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.