Developing Healthy Internet Habits

Limit Your Screen Time

Human beings have a fairly hard limit on how much information they can deal with well. That’s why, for example, we’re fairly poor at multitasking such as texting and driving. This is true for digital information as well: making up your mind about an event, or making a decision on things like purchases, all take time.

The acts that I describe above, such as being critical and seeking out views that contradict your own, also take some thinking to work through. Thus, I think it is vitally important for people to take time, daily, to stop interacting with screens as much as possible. Even before the pandemic, the Average American was spending nearly 12 hours a day looking at a screen of some kind. I suspect this has only gotten worse in the past two years. With about 12 hours a day at a screen, and 6 or so more sleeping: what time is there left for you to think and contemplate? In my estimation, not nearly enough.

Choose an Analog Hobby

Since screens are more or less ever-present in our lives today, it’s hard for most people to take dedicated time away from screens. Often, people find themselves “resting” from working on a screen by watching something else on the screen that they keep in their pocket instead of on a desk. This is, I think, a poor substitute for doing something that is completely offline and disconnected that might give you the mental room for reflection.

Timing here might also be really important. Over the last few years, rates of insomnia have skyrocketed. I think stress and unease have a lot to do with this, but so do overstimulation and your body’s reaction to the blue light generated by phones, televisions, and computers. Thus, I recommend trying to disconnect from all screens for at least two hours before bed, to give both your mind and body some time to calm down and get some rest.

In the evenings these days, I have taken the time to journal in a physical notebook. For me, it is a way of forcing myself to sit down, slow down, and reflect. It has, anecdotally, decreased my stress a fair bit.

The internet can be a wonderful tool to learn things, and it can make spaces for people to get together into communities that they find deeply empowering. It can also be overwhelming, and lead to people becoming more divided over time. I think that, with a little conscious effort and some good digital habits, most people can make better use of the internet and feel more comfortable in their lives as a result. Being critical of what you read, and taking time to set your devices down can, I find, lead to people being a lot happier and a lot less likely to fall prey to poor quality information.

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