It always starts out with the best of intentions. You are going to go online and look for a recipe for something for dinner, or to see how your favorite sports team got on, but as you are looking for that information something else pops up on your computer – latest on Michael Jackson death trial, or which Republican Presidential candidate has a hidden secret – and you think “well, let’s take a look”. Five hours later you stagger away from the computer with absolutely no clue about what you just saw or why you went online in the first place.
It happens to all of us. It’s a like a giant sinkhole that just draws us in. Even if you are aware of the dangers it sometimes feels as if you have no power to prevent it or stop it once it’s happening.
And it’s such a waste of time
I mean how often have you ever needed or even wanted to have a conversation about 98% of the stuff you read online. And yet you read it. So, what’s going on here and how can you break that habit?
Well, procrastination for one thing. You are avoiding doing something you don’t really want to do, by substituting something else – even if it turns out that you didn’t particularly care about that either. All you’ve done is find a meaningless replacement for something that might be useful.
There’s also the ‘sleaze’ factor. We’re drawn to gossip and chit chat about celebrities, to find out their weaknesses and secrets and sins. And the internet makes that easier than ever. You don’t even have to go looking for it, it seems to find you. And once it’s right in front of you it’s really, really hard to ignore.
How do you break it?
Well, it’s not easy. If it were there wouldn’t be books written about how to break bad habits, there wouldn’t be entire professions devoted to helping people change their minds.
But the first step is wanting to. If you have reached a point where you are just bored about being bored then give yourself some credit for at least recognizing the problem and looking for a solution.
After that, come up with any number of different ways of avoiding mindless surfing and staying focused on what you wanted to find out in the first place. It could be something as simple as writing down on a piece of paper (I know, writing, how radical eh!) what it is you are looking for and keeping that in front of you as you work on the computer. It will help keep you focused on what you set out to do and if you start to stray you just look at the piece of paper and get right back to business.
Time to make time
You could give yourself a set time to surf and even have a little alarm set on your watch or phone or computer that goes off after 15 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever, reminding you that the time is up.
You could allow yourself 30 minutes a day for random, pointless, self-indulgent goofing around online. This way you don’t feel deprived, you get to read up on the latest celebrity gossip or whatever it is that is your weakness, and then once you are done you get on with the rest of your life.
None of these distractions are going away. In fact they are only likely to multiply as we become increasingly ‘connected’ in every aspect of our lives. But just because you are ‘connected’ does not mean you have to become ‘disconnected’ from the rest of the world around you.
All you have to do is decide just how much is enough.