As the user, ultimately what I decide to engage with on the internet is up to me. Sure, I can try and blame it on algorithms, dopamine hits, and notifications, but the buck truly stops with me. If I’m not happy or I’m not enjoying the experience, then why do I continue?
I realize that a lot of my internet usage is habit. I visit the same sites I’ve visited for fifteen or twenty years. I follow sports and hobbies that I don’t even truly care about anymore. I just keep one foot in the door by visiting these sites and staying relatively up to date.
When I start stripping away the habitual internet browsing, I’m not left with all that much. I don’t have the endless scroll of social media and my reddit usage is almost non-existent these days, so the idea of being bombarded with stuff and then digging through to find something useful is pretty much lost on me. I guess, you could argue my RSS functions that way, but I don’t follow too many blogs and I’m always pruning sites that don’t offer anything useful or entertaining.
I think the problem I have is that I forgot the internet is a tool and instead I view it as an entertainment device. There is nothing wrong with owning a hacksaw, as long as you pull it out only when you need it and put it away when you don’t need it. I think my issue is that I never put the internet away. It’s always out, always there, and always being interacted with.
I spend a lot of time pining for the past, before everything was super connected and I had to walk over to a desktop, sit down, wait for it to boot up, log in, and then browse very slowly. The speed at which I took in information was incredibly slow and because of this I think it was more impactful. I didn’t skim articles or rush to read what was next. Instead, I took my time on every page to really soak in the entire experience. I rarely do that now.
I wonder if I would be better off moving my laptop to an uncomfortable part of the house like the dining room table. I can’t watch TV and use it so I’d be forced to use the computer for whatever I need and then go back into the living room should I want to watch TV or play video games. I wonder if shutting down my laptop after using it every time would a smart decision. Would that minute long boot up time be enough to dissuade me from using it for frivolous and silly small tasks? Would a few barriers be enough to make me only use the internet when it truly is important?
I guess, my ultimate question is: would using the internet more like the way I used it in the 90’s be a better fit for me?