in Introspection

Breaking Internet Addiction

This probably won’t come as a shock to those who are close to me — or even those who barely know me — but the internet has become something of a time sink for me. It’s true that I now view blogging as my vocation, and this, by its very nature, requires me to stay well-connected; but it’s also true that I fritter away hours every day with what are essentially prolonged repetitive distractions.

  • I check e-mail. Constantly.
  • I monitor my site statistics. Constantly.
  • I keep tabs on my RSS feeds.
  • I check my favorite sites for updates.
  • I google or wikipedia anything that occurs to me to google or wikipedia.
  • I play mindless games.

There’s nothing wrong with doing these things once-in-a-while, but they’re constant distractions for me. They’re not productive. I have now gone eight minutes without checking e-mail or site stats. It’s astounding that I know this. It’s sad that I know this. And yet in a couple more minutes, the urge will be so strong that I’ll stop what I’m doing here to check again. And then I’ll check again in another few minutes.

The writers guild met last night. (Have I mentioned how much I’ve come to value these meetings?) I go to the pub early so that I can be frugal and purchase food at happy hour prices. This gives me an hour on my own. (Sometimes Paul shows up early, too, and we can chat.)

Last night I took my laptop. The pub has no internet connection. For one full blissful hour, I was working on my computer as I normally do but without a connection to the net. You would not believe how productive I was. I responded to sixteen pieces of e-mail and queued them for later sending. (In fact, I started the evening with 76 pieces of e-mail in my inbox; when I finished, I’d whittled that to 24 pieces.) I figured out how to use iCal’s to-do list and began to add things to it. (AmyJo, you’ll be happy to hear that I added: “Fix AmyJo’s blog” to the list!) I created a schedule for upcoming entries at Get Rich Slowly. I even wrote outlines of a few of these entries.

I was able to get more done in an hour than I usually do in a day. It was awesome.

“I need to find a place like that in Oak Grove,” I told Kris when I returned home. “A place where I can linger, but which does not have an internet connection.”

“What about the library?” she asked.

“That’s good, but it has its own distractions. The place I need can’t have other stuff to tempt me away from the task at hand.”

The quest is on. I need to find a spot I can sit and work. I wonder if the Chinese restaurant I like so much would mind if I took up a booth for a few hours on mid-Friday or mid-Saturday afternoons?

(Hooray for small victories! I managed to write this entire entry without checking stats or e-mail. That’s eighteen minutes of discipline. Discipline that ends right now…)

Write a Comment


  1. Congrats on going so long without checking. I have someone here that does the same. No, I’m not mentioning names. Nor will I mention that it’s just as easy to be distracted by things installed on one’s computer that don’t need an Internet connection. Mentioning that would be bad.

    I’ll shut up and go stand over there –> now.

  2. JD, I’m right there with ya. I can’t say how many times I’ve gotten caught at my day job not doing real work, only because I was researching anything and everything on the internet. I don’t yet consider this an addiction as it has only very mildly affected my everyday life. My wife and I agree to use the internet and blackberry like a library or as a resource. Email and games aren’t going anywhere.

    Also, I’ve posted on several times and you’ve even gracefully snail-mailed me a book (thanks)… but I wanted to interject that I’ve enjoyed falling upon foldedspace and learning more about your life and blogging style. Thanks for sharing your passion for writing and congrats on making money at it this year!

  3. I probably have a mild to moderate addiction myself… but then, I can live just fine without checking email and such. In fact, the prime reason I do check my email is for notifications on other sites — new comments on my blog (especially that) or various Facebook things.

    I bring my laptop with me most places in my day-to-day life, but mostly because I use it in classes for notetaking while I’m at college, and since my latop bag is my primary school bag. Campus-wide wifi does provide a mighty distraction that can be troublesome for the dryer lectures, though.

    Having a Gmail notifier on both my machines is a part of the mix too, and I usually come running whenever I hear that familiar chime.

  4. I just recently upgraded my cheap Linksys router ($30) with some new firmware ($free, but adds about $200+ in value) and after poking around figured out you can actually “turn off” portions of your network for periods of time.
    In plain English, you could turn off your ability to “surf the net” but still have access to the rest of your home network for portions of the day, based on time or day of the week (or basically any other method you can think up).
    Removing temptation is sometimes the best way to get addiction under control.

  5. You know I am always full of suggestions, but now that you have written about it, I am betting that you have already started to figure out how you are going to control this “addiction.” Figuring it out yourself is part of your new found self discipline in many aspects of your life. Congratulations.