How To Take Back Your Web Space
Forgive me if my recent posts always seem to be centered around some aspect of the Web or the other.
It’s mainly because living in the era that we do, shifting to slower and simpler lifestyles has a lot to do with not letting our online lives ruin our offline ones, by learning to handle the persistent and dominating nature of the Web cleverly.
With the connectivity of the Internet, you’re plugged into the thoughts and lives of billions of people, whether you like it or not. Being privy to all that information you don’t need to get on with your life has all the signs of a double-edged sword.
On one hand you could need some of that information in future. On the other, taking it all in like it’s a daily dose of some lifesaving medication could choke you, which is what it seems to be doing these days.
So how do you strike the right balance between treating the Internet like it’s an omniscient being or an encyclopedia and keeping its overwhelming presence from taking over every facet of your life?
Fewer Networks And Information Access Points
Being able to directly get in touch with anyone from any part of the world does sound great. But, by doing it often just because you can, you’re spreading yourself too thin and cluttering up an already noisy space with a trail of empty, disjointed conversations.
Instead, if you break up the Web space into tiny manageable networks, your online experience will not only get less overwhelming, but also more personal and satisfying.
I have chosen mainly 3-4 networks to manage my Web space better:
- Email/IRC - For personal discussions with colleagues at work, other writers, and those whom I cannot meet in person
- App.net - For finding people with similar interests
- Reddit/Pocket - To get a controlled bird’s eye view of what’s going on around the Web
I have moved every other conversation back offline to regain its non-digital essence and enjoyment.
You Will Miss Out On Things And That’s OKAY
The biggest fear all of us seem to share is the fear of not being in the know—of missing out on interesting conversations, and therefore, of missing out on what everybody perceives to be fun.
The truth is that these conversations and information streams are only partially important i.e. important only in certain contexts, which, more often than not, don’t apply to our lives. We just like to think they do, because they make us feel like we belong, and because we like the idea of shared fun. At the very least, we want to appear to be having fun, even when we’re not.
Really, what’s the worse that will happen if you fail to absorb every bit of news thrown up by the Web’s sleepless journalistic mechanism or to be up-to-date on the latest trends in everything? Not one thing that I can think of, unless of course these activities are a part of your job description.
For me, giving myself permission to miss out on, even deliberately skip, most of the newest and the hottest stories of the digital world has taken a load of my mind. Now my rich inner life is back in sharp focus and I’m starting to enjoy its vividness and vibrancy once again.
Who’s The Boss?
It’s likely that when you’re online, you let the Web decide what’s best for you and dictate what you should and shouldn’t pay attention to. To some extent, this works in your favor because the Web is good at understanding where your interests lie and can accordingly bring you content that you’re bound to love.
But relying on this smart behavior of the Web backfires constantly, because it suffocates you with content that you love till you stop loving it altogether. When it comes to the Web, there can be too much of a good thing.
Reacting to every single idea the Web throws at you can prove costly in the long run, as you’re probably finding out already. This is why it’s best to limit the mindless surfing to tiny durations and instead go after information with a clear goal in mind. This can help you get some semblance of control over your Web behavior.
Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish whether you’re using the Web or whether it’s using you, and that’s scary. Maybe it’s time to remove all traces of doubt by taking back the Web.
- January 29th, 2014