No Web Surfing Has Given me the Shakes and Dry Heaves
July 3, 2008 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Any advice on coming to terms with not being able to surf the internet or keep up with the news for the next year?

For a variety of reasons (mostly extreme lack of time and intermittent internet access) I've realized that I'm going to have to give up using websites and blogs to keep up with current events, technology, politics, and culture.

So far, I've used my limited time on a computer to do my best to get through a few of my favorite sites in my RSS reader, but I think it will be better to just go cold turkey and I'm having a hard time convincing myself to do this.

I used to enjoy being well-informed on a variety of topics and it's frightening for me to think I won't know what's going on with the Presidential election/the iphone 3g/the latest kottke links/etc.

Any advice on how to cope with this and to convince myself not to use my scant/valuable computer time checking news/blogs?

I'm not looking for a technological fix via a firefox extension or something like that because I'm using a variety of computers. I haven't deleted my bloglines RSS account, but I guess that is the first/best step to take, but anything in the reader is also available online so it's more about convincing myself not to want to check the sites.

Overall though, I'm just looking for a way to deal with the mental anguish (exaggeration) of being almost completely uninformed for the next year.

P.S. It's not that I have no intellectual stimulation... I'm doing a year long academic program that has brought about these circumstances, so I'm trying to convince myself that learning all this other useful/important stuff can take the place of how I used to spend my time reading stuff online.

Thanks for the help!
posted by davidstandaford to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
If you use the internet like other people use TV, you won't miss it. If something truly important happens you'll find out about it some other way.
posted by rhizome at 1:09 PM on July 3, 2008

Pick up the newspaper? Listen to NPR? You know, how we used to do it in the old days.
posted by greta simone at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2008

If you're disciplined enough to go cold turkey in this way, you're probably disciplined enough to allocate an hour per week to get your internet fix.

Conversely, if you're easily distracted from things you should really be doing, you might find yourself just wasting time in other ways - books, newspapers etc.

Spend your last few days of internet use considering just how relevant the things you read really are to you, as compared with the things you feel you need to achieve. You'll probably realise that you're taking in a ton of information that you can easily live without. You might even find that your period of abstinence leaves you with a clearer head and a better set of priorities.

Now, what was it I was supposed to be doing?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

This question is tough to answer with such boundaries as you have indicated. In part it seems like you are viewing your internet use as "recreational" with the added benefit of being more "informed". If that is the case I would argue that if you are in for an entire year of sacrificing all recreation from your daily activities, then that is a very sad thing indeed and goes far beyond some perceived addiction to procrastination. Perhaps you feel like what begins as an initial interest in "catching up" on your favorite websites turns into "Oh my god where did the past 5 hours go and I was supposed to be working on a paper." and you're taking the extreme measure of removing those temptations. If that is the case I think you could perhaps take a few steps to segregate your recreational time from your work time. Cold turkey not only will be tough, it's not really accomplishing much because you simply need to have down time, well all do. Here are some ideas off the top of my head of helping you enjoy the down time without feeling that it needs to interrupt your work time or suck you into a time-wasting binge of surfing.
  • Podcasts, late at night or early morning or whenever your "down time/recreation time" is. They're easy to turn off, come back to later. You can't open multiple ones and listen at the same time, there's less temptation to move from one podcast to like 20 other things like hyperlinks on the web tend to make you do.
  • Newspaper, you stay informed without being connected online. Again no temptation to jump off of the latest news and into the wierd stuff that shows up on Boing Boing and beyond. For bonus points subscribe to something like the Onion print edition to feel like you're getting some fun reading along with the other newspapers with just current events
  • Adjust computer settings to block certain websites or limit the amount of time you can view them. That's more of a software-based hack but perhaps that's the kind of thing you're looking for (keep in mind you can keep firefox and extensions and the like on a USB key so if you need to be remote on a lot of different computers you shouldn't rule out software answers alltogether).
Apologies if these don't really answer your question directly. In a way I feel like an enabler but seriously, you need down time and if you consider recreational web surfing as part of that down time there's nothing wrong with that (with limits of course).
posted by genial at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2008

My life in Japan 1992-1995 was completely devoid of the internet, and limited to minutes of western media a week. It was awesome. I might suck at Trivial Pursuit 90s Edition but hey.

November 3rd, 1995 was the day Netscape entered my life, and personal productivity left.
posted by yort at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I suspect that once you stop using it, your time will quickly fill up with the other intellectually stimulating projects that you have, and you will hardly notice. For many years, I was a seven day a week, 10 or more hour a day internet user, and just in the past year or so, I've found myself not using it at all on the weekends when there is stuff to be done in the yard, with the pets, etc.

I didn't even realize it at first, but now I kind of like it. I treat it as 'it's there in an emergency' but find other ways of entertaining yourself if possible.
posted by quin at 1:50 PM on July 3, 2008

What is a kottke link?

You're not going to miss anything important. It's only the internet.
posted by Zambrano at 1:51 PM on July 3, 2008

Is it that you don't have access to a computer, or you don't have access to Internet?
If can't quit your blogs/feeds/whatever, you might want to do some research on web scrapers. Programs that will go to your site of choice and save the first layer or two of clickable links; 2 layers = you could get your RSS headlines, and the "read full Article", but links from the article wouldn't be cached. I spent about 8 weeks with infrequent access to Internet but could use someone else's offline computer using a guest account; a U3 flash drive (programs installed and run from the thumb drive, allowing you to carry, store, and use your own stuff on anyone's PC) allowed me to plug in the drive at a cafe, download mail and news and whatever, then take it home and look at it on a PC there. Worked fine, and I always had "my computer" on my keychain. I think the free download U3 web scraper program was called Webaroo.
posted by penciltopper at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2008

Any advice on how to cope with this and to convince myself not to use my scant/valuable computer time checking news/blogs?

Have you considered getting rid of your home internet connection? A radical solution, I know, and not without its downsides, but it will sure keep you off the internet.

Overall though, I'm just looking for a way to deal with the mental anguish (exaggeration) of being almost completely uninformed for the next year.

I recently noticed a lot of the stories in my RSS feeds were things like Rogers Announces iPhone Plans in Canada and Should You Be Allowed to Buy Plastic Fish Brake Lights? and US 'pregnant man' has baby girl. Frankly, I realised, I don't give a damn. Perhaps you could come to the same realisation I did?
posted by Mike1024 at 2:52 PM on July 3, 2008

Ask yourself what exactly you will be losing by not keeping up with all the news on politics, culture, iphones, etc.

Do you feel superior to others that don´t know the latest kottke links, or to people who don´t know what a kottke link is? Do you feel that your personal qualities would be less if you were unable to carry on conversation about the virtues of the latest iphone? Many people don´t keep up with these things, choosing to spend their time in other ways. Being well informed of the latest political turns of the week doesn´t make you a better person, and you´ll probably find out big news (like who´s been elected president) in some other way.

Go cold turkey. That you are having trouble going cold turkey makes me particularly inclined to think that this is the way to go.
posted by yohko at 3:10 PM on July 3, 2008

Believe me, it will be easier than you think. The thing is, you don't know what you're missing. Once you break the physical habit of click-click-clicking, which for me takes just a few days, it becomes natural.
posted by loiseau at 4:34 PM on July 3, 2008

Greta Simone already mentioned it, but: try listening to NPR. I had a few months where eye problems made it near impossible for me to read anything, which was like a prison sentence to me! -- and listening to NPR helped me keep my sanity. At the time, there were two local carriers so that when one switched to classical music for the day, the other one picked up the NPR schedule. Now I have to use a digital radio and switch streams, but it's the same idea. It can keep you in touch with the world, and there's an interesting variety of topics that one might not necessarily have clicked on while surfing.
posted by tomboko at 7:01 AM on July 4, 2008

You sound like me 3 years ago before I started my PhD program. I thought I would have to quit blogging, quit checking RSS, and concentrate on academics 24 hours a day.

There have been busy times when I haven't kept up my blog, and times when I might not have checked for a whole week, but no matter how busy you are, you don't work 24 hours a day. You are going to have establish a new work/life balance anyway that includes some recreational time. Cutting back a bit on the web is more likely than going cold turkey entirely.
posted by roofus at 7:03 AM on July 4, 2008

Subscribe to a good paper weekly news magazine (I recommend The Economist). Keep the current issue with you at all times and read articles when you would otherwise be doing nothing (standing in line, waiting on hold, pooping, etc.).
posted by Jacqueline at 12:55 AM on July 5, 2008

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