I spend a large chunk of time mindlessly browsing the internet, and it frustrates me to no end. I rarely ever gain more than short-term joy from this sort of content, and more often I’m actively searching for content that makes me angry or upset. It’s incredibly unhealthy, pulls time away from other activities, and is so, so very easy to do.
I’ve tried quitting social networks and internet forums many times in the past, and rarely ever make it more than a month before I start slowly reintroducing “helpful” parts back into my life. But even if I’m just browsing
/r/churning to see what cards to pick up,1
/r/popular is just a tap away and I will fall for it every single time.
I’ve been on another full-quitting bout for more than a month now; this time I’ve even gone through the trouble of setting up
hosts files on all applicable devices, including my work computer. On my iOS devices there’s not really a
hosts file to edit, so instead I abuse the Parental Controls Content Restrictions feature to blacklist websites under the guise of them being “inappropriate content”. Apple even seems to recognize this use case as in iOS 12 this feature is also accessible through Screen Time.2
Speaking of Screen Time, while the automated usage statistics are cool and fun to share with your friends, overall I don’t get much benefit out of it for the same reason I don’t enjoy using Mint for budgeting—as it is fully automated, I have little incentive to check on it. And while it can be used to automatically enforce usage limits, you are the child in this relationship, being told to put away your toys and go to bed. I need to be the responsible adult that stops browsing Instagram and gets 8 hours of sleep so I don’t feel terrible in the morning.
So much like how I prefer YNAB, essentially a glorified spreadsheet that requires much in the way of manual input, for budgeting, I’ve been time tracking for the last week. I’ve tried time tracking in the past extremely briefly with Toggl, but wasn’t a fan of its rather simplistic UX that seemed geared towards figuring things out as you went. Also, it didn’t have a native iPad application (I believe it has a web app though that you can use instead).
Now, I’m trying out Timelogger. The UI is much more tool-like than the sparse first open of Toggl, and it gives you a list of timers sorted by Project/Task to activate rather than Toggl’s new-dynamic-task button. While Toggl definitely was a prettier application, and I liked the idea of tags on top of projects, Timelogger makes much more sense to me at first glance. It also has an iPad app (which I’m running right now).3
I’m creating groups and individual tasks as I come across them. As I did with budgeting I’ll definitely tend towards over-specificity in the beginning—is it really valuable to have separate tasks for Fiction/Non-Fiction/Comics/Articles/Shampoo-Bottles versus just one giant “Reading A Goddamn Book”—but I hope to settle quickly. More timers mean more friction means I’ll give up sooner. But too few timers, then what am I tracking?
I saw one person online mention that they only have two categories—productive and non-productive. But as I’m literally at the point where I even consider playing video games “productive” compared to the trash I was shoveling through prior, there shouldn’t be anything needing the latter category.
One thing that’s been helpful during my internet withdrawal that doesn’t feel too much like cheating are newsletters. For example, if you’re interested in keeping up with credit cards I heavily recommend Doctor of Credit’s newsletter. It’s curated rather than just being RSS spam, and even if I don’t get an actionable from every issue I enjoy reading through it.↩
The downside is that as it is meant for restricting inappropriate content, I find a lot of websites or even just articles on websites will trigger the filter and be blocked because they have may use too much profanity or sexual language. Thankfully there is also a whitelist feature. It also disables Incognito mode in Safari for some reason, but as I use Firefox this doesn’t affect me.↩
This post took 1 hour, 18 minutes to write.↩