I know that this is all going to sound very familiar – I spend far too much time on Facebook, email, Pinterest and surfing the Internet. I’ve noticed that if I’m unsure what I want to do, am tired, bored, lonely, my default is to get my laptop out and browse. I’ve also noticed that this does me no good: it doesn’t change my mood, energise or inspire me. Looking at that list – at a loose end, tired, lonely, bored – those are just the things that can also result in snacking on chocolate and other sweet goodies and I’ve been realising that the pattern is really the same – using the computer mindlessly to fill a gap that needs to be filled by something more sustaining.
Several months ago I decided to limit my Internet time to about half an hour after meals, with a final check at 9pm, after which I try to have a screen curfew, because otherwise my sleep is affected. That’s still quite a lot, but FB and email do give me lots of enjoyable and genuine social interaction, and I just like Pinterest – it gives me lots of creative input. However, this good intention has inevitably drifted and a couple of days ago I noticed that I was “grazing” again, to keep to the analogy with food – I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated that day, and kept returning to the computer to see if there was anything new waiting for me. I know, from days when I don’t do this, that it’s not good for me – my thoughts become scattered, I have no hope of focusing or being mindful when posts, messages and pictures are continually pulling my thoughts in different directions. It becomes even less likely that I’ll get past my unmovtivated, “can’t be bothered” mood. If I stay away from the screen, my mind tends to be quieter, more present and focused.
Another, related, tendency is to let the allocated times on the computer get longer. I’m usually enjoying a cup of tea after my meal while I go online, and if I finish checking sites before I’ve finished the tea, I can start surfing more generally and unproductively.
I’m going to try again to keep to my set times, and if I use the computer for other things in between those times, not to check social media. I also need something to occupy me at those times when I might otherwise go to the computer as my default or while I finish my tea – I’ve learned that it’s no good just taking something away; it has to be replaced by something more positive if a habit is to change. I have an embarrassing number of unread books, fiction and nonfiction, and I love reading, but it gets pushed out by time online. So I’ve pulled out a selection of books on different topics (including art, history, quilting, spirituality and poetry) and have a tempting pile sitting in full view, so that I can pick up whatever suits my mood when I’m feeling that emptiness and lack of motivation or need to drain that mug.
And now it’s an hour after breakfast and time I sent this and closed the laptop lid…!