January 17, 2017

Too much internet and not enough life

Over the past few days, I’ve come to the realization that I have a problem. Or, more accurately, a vice I need to get rid of.

At first glance, I lead a relatively healthy, addiction-free lifestyle. I’ve never smoked a single cigarette. I rarely drink alcohol (half a glass of wine a few times a year). I’ve never been drunk in my life. Weed, drugs, gambling, compulsive shopping – all strange and foreign territory to me.

I don’t play computer games. I don’t eat fast food, potato chips or chocolate. I drink neither soda nor coffee. Hell, I don’t even watch TV.

Despite all that, I have a problem. That problem is called internet surfing.

I spend way too much time in front of my computer. Some of it gets spent on Facebook (I don’t use Twitter or Instagram), but I also read a LOT of random stuff found via Google searches. I read very fast – I can skim through an article literally with the speed of light – and faced with an unbelievable wealth of information available on every topic known to man, I just can’t resist the urge to dig in, even when I know I’m reading stuff I don’t need. I call it “a bit of entertainment” or “doing research” or “looking for inspiration”, but ultimately it’s just distraction, distraction, distraction. Mental candy. 

I’ve had this tendency to mindlessly read random stuff on the net ever since my father first got a computer with an internet connection (a dial-up modem in those times) somewhere around 1996 or 1997. Ages ago, it seems. Over time, I realized that too much web surfing, forum activity and e-mail correspondence (I’ve never played games online or visited chat rooms) will seriously hurt my productivity. My Ph.D. thesis, most of my stories and all of my books were written on an offline laptop. I can’t focus on work for longer periods of time when my internet connection is active. The temptation to distract myself with “just a minute of surfing” is too strong.

Unfortunately, some of the translations and proofreading work I do can’t be done offline. I need to check phrases and expressions through Google to see if they’re being used correctly or if there’s a better alternative. Along the way, I inevitably get distracted by all the fascinating stuff I come across during those searches, and lose precious minutes reading.

Out-of-control internet surfing won’t give me cancer or liver cirrhosis. But it’s putting a strain on my eyes (I have myopia; I wear strong corrective lenses, and ideally I should limit my computer use as much as possible), to say nothing about back pain and potentially carpal tunnel syndrome as well.

Most importantly of all, I’m beginning to realize now just how perniciously this habit affects my productivity. I could get so much more work done if I stopped reading those interesting but completely unimportant articles and blog posts, to say nothing about hanging out on Facebook. (Facebook isn’t the main problem here, though; blocking Facebook won’t stop me from browsing 1,000,000 other sites.)

Right now I’m tired and my eyes feel full of sand after yet another night spent surfing the net and working (the sort of work that requires me to constantly look something up through Google) in parallel. Yes, I did the work I had planned to do. But I could have finished it much earlier and spared myself at least three hours of staring at the screen. I’m constantly complaining about not having enough time. Three hours are a HUGE amount of time.

Writing this down is helping me realize that something definitely needs to be done. I’m just not sure yet what my course of action should be. For now, I'm trying to limit the time I spend online, but when I need to do things that require an active internet connection (answering e-mails, checking translation phases, blogging), sooner or later I always get sucked into the vortex.

Suggestions? Advice? (If anyone is actually reading this...?)

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. I can relate to your problem, Agnieszka, because it's a big problem of mine, too. And now that I'm determined to reach some goals (run a half marathon on 4/23 "comfortably" and some writing goals), I've got to do something about my problem, too. One thing I tried (but haven't done consistently) is to try to stay off of emails and Facebook until I've journaled three pages in the morning and thought about my day. Sounds like a plan--I'll try again tomorrow.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Susan!

      I've learned not to turn the computer on until I've gotten some things done around the house, but the afternoons and evenings (and nights) are my downfall. In my case, the solution might be to just give up those translation and proofreading jobs that require constant Google searches - ultimately they're not worth the time I lose while doing them - and stick to the stuff I can comfortably do offline.

      A half-marathon is an impressive goal - I wish you luck and good running! :)