My latest life-changing rule for visiting web sites

February 26, 2024 by Joshua
in Addiction, Choosing/Decision-Making, Freedom, Habits, Tips


I used to waste three or four hours a day browsing social media sites, generally Reddit at the time, but others too, in particular after telling myself not to spend that much time on sites.

I found some useful guidelines to reduce wasting time on screens. Not all time on screens is wasted, so I wanted to reduce wasted time but maintain productive time.

Existing rules that have served me well

Effective guidelines and guardrails I’ve used for a while:

  • No internet use for the first hour of waking up
  • Use site blockers to limit daily access to some sites.
  • Use site blockers to limit access to any sites for thirty-minute working blocks.
  • Make my laptop being disconnected from the internet the default so I have to choose to connect and go through the motions of connecting.
  • Avoid sites that refresh faster than daily.
  • Avoid reading the news.
  • Put phone on airplane mode at night and as often as possible during day.

The last one, avoiding reading the news, had something going for it, despite my fear before doing it that I’d miss out on important stories. I’ve been avoiding reading the news for five or ten years and haven’t found myself missing out. I’ve also realized how much the news media uses addictive tools and patterns to keep people tuning in.

People occasionally send me links to articles they recommend. I wondered how to handle them. Resolving that challenge created the wonderful guideline of today’s post. With news articles, I decided to follow links from people to specific stories, but not to go to sites just to see if there was anything for me to find out.

Today’s guideline

I do go to sites when I have a specific reason to find something specific there. For example, I’ll look up a specific article on Wikipedia. I’ll follow links if I know they lead to me learning something specific. I avoid going to sites hoping to find something I don’t know.

The rule: Only go to sites to find specific content, not fishing for something I don’t already know is there, where the site chooses what I follow and I passively consume.

I won’t lie. I don’t follow this rule to the letter, but I love the way it forces me to be deliberate in my browsing. Social media runs almost completely to the opposite of it. I’m still so used to checking some sites that before I log off or when I have a break, I sit with my hands at the keyboard ready to type the url, trying to find a reason to log onto that site. When I can’t find a reason, I don’t go there.

Two minutes later, the craving passed and my mind pursuing something intentional, I feel great. I don’t remember regretting not going to a passive-mode site.

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