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It’s 7 a.m. Time to start work. I’ve got two major articles due today.
After I check my email, that is. I should probably check my Facebook. Just to see if there are any notifications. I’m not going to browse around or anything.
After I look through Brooke’s latest photo album. God, Brooke takes the prettiest pictures. I’ve gotta pin this one on Pinterest.
Wow. Look at that dress Celia pinned. And that quote? So deep. I’m just gonna repin it real quick. And that R2D2 bathing suit. Now I’m going to work. Swearsies.
TWITTER! Just gonna see if anyone tweeted me. Gotta reply to them before I get to work…Top 25 Unscripted Movie Scenes? I gotta share this with my blog readers. Oh, man, someone commented on my last post….
Suddenly, it’s 8 a.m. And while I’ve written three tweets, pinned eight pictures, and responded to three blog comments, I haven’t gotten a lick of work done.
Stuck Inside the Technology Loop
Go on and tell me that hasn’t happened to you. It’s the Technology Loop, the Social Media Spiral, the Facebook Time Suck, the Twitter Time Warp, and the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole. We get online to do one thing: check our email, post a picture, read an article. An hour later, we’re right where we started: checking our email, posting those pictures, and reading more articles.
We’re now juggling more connected devices than ever before, Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, and desktops all keep us permanently linked to cyberspace. In a 2011 TeleNav study, 1/3 of Americans reported they’d rather give up sex for a week than give up their cell phone for seven days; 21% of Americans said they’d rather go shoeless than phoneless. Survey respondents also overwhelmingly said they’d rather give up chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine for a week than live without our phones.
The problem? As we become increasingly connected to virtual reality, we’re becoming increasingly disconnected from actual reality.
Virtual Obligations Create False Stress
The worst thing about the Technology Loop is the false stress it creates. I feel stressed when I get a backlog in my Google Reader. I feel like I’m slacking when I haven’t tweeted or posted on Facebook — like I’m “not working hard enough” on my social presence. Like Fred, I feel compelled to watch the movies I got on Netflix.
Here’s the thing, though: there are zero consequences if I don’t watch The King’s Speech this week. My Twitter followers don’t give a damn if I don’t tweet for a day. And as brilliant as Seth Godin may be, life will go on if I don’t read his blog this week.
False stress causes mental distress without a legitimate reason. Unlike a legitimate danger (a tiger stalking you in the jungle) or a prolonged obstacle (figuring out how to invent the wheel), virtual obligations are like empty promises you make to yourself. We’re stressing over something with no attainable goal. My Google Reader will fill up with unread blogs again. New tweets will keep pouring in. And somehow I don’t think reorganizing my Netflix queue counts as something that threatens my quality of life.
Of course, I say that now. Ask me again after I forget to move The Artist to the top of my queue before the Oscars.
How to Get Out of the Technology Loop
Ready for your rescue from the technology loop? Here are six easy ways to beat the neverending cyberspace cycle.
1. Recognize How Much Time You’re Spending Online.
Hey, the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, right? Tools like RescueTime will deliver a daily report of how much time you spend on each site. When you realize Facebook and Twitter are sucking two to three hours out of your workday, you may want to start imagining better ways to use those 180 minutes.
2. Use a Timer.
Need to be productive during the workday? Using a productivity timing method (such as the Pomodoro Technique) can ensure you’re getting work done with a few much-needed breaks. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, follows a 25-minute working period with a 5-minute break that’s ideal for checking social sites like Facebook or Twitter.
3. Block Out the Social Sites.
Feeling like your Facebook family is taking time away from your actual family? Tools like Anti-Social ($15) and the aforementioned RescueTime can block those distractions for a set period of time.
4. Reclaim Your Weekends.
During the week, it’s easy to get swept up in the technology cycle. You log on to answer a work email and you get sucked down the Internet black hole. During the weekends, however, you’ve got no excuse. If there’s a fire at work, they can call your cell. Otherwise, unplug the Internet, leave your work email untouched, and stay off the ‘net.
5. Ban Cell Phones From Your Relationships
Make a pact with your loved ones: when you’re spending time together, the cell phone stays off. If you’re worried about emergencies, promise only to look at your phone when it rings — no email checking, no tweeting, no texting. Plan a tech-free vacation at one of these “digital detox” locations or play the “Don’t Be a D*** During Meals With Friends” game.
6. Cut the Cord.
Unplug the Internet. Use tools like Freedom to voluntarily block your Internet access. Stage a blackout for the evening: get the entire family together and party like there’s a power outage. Play board games or cards, take a day trip, or spend a quiet evening by candlelight. You’ll be surprised how much you connect with others when you’re disconnected from everything else.
How Do You Stay Sane in the Technology Loop?
We’d love to get any advice on staying out of the Technology Time Suck.
1.) What do you do to avoid the technology loop? For me, it’s cooking — getting my hands messy in the kitchen is a surefire way of staying off my BlackBerry.
2.) What’s your Achilles Heel when it comes to time-wasting online? I’ll confess: Pinterest and blogs are my time-wasting guilty pleasures.
Spill your own in the comments!
Nicki Porter is a working writer, fledgling foodie, and admitted alliteration addict who spends an alarming amount of time rearranging her Netflix queue. You can find her on Twitter at @nickimporter. Or better yet, you should come share your Internet addiction-kicking advice with CopyPress on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.