The internet is not inherently good or bad; it’s simply a tool that we can use to accomplish great things, to waste time, or to take care of the mundane in life.

What makes it good or bad is our use of it—how we choose to spend our time, how our time online affects our time offline, and so on.

The struggle for most of us is that the internet is like a deep abyss. It’s easy to start on the edge—discovering information on a specific topic, chatting with friends on Facebook, and publishing a blog. And it’s just as easy to fall over the edge—spending hours hopping from one site to next on various rabbit trails, scrolling Facebook profiles of people we don’t even know, and comparing our blogs to other people’s with jealousy and discontent.

When we fall into that abyss, it affects every area of our lives…our homemaking and our parenting, our marriage and other “offline” relationships, our self-esteem and productivity, and so on.

The problem is two-fold:

One, when we’re at our weakest—feeling bad about ourselves, exhausted from interrupted sleep, burnt out—it’s much easier for us to fall into the black hole of the internet.

And two, once we fall into it, we tend to zone out and get stuck, unable and unwilling to shut the whole thing down and return to real life, which keeps us in that place of depression, exhaustion and demotivation.

I wish there was an easy answer, a way that we could hypnotize ourselves to react to that feeling of zoning in front of the computer by slamming the laptop closed and heading outside for a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Instead, it requires practicing discipline.

There’s a funny thing about creating habits in your life that I’ve discovered through experience: when you’re trying to create a new habit (or break an old one) the key to success isn’t remembering to do it every time. It can be hard to make yourself remember something when it hasn’t yet become habit, and that’s okay. The key, though, is that when you do remember it, you do something about it. If you simply take action every time it comes to mind, it will begin to change both your thinking and your actions, and that’s where habits are made. When you think of it and ignore that internal prompt, you kill the habit-forming process and end up back in square one.

In this case, that means working to recognize when we’re zoning out in front of the computer or phone and taking action when we do recognize it. So if I notice myself searching for a distraction on the computer, I commit to standing up and going outside, which helps me regain my focus. Sometimes I recognize this right away, when I’m just looking for an easy distraction from a hard task. Sometimes it takes me 20-30 minutes of zoning out and sinking into that icky abyss before I realize what’s happening. But either way, getting up and outside is the key to breaking its hold.

This month’s theme isn’t about disconnecting entirely from the internet; it’s about finding a healthy balance that allows us to enjoy the good stuff without losing perspective so that the internet can enhance our life rather than rule it.

ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS

  1. What are the signs that you’ve crossed over from healthy to unhealthy internet usage? How does it make you feel mentally when you’re at that point? Physically? Emotionally?
  2. When do you find yourself most drawn to the internet for the wrong reasons? Is it when you’re tired? Bored? Upset?
  3. Is it easy or hard for you to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy internet use?

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