How many tabs do you have open right now?
One? I’m impressed.
More than 4? Join the club.
Yeah, I used to be a member of the 10-tab browser club. I’d be on six blogs at once, have messages blinking on Facebook and compulsively check my e-mail just in case. If one was loading too slow, it was back over to another tab.
Until I realized that it was driving me NUTS.
I was stressed, scattered, and get this – incredibly anxious. I couldn’t pin the reason for a while, until one particularly peaceful day, it jumped out at me. I hadn’t been online all day, and had spent the day free from stomach knots…until I opened my web browser. Actually, as soon as I cracked open my laptop, the anxiety hit me.
And then I knew: it was the constant browsing, the million sites screaming for my attention that was making me so uneasy and overwhelmed.
Without any real plan, I quit.
I decided that the world wouldn’t end if I took a break, so I closed the browser and just sat there. I looked out the window, took a sip of water and the deepest breath.
That was a Friday, and for the rest of the weekend, I didn’t touch the computer. Instead, I spent time with family, went outside, cleaned and read – y’know, lived life offline.
Lovely, right? Away from all that noise, those tabs all vying for my attention, I felt peaceful. Happy.
But I couldn’t stay away from the internet forever – it was still be there waiting for me.
When I went back to work on Monday and opened up Internet Explorer, anxiety didn’t grip me. I read my e-mail, taking care of messages one at a time. If I saw an article I wanted to read, I’d “new-tab” it, but wait until I was done to go read it. And when I was reading the article, I didn’t stop mid-way to read a new one.
It was a small miracle!
By giving myself a bit of distance and the chance to re-create my inner peace, I was able to calmly return to the web. And the effects are lasting: now, I generally don’t have a ridiculous amount of tabs open, and I take things one page at a time. If I start to get crazy, I recognize it quickly and take a break.
Can you relate? Are you a member of the 10-tab browser club?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might be:
After you read an article, do you retain the information? Do you feel you’re gaining anything from the reading you’re doing online? Are you spending an unnecessary amount of time on social media? Do you find yourself hopping back and forth between tabs before finishing what you were doing?
Big deal, right?
Effects of mindless web browsing:
Stress. Feeling like you can’t keep up is super stressful! By trying to read all the articles you want, keep up with social media and e-mail, you’re probably stressing yourself out. Am I right? Anxiety. Maybe you don’t get this, but I did – big time. Being pulled in so many directions was just killing the peace. Trouble focusing. How can you possibly focus when you have so many sites blinking for your attention? Destroys flow. You know when time ceases to exist, you’re filled with joy and could go on with the activity forever? That’s flow, and mindless web browsing destroys it. To create flow, you must be focused. Wasted time. When you’re hopping between tabs, you’re probably not focused enough to actually be gaining anything from your reading. So really you’re just wasting time, hopping around on the net from one flashy page to the next.
There are many reasons to stop, and I’m sure you have yours.
My main reason was the killer anxiety – here’s how I dropped the frenzy and began to browse more mindfully:
How to bust out of the mindless browsing trap:
Quit cold turkey. I think that’s the reason I’ve been so successful with it. Had I just inched my way out, the temptation would’ve been too great to resume old habits. But completely shutting myself off and getting rid of all temptation allowed a sense of peace to overcome me. That sense of peace allowed me to revisit the internet with a new frame of mind. If it can be a whole weekend – awesome! I highly encourage it. But if you only have a day, work with that.
Read everything in its entirety. I used to open up blog articles, skim them quickly and move on to another one (if I even made it all the way through). As you can imagine, I was gaining absolutely nothing from reading them – it was just a time waster. Lori Deschene at TinyBuddha has a wonderful reminder for her readers on every page – a little symbol that nudges you to read mindfully. I think we need this everywhere! A tiny buddha in the corner of our screens, reminding us to browse with purpose.
Beware the temptation of multiple tabs. I’ll still have a couple of tabs open sometimes, if I come across a linked article mid-way through a blog post, or something catches my eye. But it takes awareness and good effort to stop myself from jumping ship and moving on to the next shiny new thing. Your best bet is to minimize the amount of tabs you have up where you can – like with Facebook and e-mail. You don’t need these things up 24/7. They’re always wanting your attention.
Pay attention to how you’re feeling as you browse. Are you feeling rushed or overwhelmed, like you can’t possibly read everything you need to? If so, remember: one tab at a time. In fact, mindful browsing will make it more likely that you read what you need to – and actually retain and use that information.
Know your triggers and limit them. What websites make you more likely to become scattered? For me, it’s anything social media related – Facebook and Twitter, mostly. There’s always something new popping up to read or click on – you can never keep up! So I don’t even try. When I go on either, I limit my scrolling – do I really need to know what people were posting at 3am? It’s just a time waster. I try to stay in the present and read only the most recent updates, and when that’s done – it’s done.
If you start multi-tabbing and feeling overwhelmed, stop completely. Even if just for a few minutes, close (or at least minimize) your browser, take a drink of water, and sit. Just be. When you’re centered, return to the browser – one page at a time.
Take regular breaks. Before you even get to the point of overwhelm, minimize the browser and leave the screen for a minute. Stretch out, have a snack or just breathe. Remembering life beyond the internet helps me stay focused and mindful when I return to it.
I think the quickest, most effective way to start browsing mindfully is to give yourself a break (which is why it’s #1 ). Unplug, go outside, relax with your family – do anything but go online. When you return, I think you’ll find a new sense of peace and purpose in your browsing.
What do you think: Do you browse mindfully? Or are you a tab-hopper? What do you think you’d gain by surfing the net with more purpose?
- This post is part of Amit Amin’s Sweet Tune of June: A Month of Happiness! Tune in through the month of June for easy ways to become a happier human, one day at a time.
Peace, love and a steaming cup of Zen,