Due to a suggestion I received from a friend of mine, and because I am still scratching my head as to what I should be writing today, I want to expand my entry on Day 20 regarding my harmful leisure-time habit of mechanical, semiconscious web browsing.
The following is a transcript of a series of hand-written notes I made in a period of lucidity to my own problem.
As a prefix, I use the term “I” in a lot of these descriptions of “my” habits. Frankly, I don’t think while this process is going on, there is an “I” to begin with. It is more akin to a machine running by itself; the machinations of an unconsciously performed behavior
A very large proportion of my leisure time is consumed through idle, semiconscious web browsing. (A cyclic combination of a few major aggregate sites revisited perpetually). This time spent is never productive, either toward a career or personal goal, is rarely fulfilling or rewarding, and is conducted out of habit. I am not learning anything or creating anything. I am not being refreshed. I am barely consuming the media I frantically leaf through for hours.
Recognized habit cues so far include:
– Mealtimes: I always eat in front of the computer. An elastic period of time stretches beyond the end of my meal. Sometimes I will unconsciously slow down or stop eating, or nurse a cup of coffee to stretch out the time I am on the computer.
– Upon coming home, for whatever reason (work, school etc).
– Sporadically after extended labor (chores, assignments, reading).
– Being on the computer for other reasons (research).
– After (or before) playing computer games. I will literally stall by wasting time on the computer in order to waste time on the computer in a different manner.
– Small periods of time before daily tasks / before I leave the house.
– Immediately upon getting up, or after breakfast.
– Nighttime before I go to bed.
– To “unwind”.
– At any point I feel I have accomplished or achieved anything throughout the day.
My browsing is quick & trivial, never lingering on a page or post for more than a few seconds. I often keep one or two ‘white noise’ video tabs open; a videogame playthrough or movie critique, then I oscillate between media aggregate sites, watching gifs, short videos, and reading threads. I often convince myself to stop browsing by an elastic timeline (e.g. the top or bottom of the hour – which is constantly moved forward) or by watching ‘one more video’. My interest in anything specifically browsed is never that powerful. Often, it is just a compulsion to consume every new link or see every video posted on a given thread or page. How difficult it is to break away from this cycle often depends on my posture. When I am in a specific physical posture (with one leg up on the desk and my foot propped up by the open door) I am far more compelled to waste time mechanically. In this state, I am attracted to the inflammatory and the vitriolic. Reading and consuming data that often puts me in a state of duress and anxiety.
They can be legitimately engaging & fun; often the time I spend far exceeds a positive experience and I end up playing while frustrated and playing over an allotted time (if there is a timescale at all) Many times I listen to videogame commentaries just to hear another voice/voices – not to combat loneliness, as I enjoy silence, but just as comforting background hum.
There will never be an ‘end’ to internet browsing. I will never be finished with a session. There is no objective and no timeline, so the time spent is elastic. There is far too much content, too easily accessible and driven by impulse & immediate gratification.
I must learn to quit half way, to stop videos half way through. Leave threads half-read. It is an illusion to think that I will ever be finished, so every disengagement from idle browsing will feel as if I have left something half-finished, or unwatched; a feeling of being defeated or having lost something (nothing could be further from the truth!) A the moment I stop browsing, I have won over my negative habit I seek to rectify.