Are You Using The Internet, Or Is The Internet Using You?

I’ve been giving my internet use a bit of thought recently.

I realised (wild generalisation alert!), there are two primary ways I use the internet:

  1. To waste time
  2. To find information

and, of course, a few secondary ways:

  • To build, create, produce, expand (eg, write a blog post, build a business, send love to people)
  • To communicate
  • To provide services to others

Sites like Facebook, Twitter etc are built on communication – but even there, most of the time we’re really just doing something because it fills in time. I.e., we’re firmly in category 1.

The time-wasting sites are easy to spot. We go there when we’re trying to avoid or escape from something else (drudgery, unpleasant tasks, boring work). We look up and the next thing we know, hours have passed. We have slightly more information in our head, sure, but it’s of dubious benefit.

The question underneath all this is simple: Are we expanding or contracting our life? Are we producing or consuming?

If all we’re doing is consuming, that’s a contraction. We’re not adding anything to the world and generally, we’re actually disconnecting from the people & things around us. Trite chit-chat is no substitute for a heart felt conversation.

If we’re producing something, that’s an expansion. We’re adding value to the world.

If we’re using the internet as a conscious tool, then it’s working for us. If all we’re doing is wasting time? Really, we’re working for it (and the pay rate is lousy)

Based on this, I’ve switched off access to my primary time waster sites (reddit, slashdot, hacker news, boing boing, kottke). As interesting as they are, it’s time for me to more consciously choose what I put into my mind.

Minimise the external (and typically trivialising) influence, maximise my internal choice.