08 January 2016

simplify: internet.

I have had many thoughts of simplicity running through my mind lately.

I wrote of simplifying in the annual newsletter we send out with our Christmas cards every year and also in the message I was asked to write to the women of our congregation last month.  And I am still thinking about it!  I like to give a lot of time and thought to my resolutions each January, and as I continue to work on mine I am trying to incorporate simplification into most, if not all, of my goals.

Simplicity has long been a goal of mine, and I've managed to apply it to various aspects of my life with some pretty good results.  But no simplified area has yielded more obvious positive results than  that of Internet Usage.

The Internet is a glorious place, but it has its areas that can be disheartening, repetitive, unrelenting and maddening.  There are real-time news updates on the current events of the world, many of which seem to only be about families seeking refuge from war, or wars on people's peace and safety in the name of terror, anger and hostility.  There are exclusives on the latest inflammatory statement that such and such a presidential candidate said his own personal gain, and media outlets that cover every bit of it for their own personal gain.  There are upset citizens who take to the streets to have their voices heard and citizen journalists who take to the web and write an infinite number of thinkpieces with clickbait titles and simple-sugar content.  There is SO MUCH, and it is beyond overwhelming.

A couple of years ago, I made an attempt to cut it all out.  I stopped reading blogs, I stopped using Facebook, I had already stopped using Instagram for a while, instead of getting my news from ten different sources I cut it down to just two sources, and I even stopped posting regularly on my own blog for some time.

And now I feel like a reformed hoarder!  It's a little ridiculous how much of a difference cutting some Internet fat has made in my life, but it's true.  I'm not necessarily immune to all of the junk that's out there.  There are still so many difficult things happening in the world, that the Internet will still cover, and I can't avoid reality or that video of That One Baby Doing That Cute Thing.  But I've learned that I can live happily without taking in more information than is necessary.  I don't need to read another person's opinions on the true costs of the partisan divide.  I don't need to read a million different blogger's gift guides featuring the exact same products that somehow all cost a million dollars.  I don't need to deal with So-and-So's political ramblings on Facebook.  I am genuinely a happier person after all of this.

Here are some of my tips to simplifying Internet usage:

1. Consolidating By Cutting.  At a certain point, I realized that I was looking at the same content in multiple Internet locations.  Similar bloggers were posting about the exact same topics/articles/sponsors, or friends were posting the same picture on all social media accounts I followed them on.  In the case of the bloggers, I actually just stopped following all of them because I felt I needed to move on from them and focus my attention elsewhere.  But in the case of the friends and family posts, I chose one social media account over another.  At the time I was already on a break from Instagram, but I'd chosen to cut out Facebook because of other reasons as well.  Such as...
2. If It Makes You Feel Angrier, Get Rid Of It.  Probably the number one rule for myself when I'm on the Internet is don't read the comments.  It's just never a good idea, and I always exited a webpage feeling more annoyed and upset when I'd peeked down underneath the article.  I left Facebook for pretty much the same reason.  The memory of the awful and irritating rants I saw during the last general election was still fresh in my mind when I left Facebook without looking back.  It was honestly the best thing I've ever done.  (With the new election cycle already underway, this might be a great motivating factor in helping you cut the fat.)
3. Clean Out The Bookmarks Closet And The Email Inbox.  Every couple of months I go through my bookmarks and delete anything that no longer interests me or that I haven't revisited in a long time.  I always feel better when everything is sorted and deleted!  I am also pretty religious of keeping my email inbox clear.  It's kind of dumb how much it means to me to have the inbox at 0 and to have everything organized there, but every time I see that Jon has 1000+ unread emails in his inbox, I have mini panic attacks for him.
4. Ignorance is Bliss.  Sometimes, it's just better not to know what's going on.  I've found that there are things that are important to me that I keep up with, and the rest all falls by the wayside.  Do I know what happened in celebrity news last week?  No.  Never.
5. You Don't Need To Save Another Chicken Parmesan Recipe.  This might only apply to me, and I've mentioned my personal banning of most recipes from the web.  But if I have a recipe that I really love of one dish, I don't need to save or try another one.  This applies in other non-recipe scenarios as well.  I don't have a Pinterest account, but I imagine it would be pretty easy to collect images that are all very similar or show more or less the same thing.  Try consolidating or paring away some of those things.
6. It's Okay To Take A Break And Then Come Back.  I've taken a break from Instagram and this blog, and then I came back.  It's not bad to enjoy parts of the web or try something new.  Just make sure that if you decide to dedicate time to something, that it's for good reasons and you find it fulfilling.

So that's just one part of my life where I have simplified.  I still have a long ways to go in simplifying my life, but Time Spent On Internet is an area where I feel like I've achieved success!  Maybe when I finish simplifying in another area I will post about it.

(And you know, fill up the web with more stuff.  Like a hypocrite!)

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