Considering that engineers are generally pro-technology, I was late to the internet. That all changed in 1996 when I took my first job. I had moved to the US far from friends and family, but for the first time I had an email that I was using and easy access to the web. Surfing the Toronto Star newspaper online during lunch helped ease the homesickness. Soon after that my AOL installation disk arrived in the mail and I was able to dial-up from home after work. The 486 PC that got me through engineering school wasn’t exactly lightening fast, but online photos were still minimal (did digital cameras exist?) so most websites would load eventually. At 26 years old, single and with plenty of free time I was able to build a ‘social life’ through the world of usenet groups, forums and (photoless!) online dating.
18 years later and it is now difficult to find a place without internet access. Laptop, smartphone, tablet, tv all available anytime anyplace. I have a family that ensures I rarely feel lonely and even when I work from home socializing via Facebook makes for a great modern watercooler during breaks. Unfortunately though, I’ve also found that my early love of forums hasn’t abated. Left to my own devices, I can lose myself in a well of blogs, food porn and youtube cat videos for hours if I’m not careful. The downside is that when I spend my free time this way, I’m not doing the things that I truly love like reading, writing or taking a walk. It’s the mental equivalent of eating Doritos instead of making a proper dinner. I enjoy myself at the time and is fine in moderation, but it doesn’t feed me.
Today I’m setting out to break this habit. I spent my shrove Tuesday gorging on cat videos and snark forums and am starting my 40 day internet diet now. I’m not trying to do anything extreme, just cutting out the passive surfing. Facebook, writing/blogging and information gathering (work, newspaper, recipes I am actually making, etc) are permitted. Work has been slow which exacerbates the problem. It’s 10:30am and I’m already making a concerted effort to not give in to the mindless clicking. Should be interesting to see how I make out. Good time to leash up the dog and head to the bank.