10 Resolutions for a Saner Internet—and Life

saner internet life

For me, the hardest thing about being online is remaining focused on creative endeavors important to me. The multiplicity of voices—and the community that you care about—can make you forget your center. You get sucked into other agendas that could be worthy, but are never what you intended to get mixed up in. Sometimes, it’s hard not to play. You love the networks you’re a part of. You want to connect and contribute. You want to pay it forward.

But then it becomes hard to extricate yourself. You react and sometimes let it dictate your schedule. More and more often, you look up and realize that nothing you’ve been doing for the past few hours (or days or weeks!) much related to the underlying purpose you have for your own creative work.

There is so much to do, so much to participate in, so much to respond to—so many opportunities. It is a double-edged sword. Who doesn’t want more opportunities? But when the online community starts writing your to-do list, what happens to your own vision?

I’m not necessarily better at dealing with this than anyone else. I have periods of discipline, and then I don’t. I often gain back my discipline when I have moments away—to allow my own perspective to return. Some of the things I try to do:

  • Focus on reading or creative work first thing in the morning, for 3-6 hour stretches.
  • Stay off email for 8-12 hour periods—sometimes 24 hours.
  • Stay offline after dinner.

Sometimes I feel guilty about these things. What if students, colleagues, or clients need a response quickly? Is it OK to disappear for a full business day? I try to tell myself: Yes. And to also set others’ expectations so I don’t feel guilty.

All of this is a long prelude to 10 resolutions put forth by L.L. Barkat at Tweetspeak Poetry, as part of a movement called “Citizens for a Saner Internet—and Life.” Consider me one such citizen; want to join me?

10 Resolutions from Citizens for a Saner Internet—and Life

  1. Consider sharing three beautiful posts for every negative post we feel we must share.
  2. Share angry posts only if they significantly contribute to an important conversation.
  3. Understand anger as important, a red flag type emotion, that loses its strength if all we ever do is feel angry.
  4. Write headlines that are intelligent, witty, or intriguing without exhausting our readers by frequently playing the “outrage card” to get click-throughs.
  5. If we feel we want to listen to an angry Internet conversation for what it may be able to teach us about a subject, we resolve to do so silently for a “waiting period,” in a stance of learning rather than one of defense and counterattack.
  6. We will not link to attack journalism from our websites, so as not to give more power to the writer or website of said journalism. Related, we will not link to or re-share iterative journalism, which is a sloppy form of journalism designed to deliver a “scoop” that may have no foundation yet in truth.
  7. Consider ways to move beyond the “page view model” of Internet sustainability (which is one reason attack or sensationalist journalism is often pursued by individuals and websites, because it can result in high page views, which can translate into staying financially sustainable).
  8. Get offline for periods of rest—optimally, one offline day a week and getting offline by a certain cutoff time in the evenings—and use this time to cultivate face-to-face relationships, read, exercise, or otherwise interact with the world around us.
  9. If we are unsure about our own angry or sensationalistic post on a subject, we will first pass the post by trusted friends who come from different viewpoints, in a more private setting, before deciding whether to hit the publish button.
  10. If we have been online for hours and are finally simply “surfing” because we feel lonely or unfocused, we will get offline and spend time with people face-to-face, read, exercise, play, or delve deeply into a new interest area—one that will seriously challenge us and open up new avenues for our learning and our lives.

Sometimes, anger isn’t as much the issue (for me) as feeling buffeted by the concerns, egos, and ambitions that can be baked into social media interaction—where our moods and attitudes can be influenced who’s following, liking, responding, or connecting … or by who’s getting recognition or not … or by who’s agreeing or participating or not. Getting stuck in that thought pattern is a sure sign you’ve lost focus and probably control over what you’re trying to accomplish.

All that aside: I tend to have a bigger problem dealing with email distractions than social media distractions. Social media is easy to compartmentalize when needed; I’m still working on that with email.

As Laura says at her original post, feel free to take the 10 resolutions above and publish them on your blog. The resolutions are a community thing, and they belong to you if you want them to.

For more thoughtful reading on this topic:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Electric Speed and tagged , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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25 Comments on "10 Resolutions for a Saner Internet—and Life"

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Heidi P.

I’ve been working hard on my time management lately—figuring out the balance of “compartmentalizing” certain areas (social media, etc.) and at the same time connecting it with the rest of life (so as not to segregate different parts of myself). In short, trying to bring everything into a cohesive whole. And I agree about the email distraction! So far it’s been the hardest for me as well. But altogether, I’ve been amazed by the results I’m already receiving, so it’s a definite encouragement to keep on!

Thanks so much for the excellent post!

Darrelyn Saloom

Jane, I (by nature) practice the ten things. Even by phone, I pause before dialing or texting to make sure it’s a good time to interrupt someone. I imagine the ten things are easy for me because I’m older and set in my ways when social media came along. Also, you gave me some great advice once when you told me you try not to waste other people’s online time with bs (I’m paraphrasing here). If you want others to be considerate of your personal time, you must value theirs.

chelsea jacobs

Having entire days of not checking email is seriously life changing.

L.L. Barkat
Thanks for sharing this, Jane. I feel like the world of the Internet has been in the toddler stage, and it is ready to grow up. That growing up will happen (or not) largely because of how we use the technology and platforms. The costs of not growing up are both personal (irritation, loss of focus, isolation, overwhelm) and financial (perhaps one of my favorite—for its sobering quality—quotes from the original article is this: “And in the largest study of this phenomenon to date, a company named Basex found that its employees lose 2.1 hours per day to interruptions…It pegged… Read more »
Will
Would it be ironic if I posted a comment on this post? I wonder if the internet pressures come from thinking requests and temptations from the outside world are considered more important than things we do for ourselves? I also think the internet is the great new rocking chair–it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. Or to put it a different way, it creates the illusion of productivity and does that without any real effort–is it simply easier to react to others than generate your own work? (I know there is an answer to procrastinations and I… Read more »
T.O Weller
Thanks for the great reminder, Jane. You are actually the third writer I’ve read today who writes about setting morning priorities. I am so aware that I’ve been failing in that way; with a new blog, I have to admit, I’m a little compulsive about networking and ‘getting myself out there’. I pour my coffee and go straight to the Internet. The result? My novel has sat, collecting dust in Scrivener, for the last month and a half. Writing blog posts is writing, but it’s not quite the same thing … and even that has suffered under the Twitter/Facebook shadow.… Read more »
Mickie Kennedy
Jane, Taking an internet-free period of time as a means of ‘detoxing’ from negativity and distractibility is a great idea. Shutting the desktop, laptop, and, yes, even the phone off for a period of time is incredibly liberating. While social networking and being online all the time may seem like a necessity for someone trying to get the word out about a just-published book, it’s also important to keep in mind other , more ‘traditional’ forms of book promotion. Conferences, press releases, and city-wide book festivals (Baltimore has a great one) are all offline and also offer terrific opportunities for… Read more »
Indy Quillen
Great article, Jane! I’m a list maker, so I do a good job of printing out my work list the night before, or morning of…and I star the priorities that must get done that day. But my biggest challenge is also the emails I receive all day long. The most carefully laid out schedule quickly runs a muck because I feel that I must respond to every email – that moment – or at least that day. Ironically, many times when I do this, the other person takes days to get back to me. You’d think I’d learn my lesson.… Read more »
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Claude Forthomme (Nougat)

Excellent advice, Jane. Hard to follow (as all excellent advice is!). But important for one’s sanity. Of all those good rules of behavior online, the one I prefer is the call to get offline – that’s essential! I too get off every evening, come Hell or High Water (and in our Climate Change days, that could become quite literal someday soon!) And I happily stay away 24 hours (even more – I once stayed away 5 days and it was pure bliss!)

What a pity we can no longer imagine a world without Internet…I’m very nostalgic about horse-drawn carriages and inkwells…

Dianne

A great list! I do close down the computer after dinner usually. If I don’t, I get that mental fatigue from being involved or tracking too many issues and people, and not bolstering my own energy and sense of self. I like the idea of going offline for one weekend day. That gives a 24+ hour mental break, forces you to focus on things that are meaningful to you(friends, family, reading, meditation…) and allows you to do any needed online business on the other day. Realistic and life-enhancing!
Thanks

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spirithill99

Great article and list. Thank you. Re-blogging this at dianemaerobinson.com and sharing on social sites.

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