More and more of us are starting to wake up to the fact that the information we consume may have just as much of an impact on our mental and physical health than the food and other substances we’re ingesting.
There are a lot of similarities between the way we consume food, and the way we ‘consume’ information online.
The healthier, more wholesome sources of information and help on the net can truly help us to nourish ourselves spiritual, and can feed the appetite we have for information and advice in a fulfilling, positive way.
Those are the sites that are routinely useful and calming, without trying to ‘hard sell’ you anything, rope you in to anything, scare the pants off you about anything. In short, about 2% of the sites you’ll find online (maximum).
SO MANY YUCKY SITES OUT THERE...
Then, there’s the other end of the spectrum - the sites that are encouraging and promoting the worst types of behavior in humanity, like online porn, DIY build-your-own bomb sites, sites encouraging teenagers to commit suicide, of people to gamble their life-savings and homes away online.
These sites are more like crack cocaine than foodstuffs, because even evil substances like MSG don’t really come close to the damage viewing sites like this can do to a person’s psyche and overall sense of health and wellbeing.
Thank God I’m not in that world, and I have a couple of strong filters to try to help me stay out of that online version of hell on earth, so I have no idea what percentage of the internet these types of sites account for. But sadly, it’s a lot.
And then, there’s all the sites that are in between, ranging from mildly helpful but still a complete waste of time, through to sites full of profane language and demeaning behaviors that aren’t quite illegal, but are still really, really awful.
In so many ways, the world would be a better place without the internet, but for now we’re stuck with it - at least, if we want to pay our bills, find out what’s going on in our kids’ schools and be able to buy things conveniently or make cheap calls abroad.
(And of course, if we need to work on it, which is the biggest reason I’m still stuck in front of a screen much more than I’d like to be.)
HELPFUL GUIDELINES TO REGULATE WHAT WE CONSUME ONLINE
So then, how can we ensure we’re consuming more of what’s good for us, and much less of what isn’t?
I was pondering this myself, and I’ve come up with a few guidelines that are helping me tremendously, and that BH will also help you too to ensure that more of the ‘wholesome’ and healthy sites are making it into your daily internet diet.
It’s very useful to approach the internet as you would food.
The first thing to do is to divide your internet use into two categories: necessary and unnecessary.
Necessary is work, paying bills, checking PTA notices, printing off a Google map etc - anything that has to be done, and that can only be done online.
Consider this to be your internet staples, the bread and butter of your time online.
Next, take a look at your unnecessary list.
This is where the real work can begin, in two stages. Stage 1 is to divide these sites into ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ sites. The definition of ‘helpful’ I’m using here is very simple:
does it make you feel cheerful, filled-up and inspired, when you read it? Does it give you real, practical information you can use in your real life, or just panic-inducing superficial soundbytes?
It can be hard to figure out what site is ‘helpful’ and what isn’t, especially initially, because so many of the unhelpful sites are actually strongly addictive, so we get an initial burst of ‘great’ when we log-on, but that feeling tends to sour very quickly.
CHEMICALLY ADDICTIVE, OR REALLY ENJOYABLE?
Again, it’s useful to use a food analogy. Sometimes, we just need that bar of chocolate, that scoop of ice-cream, especially if we’re using it as a coping mechanism or a form of self-soothing. An occasional splurge on sites that aren’t ‘crack cocaine’ is fine, and won’t kill anyone.
But if all you’re doing online is consuming the internet equivalent of candy bars and big bottles of coke? Then sooner or later you’re going to start feeling very, very ill, mentally and spiritually.
So for now, go slow, and just pay attention to how you really feel after you’ve read a site. What sites do you look forward to, and why? What sites are ‘addictive’, what sites do you feel compelled to read almost against your will - the same way a binge eater just has to raid the fridge late or night, or finish every crumb of the gateau?
This stage can take a few weeks or even months, so don’t rush it, and treat yourself very nicely while you’re going through this process of trying to streamline your internet intake. No guilt trips, no beating yourself up, no harsh judgments about your viewing habits.
Just plenty of self-compassion, patience and asking God for help to show you what’s going on and why.
GIVE UNHELPFUL SITES THE HEAVE-HO
Once you’ve really managed to pin-down the helpful and unhelpful sites, you can move on to the next stage: block the unhelpful sites.
Now, don’t panic! I’m not saying you can never, ever, ever see that particularly poisonous Facebook page you’re addicted to. All I’m saying is list your unhelpful sites with something like ‘Block Site’, which is a free add-on for Chrome users.
You can change the settings on it at anytime, so if your urge to splurge online gets too much for you (it happens…) you can indulge it for 5 minutes, remember why you blocked that site in the first place, and return back to your healthy internet diet.
Go HERE to download the BLOCK SITE plug-in for Chrome, and let me know how you get on.
I installed it last week, and I’m already noticing that my internet habits have got so much better. Little
by little, I’m spending much less time online, and more time in my ‘real’ life doing ‘real’ things with real people that really bring me more pleasure and contentment.
A last tip for the news addicts out there (I’m also one, which is how I know all this stuff about you…): block the images on the news sites you regularly visit, and you find you’ll be able to get your ‘news fix’ much faster, without disappearing down the latest bit of eye-candy’s appealing cleavage.
Again, try this for yourself, but blocking the pictures made a huge, huge difference to the pulling power these sites had on me - and I’m a lady!
So here’s to your healthy internet use, and BH, one day we’ll be able to go back to sending snail mail letters, reading magazines printed on proper paper and interacting with people in person again.
I, for one, can’t wait.
A few years’ ago, God did me a very big favor. Every time I was around someone with a very complicated inner landscape, my eyes would go funny.
The first few times it happened, I freaked out and started panicking that I’d developed some horrible disease that was going to leave my partially sighted, God-forbid, or worse. But then, after this had been going on for a few months, and after I’d been talking to God about it a lot, I suddenly got the insight that my eyes would only go funny around particular people, or in particular circumstances.
One of those people was my husband, so figuring out what was going on become a big imperative.
After many more months of pondering it, praying on it, thinking about it, I managed to narrow down ‘funny eye syndrome’ a bit more, and to realize that it would happen whenever I was around people who were suppressing strong, negative emotions.
By suppressing, I don’t mean that they knew what they were feeling, consciously, and were gritting their teeth, or keeping a stiff upper lip, although clearly that also would sometimes occur.
I mean that these negative emotions were so buried, so hidden - even from the person themselves! - that they had absolutely no idea what sort of tremendously powerful emotional vibes they were actually sending out into the atmosphere.
That was being soaked up by yours truly and making my eyes go funny.
Releasing the pressure
Over time, I figured out that the single best way to cure my funny eyes was by helping the person I was talking with to really acknowledge their deeper, nearly always extremely negative, true feelings.
This is so much easier said than done, as most people who make my eyes go funny are suffering from something called alexithymia, or an inability to really describe or get a handle on their feelings. This usually happens because a kid isn’t really ‘seen’ in their childhood by an emotionally-absent parent.
So when they get upset, or scared, or anxious, or concerned, there is no caring adult around to notice what’s going on with them, and to give them the word, the label, they need to shrink their huge feeling down into language, and make it manageable.
So then, these individuals grow up, and a fuzzy sense of frustration (that they would never think to label ‘anger’) is really the only feeling that can or will admit to experiencing.
But if you could rip the scab off that ‘frustration’, then a whole bunch of seething, immature, enormous negative emotions would come bubbling out. If that sounds like a scary prospect, you are now starting to understand why so many people who find it hard to relate to their negative emotions are so scared of anyone getting anywhere near close enough to prise off the ‘frustration’ lid.
Because a volcano is lurking underneath.
Sadly for me, or luckily for me, depending on how you look at it, pretending that nothing was really happening underneath got very, very hard when my eyes would suddenly go completely weird mid-conversation.
Someone would be telling me what they had for breakfast, or about their upcoming trip to the US to visit family, or about their kid’s new school, or they’re new job - and whammo, my eyes would de-focus and I’d be left squinting around, completely perplexed as to what was going on and thinking big thoughts about serious vitamin deficiencies.
Until I figured this out.
Which is when I realized that God had actually given me a secret back route into instantly figuring where the emotional body was buried, so to speak. Because a person can swear until they’re blue in the face that they’ve made their peace with so-and-so, or don’t care about such-and-such, or completely past whatever it is - but if my eyes have gone funny, I know they are lying.
Especially to themselves.
This is useful with husbands, but not so useful with everyone else
Now, with husbands this is actually a pretty wonderful, helpful thing, as thanks to the funny eyes, we’ve got to the bottom of so many issues that we probably never would have, otherwise.
But with other people? Well, it’s made things pretty complicated. And it’s a big part of the reason I got so anti-social for a while, because for the life of me I couldn’t work out how I was meant to be reacting when someone would be telling me about their wonderful family celebration, or how much they really wanted to just settle down with someone (when the exact opposite was true) while my ‘funny eyes’ would erupt off the Richter scale.
If a person isn’t telling themselves the truth about a particular situation, woe betide the person who is dumb enough to try to step in and deliver the message the other person is trying so hard to ignore and avoid.
I learnt the hard way that you can’t fix people with ‘the truth’, and if you try, you are only going to get your head completely blown off. And you probably deserve it.
So, for a long stretch of time it’s been easier to keep things superficial with most people for most of the time, because in 2018, so many people are dealing with huge negative emotions that they’re repressing, without even realizing what’s going on.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because I have the feeling that the more you start to get in touch with your own real self, and the more you try to work through your own enormous, deeply-buried negative feelings, the more you’ll also start to notice how certain people, certain conversations, set you off, too.
Maybe, your eyes won’t go funny, but you might find your breathing goes a bit weird, or that your heart starts beating too fast, or you suddenly feel horribly hot and suffocated, or weak and faint, or your hands suddenly go ice-cold.
Pay attention to those clues that God is sending you, especially if they’re popping up around a spouse or a kid.
Because those people, you probably can help, if you take a deep breath and prepare yourself mentally to face down an internal volcano of huge, suppressed feelings.
But everyone else, you probably can’t.
So the best bet is then just to smile and nod politely, and quickly change the subject.