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Overwhelmed by the Internet? Tips for navigating a cyber-driven world

I admit it, I am not only a consumer of the Internet, I am consumed by it. Pretty much every waking moment of my day, except for when I am in the pool or in the shower, I am looking at the screen of desktop computer, an iPad, and a smart phone or all three at the same time. When I drive, I listen to podcasts and might occasionally (clears throat) check emails or Twitter. I like to think of it as multi-tasking, but really it is just out of control.

Don’t get me wrong I love the Internet and use it regularly as a vital tool in my work as a performance artist and activist. I setup and advertise gigs, research, write, learn, and share ideas. It connects me with the most important people in my life–family and friends who live far away or even nearby. I get educated, challenged, and entertained through the myriad options it offers. And like most people I get drawn into rabbit holes of endless Youtube video watching, celebrity gossip, and porn–which include naked bodies but also garden supplies, shaving equipment, and coffee making products. Other than passing out through a sleeping pill, there is no easier way to see two hours disappear right before your eyes than to casually approach the Internet.

Pensive Peterson Toscano

Pensive Peterson Toscano

What is your morning ritual? What are the first things you do when you wake up? For me it almost always has been:

  • Move a cat off my body (I don’t toss and turn as much as my husband so they end up settling on me)
  • Then I reach over in the dark and miraculously plop my hand right onto iPhone.
  • I first check Twitter. Any retweets? Responses?
  • I then check Facebook. How many people like my post? Who responded? How can I respond back?
  • Then I check my email which will not only be flooded with junk (no, I do not want to give her pleasure all night. I am sure she can handle that herself.) and with work-related messages. Typically something annoys me that requires a response, and my mind immediately starts formulating the words.
  • Finally I get out of bed feeling grumpy and rushed even before my first cup of coffee.

Last week I tried something new. Something that felt strangely radical. I decided that I would not go on-line for the first hour of my day. No iPhone check ins, no New York Times on my iPad, no quick peek at the notifications on my desk top. I pretended that the Internet did’t exist. Not an option. What happens then?

I actually have some experience with this. Whenever I am home these day, I try to make Sundays an Internet-free day (I allow for some texting or else I might hyperventilate.) I wrote about it some months ago: Silent Sundays–My Personal Digital Detox. My Internet-free Sundays are some of my happiest days of the week. I can relax in a whole different way. Enjoy a book. Focus on a household chore and find joy in the moment. Settle into conversation, cooking, or listening to music without the constant tug to look something up.

Renewable 9781631529689_FullCover 3Nov14.inddSo these days I am trying to start the day without the Internet. I turn on the light, look at my wristwatch (something I needed to buy because of Internet-free Sundays) and reach for book. I have been reading Eileen Flanagan’s Renewable–One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope. Like me, Eileen is a Quaker concerned about climate change and wants to figure out how to move beyond simply lowering our individual carbon footprint to engaging in climate action. I also have started reading Jennifer Grace Bird’s new book, Permission Granted–Take the Bible into Your Own Hands. It is the perfect book for someone like me who is serious about the Bible and needs to sort through years of religious oppression.

After reading in bed for about 30 minutes, I get up, greet my hubby in the kitchen, make coffee or tea and a little breakfast, then sit in the living room and read our local paper, The Sunbury Daily Item, which gets delivered to our house and then fed to our composting worms, used in the garden, recycled. When I say local paper, I mean I practically read about what is happening in my own patio. I learn about local and regional politics, read the letters to the editors, scan the events for the day (lots of bingo and fish fries these days) and look for specials at the nearby stores.

I clean up the dishes, make some more tea or coffee, then head up to my study relaxed, focused, and in a good mood.

With so much information out there, much of it bad news or scary news, along with the billions of ways to distract ourselves from the pain of this world, I find I need to protect myself from too much time on-line. It may sound like a little step, but so far that first hour without Internet centers me for much of the day.

What about you? How do you manage your time on-line?

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Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is www.petersontoscano.com

This post has 2 Comments

  1. Eileen Flanagan on April 2, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I totally relate. Years ago, I began my day with journaling and worship. Now I begin with email, Facebook, and checking my amazon ranking. Then I wake up the kids, which means the peaceful quiet is gone. On the bright side, the hint of spring is getting me outside more, which for me is kind of like combining journaling, worship, and a trip to the gym. Another author with a recently released book (Betsy Teutsch) sets limits on how often she can check amazon, which I am trying to emulate. I’m also trying to let go of the feeling that I have to respond to every email and every tweet immediately. I definitely don’t need to fill out a quiz to find out what Hogwarts house I would be in or find the “C” in some optical illusion (which someone posted on Facebook this morning, and I couldn’t help looking just a little). You’re right. The internet can be consuming. Maybe it’s all a plot to distract us so we don’t notice the collision course humanity is on.

    • Peterson Toscano on April 2, 2015 at 8:25 am

      Thanks for commenting and for sharing so much of yourself in your new book.