Disconnect To Connect: How I’m Fixing My Addiction To The Internet

This is a story of my experience during the past 2 weeks when I have mostly stayed away from the Internet, allowing me to realize the things I was missing when connected. 

When I was a child, my parents used to say the words “Don’t overdo it” to me. While in retrospect this was excellent advice, I was a child back then and did not understand the meaning of my mother’s wise words.  Years later, at the age of 27, I understand her advice all too well.

In my 6 and 1/2 years as a blogger, I have been constantly connected to the Internet. Whether I was on my laptop or my iPhone or my iPad, I was constantly connected to the outside world. I didn’t realize that I had traded the joy of meeting people in real life for quick and meaningless Facebook or Whatsapp chit-chat. I completely missed the boat when it came to drawing a line between my professional and personal life.  

Here are a few of the mistakes I made in doing this:

  • I stopped meeting people in real-life and started interacting via Facebook or video calls on Skype.
  • I stopped myself from saying what I truly felt, and started writing status updates to be acknowledged.
  • I stopped listening to valuable comments and opinions from others, and started focusing only on “likes” and ignoring “dislikes”.
  • I read a lot about life hacks feeling good that I was learning something new, but I failed to implement what I was learning in real-life.
  • I started ignoring advice from experienced people around me (in real-life), and used Google to find answers to my questions. I also failed to realize that the answers I found via Google searches were written by people just like you and me who may or may not be giving the best advice.

This was just the beginning, and it took me 6 1/2 years to realize that I was becoming an Internet addict.  Before you judge me too harshly, this didn’t happen overnight, but in a slow and gradual manner making it all the more difficult to notice.

How I used the Internet in the wrong way:

As a blogger by profession, being online is a part of my daily job and routine. Eight hours is the minimum amount of time I used to work online, and the rest of the time I was online for non-work reasons.

I started replacing my normal healthy habits with my online habits. And it all happened gradually over that period of 6 1/2 years.

Internet Addiction
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What I failed to realize is that the Internet was consuming me. Something which should be used only for work and education became a significant part of my daily non-work routine. The Internet became my entertainment, my mode of communication and a way to stay in my comfort zone anywhere and everywhere.

In addition to all of that, one of the biggest challenges I faced was distraction. With the urge to consume too much information in too little time, I was reading too much and learning nothing.

I began my days checking emails and Facebook notifications, and ended them checking emails and reading articles online. Occasionally I would become so stressed with information overload, I would use sleep apps on my phone to try to put my mind into a restful state!

Most telling, perhaps, was the fact that I did not see any of this as a problem.  Such is the life of an Internet addict.

How I realized my Internet addiction, and how I am working to conquer it:

I would be lying if I were to say that I am no longer addicted to the Internet after practicing new discoveries in my two-week attempt to “disconnect to connect!” But I am making sure that I don’t get all caught up in the Internet zone again in my life.

For the past two weeks I have been completely away from the Internet, and I have been living the real life of a real 27-year-old person (with no real job!) in the real world.

I have occasionally checked my email or used WhatsApp, but I have limited that to five minutes a day.  For the remainder of the time I have been completely disengaged from the Internet. I have not even published anything on my blog, nor have I written anything.

Originally, this all happened unintentionally.  But the resulting self-realization that has occurred has been highly illuminating. What I noticed about my Internet-addicted self was scary.  But only when I disconnected was I able to truly realize what I had been missing in my life while hyper-connected to the Internet.

In addition to seeing the world as a bunch of “likes” and “dislikes”, constantly consuming useless, half-baked information, and developing a weird issue of “constant distraction”, I ultimately found it hard to concentrate on any one thing.  In other words,  my attention span was very short in real life, and it was uncool!

Somehow I had no issue making conversation with people online, but I lost touch with the ability to have real-life, face-to-face conversations with people who mattered more.

Imagine yourself not looking at your computer or mobile screen for the entire day, and having a conversation with someone who knows nothing about the online world. What would you talk about? How would you make conversation?  What would your comfort level be? Could you look them in the eye and meet them face-to-face and heart-to-heart?

If you’re not sure how to answer those questions, you can probably relate to every word of this article.

This is my first post in 2-3 weeks, and I’m taking notes for myself for future reference. Here are few things that I’m doing and will continue to do in an effort to ensure that I make the most of my online and offline life, never returning to my online addiction:

Minimize Social Networking:

 

true-facebook-facts
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Social networking comes with it’s own taste of good and bad. For me, staying in touch with my social network is not only important but essential to my business endeavors. Being a public person, it is very important for me to stay online.

With that said, one issue that I am working on is using social networking for practical rather than hypothetical purposes.  I have made friends online as we all have, but they are more like connections based on common interests, rather than connections based on personal knowledge about each other.

I have started to use my personal profile on social networking sites solely for my personal documentation, and beyond that I don’t use it anymore. Facebook in particular is the area in which I am being most careful.

BEWARE:  Using Facebook too much not only affects your self-esteem, but it also brings about a narcissistic personality disorder.  This can be avoided to some degree if you focus on having meaningful interactions with others via comments, etc., and completely ignoring “likes”.

Simply stated, limiting your personal Facebook profile to your close network of offline connections (friends and family), is a wise thing to do.

Stop Multi-tasking:

I have read a lot about the benefits and downsides of multi-tasking, and one thing that I have learned from my own experience is that online multi-tasking is good only for tasks which don’t require much brain-work.

Here’s the kicker: things which don’t require much brain-work do not deserve your time! These matters should be outsourced.

So I’m sticking to one task at a time.  I will refrain completely from doing multiple things at one time. Why?  Because my complete attention should be given to the single task at hand.

Read and watch to learn something new:

Another bad habit I formed was reading a lot without actually learning anything new. In this era of information overload, it is difficult to discern the good information from a very large sea of loose “information”.

I was being bombarded with news, articles and updates everywhere (Fb, Twitter, G+).  In an effort to combat this, I began by taking the time to filter truly useful information from all the loosely compiled “information” out there, and then reading through the useful information as quickly as possible.

Half of this time I spent adding the decent information to my Pocket app to read later.  Before long I would find that I had 40+ great articles waiting for me on Pocket to consume when I could.

Prior to doing all of this, I was missing out on the most important aspect of digital media, and that is the fact that I can control what I see on my social media feeds.

We don’t need quantity – only quality content is worth our dedicated time.

So I started going back to the old-school days, and I started taking notes in the old-school style (pen and paper!) so that I would also retain it. Additionally, I started reading information out loud. Later in the day I would take some time to think about the things I had read.

The goal of all of this was to process the information I had learned online, and then to put that information to use in my daily life.  (I’m not referring to things like internet marketing skills here, but to life hacks or self-improvement tips which we spend so much time researching and learning online.)

I’m still working on a few goals, such as the following:

  • Use my smartphone as minimally as possible. This includes having only essential apps on my phone – no Facebook or Candy Crush on my phone.
  • “Unlike” all pages and brand pages on Facebook, and use it  solely for seeing updates from real friends and people in my network. I can always consume news and updates via other mediums such as Zite and Google Alerts. In short, I want to use social media exclusively for talking to real people, and not to become an advocate of brand pages. I’m still subscribed to a few websites and pages with information and updates that are crucial for me in my professional role. All of the above also goes for all other social networks.
  • Switching off the Wi-fi router after my work hours in order to live an Internet-free life.

There are few other things I’m working on which I will continue to share in the coming days and weeks. Meanwhile, remember that the only rehab for an Internet addict is the world away from online gadgets.

If you have also faced the problem of Internet addiction, I would be interested in hearing your story.

If you are someone who has found your way out of this addiction, I would love to hear your suggestions.

This article was originally published on my personal blog here.

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

19 thoughts on “Disconnect To Connect: How I’m Fixing My Addiction To The Internet”

  1. Harleena Singh

    Hi Harsh,

    I remember this post and I think I even commented on it on your personal blog 🙂

    I can SO well relate to all that you mentioned having gone through the same phase, though I am lucky in a way as I’ve started taking charge in my 4 odd blogging years and not reached so many years as you as yet….lol…I might have become a wreck by then if not taken control of being really taken in by the Internet addiction.

    You are right – things just happen one after the other and you don’t even get to know how time flies, whether you are working online or simply surfing. Sky is the limit to all that you can do, but then being humans, we all have our limits and have to learn to draw a line somewhere. After all, we all have families and an offline life too to lead. More so, now that you’re married and settled, your better half too needs your attention 🙂

    Working on things that need attention by setting your priorities is the key I’d say- and leave the rest for later! I guess dividing your day in various time slots, depending on what works for you helps a great deal – it works for me being a blogger, writer, mom – and homemaker! Nothing really comes easy in life – but the choices at the end of the day always lie in your hand, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

  2. Really inspiring! Already i leave some bad habit which i create in addiction with internet.

    Thanks for sharing moments which you pass with internet.

  3. Well explained Harsh,

    I completely agree with the statement “Using Facebook too much not only affects your self-esteem, but it also brings about a narcissistic personality disorder”. I have also noticed that, after using social sites too much I don’t listen very carefully the discussion of people in real-world because one perception have already built-up in my mind that I will read about it later or will check out on web (It’s just like, I have started to trust internet more than the people of real world).

    Thank you so much for sharing this worthy tutorial based on your own experience. This article will help many other people like me to fix the addiction of the internet. Keep inspiring us !!

  4. Hello Harsh, thanks for share your story and thanks for the guideline. I am totally agree with you and your all points. Specially about Facebook. New-a-days most of people just using this Social network and waste their time. I am also Addiction to Facebook. From today, i will try to follow you as you mention some points. Thanks again

    Cheers

  5. I harsh I think that internet addiction is good specially if you want to become the master in the business I mean in our niche like blogging and seo we must keep on learning new things as much as possible

  6. Financial Forager

    It’s good that you are aware of this problem. Life is short. Get out and enjoy it. I find that going for a hike or meditating helps to clear the mind. Finding balance is the key. Good luck!

  7. Wao its just as if you know what’s going on inside of me.

    I’ve been trying to tackle this my addiction but I’m failing.

    I can’t do it all alone, I need someone to caution and hijack me so I can control it.

  8. Ritu Phokhriyal

    Everyone has some bad habit, and its very tough to get the rid of these habits. Once you will get out of these thing you will be succeed

  9. You are very true harsh with your post presentation as I have also noticed the same things / habit change in my life after I have started blogging and you are very true with the words from your wise mother – ‘ Don’t over do it’.

    As I am new to blogging my eyes always go onto the stat’s page and look for the number of visitors each day and feel happy or sad based on that, I have started blogging to make happiness out of it which has now become a load for me as I am running in thirst of visitors, dollars and your one phrase has stopped and put me on the track. I don’t remember which post is that but you said – ” Blogging is fun but it is more fun if you don’t do it for material things like money, fame etc”, this one phrase has put me on a proper track again, Thanks a lot for that.

    There is nothing bad about your habits connected to Internet but as you only have mentioned there should be a gap/ break between professional and personal life, as Robin sharma says ‘We run out of our will power’ if we go on doing our professional work only.
    My tricks for staying disconnected are taking one day in a week full rest without any connection to our professional world and hanging out with family, friends with activities like eating, cooking, laughing with silly gossips and enjoying time watching movies with family and reading or listening to our religious and mythological epics to know the glory of our religious heroes like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Jesus Christ, Allah etc. .
    I hope you are doing these if you are not try them once they will give a lot of happiness & enthusiasm for doing our daily work effortlessly.

    All the best for your disconnecting …

    Take care…

  10. Ryan Biddulph

    Amen to it all Harsh; especially the multi-tasking bit. You get more, effective stuff done by doing 1 thing at a time because all of your power, focus and attention rests on that 1 thing, making that 1 thing a job well done 😉 Thanks for the tips!

    Ryan

  11. Harsh! You really written a very good post and eye opening. The thing you said “I search answers on Google and it is written by persons like us” That is the very true! Peoples thinks that what we learnt from Google is totally correct, but actually it is not. Webmasters like us knows that, but others don’t. Secondly, Multi-tasking is very hectic and spoil the things. We should always concentrate on one particular thing and I learnt that very well.

  12. “Switching off the Wi-fi router after my work hours in order to live an Internet-free life.”

    That’s the solution right there. Do what you need to do then shut off the Wifi. When I’m done working, I shut down the entire computer. Don’t leave it running. Plus, you save money on energy costs.

  13. Amazing article Harsh! This is what happening these days and if you really want to taste the fruit of success, saying NO to internet can save you a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing this much needed info 🙂

  14. CHARU MEHROTRA

    Woooow….Great article Harsh….I agree with every single word of your article…..In fact, I feel same that with so much overload of information and no implementation where are we heading…It is soooo overwhelming at times….I am mindful now and focus on decluttering my mind everyday:)…all the best with your journey….

  15. You are right Harsh. In the internet world, there is an overload of information. We fail to understand that we read a lot without actually learning anything. Great article by the way.

  16. I completely agree with the statement “Using Facebook too much not only affects your self-esteem, but it also brings about a narcissistic personality disorder”. I have also noticed that, after using social sites too much I don’t listen very carefully the discussion of people in real-world because one perception have already built-up in my mind that I will read about it later or will check out on web (It’s just like, I have started to trust internet more than the people of real world).

  17. Harsh! You really written a very good post and eye opening. The thing you said “I search answers on Google and it is written by persons like us” That is the very true! Peoples thinks that what we learnt from Google is totally correct, but actually it is not. Webmasters like us knows that, but others don’t. Secondly, Multi-tasking is very hectic and spoil the things. We should always concentrate on one particular thing and I learnt that very well.

  18. Everyone has some bad habit, and its very tough to get the rid of these habits. Once you will get out of these thing you will be succeed

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