“Are you on the good internet or the bad internet?” Kate asks.
The good internet is a fun frivolous diversion. The bad internet makes me sad.
I still find myself typing “www.facebook.com” into my browser by muscle memory, despite the fact that I deleted my Facebook months ago, and haven’t really used Facebook for several years. The process of managing my addictive behaviors related to social media, web browsing, and my cellphone has been long and slow. The ludic loop of checking and refreshing Instagram, YouTube, discord, news, email, etc to see if new content has appeared in my media slot machine is nearly irresistible to me. After a session at the bad internet casino, I leave a little sadder than when I arrived.
The good internet involves intentionally consuming a piece of media. The bad internet involves groping desperately for media to consume. The good internet might be watching a new board game review on Shut Up and Sit Down’s YouTube channel. The bad internet is scrolling through the endless list of videos the algorithm serves to me, occasionally watching the auto play preview for a minute or two, before scrolling onward.
For the last several years, I’ve been making a focused effort to spend less time on the bad internet and more time on the good internet. It hasn’t been particularly successful.
Kate and I recently got a puppy, which has given me a lot of perspective on undesirable behaviors. If your dog has a habit of pulling paper out of the recycling, sure, you can, with enough effort, teach your dog not to do that. In the meantime, you can also get a recycling bin with a lid. To that end, I’ve been trying three things:
- Remove all my social media apps from my cellphone. Any social media consumption must been done on larger and less convenient devices. My phone still has a web browser however, so this is only a minor speed bump for accessing the bad internet.
- Work on having my cellphone spend less time in my pocket. I’ve gotten an alarm clock and started wearing a watch to support this goal. It’s remarkable how uncomfortable I feel when my phone isn’t in my pocket.
- Limit my social media and internet browsing to 30 minutes per day. Picking an amount of time was interesting. 30 minutes felt impossible short. But committing to spending an hour or more on social media per day felt obviously much too long. This felt complicated because I have friends I made on the internet who I only interact with on social media.
This is all still a work in progress, but I feel like I’m finally finding some strategies that are working a little better than “if you’re not enjoying browsing the internet, just stop and do something else”, because once I’m in the ludic loop, it’s very hard to break out of it. If you were to pick an amount of time to spend on social media and web browsing each day, what amount of time would you pick?