Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Operation Read Less (no, really)

The other day I unsubscribed to a blog I've been following for something like four years. It wasn't a mentally taxing blog to read, as it was a one-outfit-a-day fashion blog, but the updates were just too frequent and I found myself getting annoyed, rather than pleased, every time I clicked on a link for it.

This isn't a tragedy. Interests come and go. People change. As an unfortunate number of tattooed folk learn, passions bloom and fade. I feel a little sad that I'm not into her blog anymore, but I don't have to make excuses to her about how I spend my time.

A few weeks ago I made an incredibly vague resolution: stop reading so much stuff on the internet. I seemed to be spending half my waking hours skimming essays and reading articles and looking at scrolly picture-posts on Buzzfeed. When I was in the middle of a good book, or a good Netflix week, I had less time for this stuff. Yet if there was nothing else to do but work or the dishes, there I was, back on Slate, reading articles that didn't interest me very much. Back on Facebook, clicking on links I knew weren't my thing at all.

I just didn't want to miss anything. In case a link that looked kind of eh turned out to be the little sparkle that jumped into my life and rearranged everything. In case Slate ended up posting something that I could respond to and get an essay published. In case Buzzfeed miraculously put up that animated gif of Christof looking self-important from The Truman Show that I desperately want someone to make for me.

Image searches only ever turn up Christof looking serious

It dawned on me at Esalen, when I hardly missed this shit at all: This is so not how I want to live, sludging through a swamp of mediocre media to feed my fear that I'll miss something.

So for the last few weeks, I've been trying to consume less on purpose. Before I click, I say really? is that really how I want to spend the next ten minutes? Because my notebook is right over there, not yet completely full of my words. That upon which I sit encompasses a bunch of flab that might improve in tone by putting that ten minutes into the treadmill instead. There are things I could learn how to cook, books in my apartment that I haven't yet read. There are mixtapes to download and hell, there's even usually laundry to do. Laundry is better than another passel of words that's going to mean nothing to me in an hour. It actually is.

I love the internet. I love my computer. Nevertheless, I kind of hate sitting in my desk chair at this point, because I sit in it around eleven hours a day. It's the same damn sit all day long, and yet for many months now I've been doing the opposite of trying to reduce the amount of time I spend there.

Instead of doing my work in one big chunk and walking away to live my life - which is after all how I lived before I started working at home, even if there was a lot less of my life to go around a given week - I'm doing it in little stutters, dribs and drabs of work combined with Facebook-checking and YouTubing and looking up random shit that floats into my head on Wikipedia. I do not know why I do this, except that I think the freedom of working at home makes me a bit self-destructive.

I want to believe you so bad, awesome vintage lady 

If the little shit, the flotsam of articles and Wikipedia and the lightsaber sound that means I have a new e-mail, really mattered, I'd still remember to do it after I was done with work. But the pattern of multitasking, of swapping back and forth between the work and the play, has been so firmly ingrained that I'm having to relearn, laboriously, how to stop doing it. Even while I was writing this, I had to stop myself from clicking tabs over to Facebook, to see if something new had been posted in the last 15 minutes.

EVEN IF IT HAS, SO WHAT?? I want to scream at the impulsive repulsive destructive part of my brain that compels me to do this. YOU WILL LIVE WITHOUT SEEING THAT BLUE BORDER FOR HALF A FUCKING HOUR. YOU ARE CONCENTRATING. KEEP CONCENTRATING UNTIL YOUR WORK IS DONE.

So. The consumption has to stop. I don't have a ceiling, like I will only read seven articles a day or I will only watch three videos a day or whatever, it's just a chaos level that I can feel, I can tell when it's going too high. And circumspection is the watchword. Taking that extra moment before clicking to think really? because your time is actually precious, you know has made an enormous difference. Time will tell if I succeed at the actual defragging of my time into work and play. I hope I can gather all the fragments back together to make a little more room in my brain.

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