Deliberate Internet Use

Since traveling my internet use has severely lessened. I chose not to pay for a cell phone plan so the only time I can use the web is when I can find a wifi connection. This proves to be extremely easy and (expect for my time on a boat) I have yet to have a day with connecting. The biggest difference is that I can only be reached when I choose to be available.

Most days I'll do a quick check up in the morning before setting out for the days adventures and again at night upon returning from said adventures. This is more than enough time to maintain contact with loved ones, schedule transportation and details for my coming stops, and tend to any other online business. It is reminiscent of the days when there was only one land-line telephone per household and it was not uncommon to be unreachable while out. It begs the question, do we really need 24/7 connectivity and availability?

The answer to this question is different for everyone but I will argue that nearly everyone would benefit from short breaks from their connection. The answer for me, at this point in my life is a resounding "no." I absolutely do not need a constant connection.

Each day when I step away from the hostel/cafe/etc. I sever the internet connection and step into a place of exploration and adventure, free from the tether of my online existence. For as long as I choose I am unreachable and can live completely in the moment to appreciate everything around me. There is nothing to pull my attention (even just briefly as only lost little notifications can) from the here and now.

My life at the moment is arguably much simpler than it once was and probably much simpler than most of those reading but the point stands that we do not need such a constant connection. I will carry the lessons learned from my days of traveling and sporadic internet connection back to my life after travel. Let your virtual life and all the conveniences it brings be a supplement to your actual life rather than a distraction from it.

While working, working out, writing, reading, meditating, praying, whatever, sever your connection and just be in the moment. Giving yourself short breaks from your online life can have so many benefits:

  1. You can devote your undivided attention to the task at hand
  2. You will live completely in what you are immersed in at the moment with nothing to pull you away from it. Let the experience shine.
  3. You will learn that your life truly exists outside of your connections and that you don't need them. Learn to think of them as extra and special. You will learn to truly appreciate everything that your little phone can do. Let it be an enhancement rather than a staple.

The distraction that our phones and online connections can have on us speaks to even broader challenge. This is analogous to all the external stimuli that are constantly demanding our attention. Be these all the other people in a crowded room, the posters on the wall, flashing lights of signs, the music in the background, incessant advertisements, whatever. There are so many demands for our attention at every second of everyday that distract us from our greatest good. How do we ever get anything done?

The point is not to eliminate all distractions and live a completely minimal, isolated, ascetic life (all aspiring monks not withstanding, but what are they doing online reading this anyways?). The point is to be aware of everything around you and the potential demands on your attention they can have. Develop a better command on your conscious mind to direct your focus where you please. Be able to acknowledge the rest and simply let it wash past you.

For most of us our phone is our greatest source of distraction. By allowing yourself to step away from this distraction periodically you will learn to feel life without it and appreciate the enhancement it brings. It is a tool, a means to an end. Fantastic for specific uses by not deserving further of any of your valuable conscious and unconscious attentions.

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As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What are some of the greatest distractions from your greatest good and how to do you try to overcome them. Looking forward to the discussion. Thanks for reading.

- Justin

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