Have you had the experience of driving somewhere familiar and having no memory of the trip when you arrive? It’s unsettling.
That’s the way I feel sometimes when I realize I’ve been online for 20 minutes. I can’t remember what I came for initially, I have no idea how I landed on the page I’m looking at, and I’m totally distracted from whatever I’d been doing.
These experiences make me feel like the Internet is an alluring distractor, to be ignored and avoided for sanity’s sake. It can be, but it is also full of valuable information and rich connection. Your experience depends more on your approach than the Internet itself.
I’ve heard the saying that money is amoral; it isn’t inherently good or evil. Its moral outcome depends on whether the hands that hold it are good or evil.
I would say the same is true of the Internet. We can use it to waste time, to distract ourselves, to anonymously criticize. We can also use it to inform ourselves, to encourage others, to connect in a revolutionary way.
If the Internet is a tool that can build up or tear down, we have to make an intentional choice about how we’re going to employ it.
It takes some thoughtfulness to contribute good online and enjoy the benefits. Our worst selves have the opportunity to emerge and overtake us with envy, idleness, and procrastination if we let them.
Some of the best things you can do to use the Internet for good:
1. Create boundaries
Mindless scrolling is so alluring that I can only avoid it by marking boundaries ahead of time. For me, this looks like limiting social media before lunch, keeping my phone in another room while I’m working, and staying off social media on the weekend.
2. Disable notifications
Our brains can’t resist the enticing ping of a new alert. It doesn’t make us weak, just human. Instead of depleting your valuable (and exhaustible) stores of willpower by trying to ignore the pings, turn them off.
You don’t need to be alerted every time someone like your Instagram or emails you. Instead of giving your attention anytime someone wants it, decide when you’re going to check in and respond. Oh, and keep the email tab closed on your browser so you won’t be tempted!
Sign up for Unroll.me. It will change your life. Unroll.me is a free service that scans your inbox for all of your subscriptions and give you the option to either unsubscribe or roll it up. I unsubscribed from the majority of lists, (160 total), but there were still a handful, (60), that I wanted to keep.
Unroll.me sends one email a day with all my subscriptions combined. Now almost every email I get is something I actually need (and want!) to read and I’m not sitting on piles of email clutter. Seriously life changing.
I’m not saying I never get distracted online, but a few small steps have helped me get much more intentional with my time there. Mostly, the Internet enriches me more than it costs me when I go there with intention.
Have you heard of The Influence Network?
It’s all about making your online life mean something. I’ve been a member for almost a year, and it’s been a great way to focus on using the Internet for good and for His glory.
I’ve partnered with the Network to teach an online class about living intentionally, and why we’re prone to react instead. It’s tomorrow night, and there are a few spots left! If you can’t attend live, a recording link will be emailed to you. Learn more here.