the habit of automatically hitting follow on any blog or site or account that looked even mildly interesting. Similar to how I would treat a big purchase, whenever I discovered something new, I purposely just sat on it for a few days, trusting that if what I'd read or watched there had really struck a chord in me, I would remember to go back and look at it again, and if it kept happening, then I would make it part of my internet repertoire but not before it had earned its place in it. We don't forget to check in on that which is truly important to us.
posted by anderjen at 12:10 PM on October 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I want to thank everyone again because I am MAKING PROGRESS.

The top trick from this thread was to have a screen-free day each week. I can manage one day. I'm not telling myself it's permanent. It's doable. I mean it's unfortunately not, like, snowballing to where one screen-free day leads to many more in a row (yet), but I can see it sliiiightly beginning to re-train my habitual behaviour. I'm still On Screen more than I feel happy about, but it's feeling easier to say, keep it to the evening on non-work days.

Something else that has been helping that I've not seen mentioned elsewhere is giving myself permission to do things which help get me away from the screen, but for whatever reason feel indulgent and extravagant. For example: spending money on a print version of a book instead of reading a text as a pirated PDF just because the PDF is free and easy to get hold of. A very longstanding goal of reading/researching more in my areas of interest has already been attended to loads more of late due to this. Another example: spending money to go sit in a bookshop cafe in order to read there, because I know if I try to read in bed or on the sofa at home I'll just fall asleep. Permitting myself to use money and take up space is also psychologically challenging a couple of the most seductive elements of the internet: that it's free, it's limitless, and I'm not really "there". If I'm investing my real £££s and real time and real presence to something it feels good, even though my internet-addled brain is scared of it and thinks it will feel Bad.
posted by Balthamos at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

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