Intervention! You are eating too much Internet!
Are you getting info-fat? Are all those Laugh Out Loud Cat videos finally catching up to you? Are you finding you can’t knowledge-gorge the way you used to when you were two years old? You are not alone. Here’s a list of things to try the next time you start to notice some cellulite on your synapses.
1. Browse with a purpose. Keep in mind what actually interests you. Sites are getting better and better at writing enticing headlines and designing highly-tempting “Other Top Stories” widgets. Did (celebrity) and (celebrity) break up? Did someone give birth to an alarming number of babies? Do you have to know? NO. You do not. Unless you make your living via a celebrity gossip column or blog or maybe Reader’s Digest, you will most likely be able to gather all you need to know about these things from other people on the bus or while you’re buying groceries. If this kind of stuff is your junk food (yes, I do enjoy BWE as much as the next person), and you have to have it sometimes, see #3.
2. Skim. Things gets trickier when you come across an article that might be of use to you. Do you really need to know “How to Use Social Media Marketing as a Tool For Business” right now? Haven’t you already read six other articles on the same subject? Do you still have leftover questions? If so, fine. Skim it. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I don’t have to process every word of every article I read (sorry, writers). Peruse and pause at the interesting parts. You will add years to your life.
3. Set a time to stop. Diversion is good and conducive to productivity but not if you never start working again. Tell yourself to close the Videogum tab at a specific time or after a specific number of minutes (or, I suppose, hours if your case is severe).
4. Use RSS Feeds. Viewing only the top headlines from your favorite sites is the fastest way from point A to point B in terms of keeping up-to-date on topics that interest you without slogging through dozens of other posts (and possibly getting diverted multiple times).
5. Manage your RSS Feeds. My strategy for feeds is “quantity provides quality” in that if you subscribe to a bunch of sites that interest you, you’re more likely to find a great article while browsing your feed reader. That said, as soon as you start to notice that one of your subscriptions is dead weight, get rid of it. Your reader ain’t a day care.
6. Acknowledge that while voyeurism is fun, your friends are not that interesting. By all means, use social media to find out what they’re up to and keep abreast of what they’re interested in (be it the apparently surprising talent of someone generally thought to be unattractive, Star Wars Retold by Someone Who Hasn’t Seen It, or How to Greet Your Friends during an Epidemic), but when you start looking at a friend of a friend’s Cinco de Mayo party ‘03 pictures, you should probably close that tab.
7. Don’t take every quiz the Internet offers you.
8. Acknowledge that getting the highest score on or beating any Flash game is not actually going to be that fulfilling. It’s a lot like when you finally complete a sudoku puzzle. It’s very, “Well, all of those numbers are in place now.” No beam of light suddenly emits from the newspaper expounding some ancient wisdom, you’re just sitting there with some numbers in some squares. It’s the same thing with stacking multicolored jewels and using gerbils to catch cupcakes. The sense of accomplishment is hazy and fleeting.
9. Start doing something else. This is the “Look! Something shiny!” approach. Take a walk. Make something to eat. Pet the cat. Perhaps, while you’re not looking at the browser, close it using a keyboard shortcut.