I work from home and find that my daily default, for the first half of my day, is sitting in front of a computer screen.  I putz around answering emails, then get absorbed in a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and the surfing flurry goes on from there.  Many days, I am totally unproductive. Something about passively staring at a screen saps my energy, but I often seem unable to pull myself away.  As a writer and program developer, creativity is my currency, and time on the computer often leaves me feeling bankrupt.

One antidote to my Internet Disorder has been proving increasingly effective: getting out of the computer chair and simply doing something else.  While this may sound simplistic, it’s not easy for me.  Honestly, I am writing this blog more for myself than anyone else.  If I leave a written record online of my intention to “stop the Internet insanity,” I am more likely to follow through, if for no other reason than my deep sense of guilt.   And let me tell you, it is deep, a jagged chasm in my soul created from twelve years of Catholic school!
When I get out and do something completely different, I often return to the computer ready to use it for constructive purposes, like finishing my book, writing a blog, working on video scripts, and dozens of other positive pursuits.

If you are at all like me, take a few minutes now and write down a list of things, at least twenty, you need to do, or things you’ve been longing to do.  Here is my list that I am making up right now, so that it’s authentically in the moment.  I try to make up a list like this every day (some items carry over).

  1. Go to the Polish Market.
  2. Go to the café at the Detroit Institute of Arts .
  3. Take a 20-minute walk through the neighborhood.
  4. Run down and throw in a load of laundry.
  5. Iron the shirts in the laundry room that have been sitting there for three weeks.
  6. Do twenty push-ups.
  7. Make up and send invoices I have been putting off.
  8. Go to the drug store and buy toothpaste (which I have been out of for a week!).
  9. Make a list of workshop topics for 2016.
  10. Set dates for workshops for 2016.
  11. Go to the tile store to pick out bathroom tile.
  12. Call contractor about bathroom tear-out.
  13. Call Martin and ask his advice on hiring an assistant.
  14. Plan winter vacation now so that I can get better rates than my usual planning at the last minute.
  15. Drive to Tim Horton’s and get a latte.
  16. Take notebook into the yard and brainstorm on book project.
  17. Take five minutes to stretch using yoga postures.
  18. Write a thank-you note to friends who had me up to their summer home, and gave me REAL HUMAN INTERACTION.
  19. Spend ten minutes working in the yard (I HATE YARD WORK AND AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE).
  20. Spend ten minutes cleaning out my car, which is an absolute pit.

For the record, after number 18, I zoned out and went back on Facebook for a while until I realized, perhaps five minutes later, what I had done.  Take a few minutes now and make out your own list and follow it.  Comment on this blog and become part of a community of people who are all in this together, all trying to use the Internet to expand their potential instead of wasting it.  I cannot seem to do it by myself.  If you are having trouble in this area, don’t try to do it alone.  Tell a friend what you are up to and see if he or she will support you.  You may just need someone to check in with once or twice a week.  Make no mistake, for many of us spending too much unproductive time online is a serious problem that requires commitment, focus, and plenty of support.  Do not try to do it alone, but DO get your butt out of that chair, NOW!

This blog is written by Alex, updating us on his growing awareness regarding his addictive cyber tendencies.  If you compare this with his earlier post, I think you will see an unquestionable evolution in him.

For me, the cyber world is a double-edged sword.  The sword metaphor is more than appropriate for me, due to the amount of time I’ve spent playing fantasy role playing games fantasy role playing games (RPGs) that require using such a weapon.  However, in my case one edge (the negative side) is far sharper from a social standpoint.  I can look back to a Saturday last month, for example, while spending the evening deeply engaged in a game called, Mass Effect.  I completely failed to notice any of the other three people in the room.  This came to my attention the following morning, as well as during my job that same day.  My social skills had diminished overnight, and I had far more problems controlling my tendency toward negativity.  True to my ADHD nature, I was impulsive as well.  My coworkers kept asking me, “Alex, is something wrong?”      I ended the work day wondering what had gone wrong, and how?  I realized that the cyber world had once again thrown me into the social abyss.

Recent studies Recent studies show that spending extended amounts of time (3+ hours) in front of a computer, game console, or even using a smart phone can impair social skills.  After reading up on this study, I began to set aside specific times during the day (for me, this is usually at night), when I could safely enjoy a period of screen time without suffering from a negative interpersonal backlash.  I limit myself to an hour.  This seems to be the “magic” number.  It makes intuitive sense that excessive time spent in cyber pursuits can exert an impact on our interactions with others.  A new generation of video games promises to make us smarter and even more athletic.  I think that the cyber world exerts an overall positive benefit on humankind.  But, as Mark Twain said, “All good things in moderation, including moderation!”  We must take great care that our cyber pursuits do not diminish our ability to relate to others.  As Kevin Roberts has repeatedly said, “Let’s use the cyber world to build up our chances for success and fulfillment, not destroy them.”