Confessions of The Original Online Junkie: Calming Cyberspace Cravings

You know the drill. You sit down at the computer {or tablet, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, Android, laptop, etc.} with a hot cup of joe in hand – to check your e-mail. You tell yourself calmly & firmly what is about to happen.

I will check my e-mail. I will do nothing else. I own the Internet, it does not own me. I will not get sucked in…

::enter social media vortex::


BLAMMY! That’s the sound of you losing the interwebs battle, yet again, you well-intentioned cyberspace user! Before you know it, you are headlong into an online game of Chutes and Ladders – and, no, I’m not talking about the actual online game – you climb the ladder from e-mail to check your Facebook  account, by clicking on the perpetually open browser tab {don’t lie, you know you do this!}. You hop on over to Twitter to see what the haps are before sliding down to grab your smart phone – OOOOOH, I haven’t updated my Instagram in a while – let me see what’s going on there…check out the photo-a-day challenge, look around the house frantically to find something to snap, gussy up picture, write snazzy caption and #lotsofcoolhashtags, exit. Take a sip of your now cold coffee.

Wait. What was I supposed to do? Oh, yeah. Pinterest!!

::an HOUR later…if you’re lucky::

Wait. What was I supposed to do? Eeeeee-mail.

Is this you? Do you do what I like to call social media dominoes where you start off with an honest-to-goodness task that involves productivity, such as responding to an e-mail or sending out a few messages you’ve been meaning to only to find yourself moving around from one social media platform to another to another to another – oh, you get the point! Or maybe you’re like me and you run your apostolate on a platform. Apart from the actual blog, all communication is housed on one social media platform, which is good and bad. Good because everything is in one spot. Bad because EVERYTHING is in one spot – uh hem, Facebook, I’m looking at YOU! I get constant notifications regarding the blog along with my personal notifications and, also like a domino affect, my laptop dings, my web browser pulls up the notification with a ding, my phone buzzes {because I NEVER have the ringer on, thankyouverymuch}, and my new iPad mini dings, too.

Even though my apostolates force me to prioritize my time more efficiently, I have to constantly exercise restraint and self-control while online lest my day be wasted playing Candy Crush or MahJong {and, great, I played a game of MahJong just looking up the link – I had to make sure it was a good link, dontchaknow!}. This is not a perfect process, some days I do a good job and other days I fail before I get out of bed.

Temptations will always be in the background of the things that are truly worth our time. When the time suck wins, noteworthy and even spiritually beneficial projects, communications, and ideas lose. How can we conquer the temptation to play on platforms all day instead of doing what we need to do? Here are some tips I’ve come up with for you – and me – to tuck away, print up and stick on the fridge, or maybe glue to your forehead – ermm, your computer screen to help you allocate your online time just a weeeee bit better.

Your Handy Dandy Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Online Time – or YHDGTGTMOOYOT
  1. Start your day with prayer. This one seems obvious, but how often do we start our day in prayer, whether it be rote prayers, thanks and praise for God’s blessings on a new day, Lectio Divina, Scripture reading, meditation, contemplative prayer, rosary, Diving Mercy Chaplet, or take your pick? Father Uche made an excellent point last week in our Adult Faith Formation class while teaching about Lectio Divina. What stood out to me was his simple assessment of how we treat our spouses and related it to our time spent with God. Would you ignore your spouse all day? Likely not, if you know what’s good for you! And, yet, can we be really surprised that our day is already off kilter when we don’t start our day with a daily dose of God the way we do {or should} with our spouse, someone whom we have committed to love and who loves us despite our shortcomings? Is it hard for you to carve out time to pray? Make a pact with yourself that before you get out of bed, you will, at minimum, say a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, sharing with God all the abundant blessings He’s given you. The petitions and begging can wait for later.
  2. Use paper notepads and planners. I think it would surprise people to know that most of my planning, brainstorming and general storing of ideas is on good, old-fashioned paper. Why? For me, it’s because I prefer paper in some situations to always storing my thoughts and ideas in my phone, or in a Word document on the laptop. Don’t get me wrong, though. My notes section of my iPhone is pretty dang “full up.” The idea behind jotting down notes on memo pads is to minimize the distractions. It’s hard to pull up your e-mail, check FB, “Instagram,” pin, or tweet if you’re scribbling away on actual paper. You may find your stream of consciousness is actually more of a purposeful stream vs. a hose gone wild when you don’t stop eleventy billion times due to all of the notifications popping up on your phone or computer.

    My paper planner

  3. Be mindful of where you spend your online time. Ask yourself through the day, is this the best use of my time? Sometimes we need to be in work mode and other times we are in play mode and there is nothing wrong with that! The reason to be mindful is to make sure the time you designate for work is allocated for…dun dun DUN!!! work! The same goes with down time. If you need to unwind with some MahJong, by all means, unwind! But, if you are truly off the clock for work, then avoid e-mail after a designated “off” time – 7 p.m., for example and stick to it. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to answer work e-mail while in your jammies and brushing your teeth. If you need help with this, pretend it’s Lent and you are enforcing these rules, by golly!
  4. Avoid fruitless confrontations. I will be exploring this particular point in more detail in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say, if a conversation, topic, person, hot button issue, or news article gets your dander up, walk away. I know, I know, easier said than done, but if it’s something that causes you to waste your day slaving away in comboxes at the expense of your vocation, or rents too much space in your brain, or, worse, makes you a nasty growly person to your family and you try to bite off your spouse’s head, it’s good to know trigger points and how to walk away to save yours and everyone else’s sanity. More on that later, friends.
  5. Get your rest! This one also seems a bit obvious, but it’s amazing to me how many people stay up online WELL into the wee hours of the morning surfing the interwebs. Well, by amazing, I mean, I remember doing that, too, back in the day. Staying up all night chatting online with strangers seems so foreign to me now, but that’s what I did as a teenager and young adult. These days, and maybe it’s because I recently celebrated a birthday that tips me into the closer to 40 than 30 age range that helps me with this? I am such a crank pot if I don’t get enough sleep and because of that, I am more committed resolved anxious desperate to get myself to bed at a decent hour. If that doesn’t happen one night {for one life reason or another}, I make sure to get to bed earlier the next evening to reset so I can function. You know the phrase, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy? Yeah, that’s me. A nasty little spitfire of fun when I’m tired.
  6. Your bedroom is your sanctuary. Store electronic devices in rooms that are NOT your bedroom. This one might be a bit trickier since some people do work from home and double their bedroom as their work space…or, there are other reasons they might have them stored in the bedroom. The point of this is to create a space for yourself – away from…mind clutter. Reduce the temptation to check e-mail and the inevitable social media dominoes that comes with the one task you really meant to do. When in doubt, ask yourself Can this wait until later/tomorrow/after my chores? you’ll find the answer is usually yes – the world won’t spin off its axis if you can’t do whatever at that precise moment. My own downfall was bringing the laptop into the bedroom to work on email, projects, lining up posts, writing posts, etc. Why not? It’s portable, I was comfortable under my covers, I was productive…wasn’t that supposed to be the point of having a laptop? Not being tethered to a stationary setting? The problem was it overtook the one daggone place in the home that should have been my sanctuary, my refuge. About six months ago, I made the decision to only work on the laptop at the dining room table or on the sofa with my feet kicked up. It works because when I put it away, it’s PUT AWAY. The only caveat to this has been my phone {which doubles as my alarm clock}, which sits on my night stand. I justify its location by doing #1 first.

So, there you go! I’ve solved all your online problems. Or not, lol. Sound off in the combox and tell me what you’d add to the list. What’s worked for you? Let’s talk! Until next time, friends!

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