So as many of you know, I have a bit of an Internet addiction. I spend hours a day either on my phone, tablet, or computer scrolling through nonsense. I’ve written about this here and here. Sad to say, the only progress I have made since then is getting off Reddit. I did this by simply becoming so disgusted with myself that I deleted the app. I am happy to report I have no interest in returning, even when I see it in Google search results.
Unfortunately, I haven’t reached the critical level of disgust yet needed to kick my scrolling habit. I think it was easier with Reddit because it was one specific habit, as opposed to a more general one. Goals must always be specific and measurable. I suppose I could measure out the time I spend online, but I make all kinds of excuses as to why it was necessary to go over the allotted time.
What I refer to simply as “scrolling” is my incessant need to look through articles on anything and go down the rabbit hole of reading one after another. The worst ones are the recommended articles because they’re invariably stupid, but I read a lot of news, opinion, and analysis under the guise of being “informed.”
One time I tried a technique of playing Candy Crush whenever I had the urge to scroll. My theory was that I knew I would quickly get bored of Candy Crush, so I thought that once I got bored, I’d shift to a more constructive hobby such as reading something substantive. Believe it or not, this worked for a time, but then I went right back to my old habit with a vengeance.
I realized today that part of my addiction stems from my need for constant agitation. I was a political science and philosophy major in college, and I throve on controversy and argumentation. I gave up my interest in those things as subjects, for various reasons, but my thirst for controversy remains.
What I further realized is that this manifests itself in the desire to scroll through comment sections. I will often eschew an intriguing article if I see it doesn’t have comments. If I see hundreds, I can’t wait to click and dig in. I don’t belong to any website where I could join in (I know that would be the death of me), but that doesn’t stop me from living vicariously through the commenters. I like to read the comments I agree with to see if people have the same line of thinking that I do, and I like to read opposing comments just to get myself mad.
I don’t think that’s healthy to be mad all the time, is it? It’s really quite stupid when you think about it. I am becoming bitter, and I think it’s affecting how I perceive people because I often wonder what they would say on a given topic if they secretly wrote comments online. In my defense, I don’t think this need to read comments necessarily stems from a bad place. I do like to know what other people think. It’s important to know all the different angles of an issue so you can explain your own position and know how it looks from their side of the table. But when it becomes poisonous, it’s time to step back and reevaluate things. And when other people’s thoughts take the place of your own (as they have begun to do in my case), your creativity and charity suffer.
It’s also not only mentally unhealthy, but physically, too. I stay up too late and look like hell when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes, though, it’s just simple avoidance of going to sleep because I dread waking up and going to work (you know why). But so far, numbing my brain and ruining my skin hasn’t improved the work or happiness situation.
Anyway, this is my insight into my problem. I can’t think of a specific way to tackle this at the moment except to resist the temptation to read comments. I want to know what’s going on in the world, but I must keep myself honest and not use that as a pretext for scrolling. There are plenty of more productive things I could be doing.
And in any event, there is so much crap going on that I need a real detox from the world before I become even more bitter than I am right now. Why give myself an ulcer?