*She stands up…clears throat…eyes burn a hole in the floor…she gets brave and looks up at the other souls staring back at her…slowly, she starts to speak…*
“Hi, my name is Kesha and I’m an information addict.”
Yep, I’m a recovering information addict. I didn’t know it when it was happening. I didn’t even know what it was. Even when in my gut I knew something was wrong, I couldn’t quite put a finger on my condition or how to stop it. I was already doing way too much and had started doing even MORE.
The Symptoms of an Information Addict
What are the behaviors of an information addict, you ask? Well, at first this addiction, like any other, disguises itself as a fun, exciting, and exhilarating experience! You even get an endorphin rush when you’re consuming the digital world. So it doesn’t surprise me that addicts don’t know they have a problem!
But then…and, oh boy, this is a big THEN…life altering, time wasting, unbalanced, destructive behaviors set in.
Do the answers below sound like you could have uttered them? If so, you better keep reading…
- Sleep with your phone cuddled under your hand? I must!
- Upon waking, do you squint your eyes (because you have to adjust to the backlight) to check phone activity? But of course!
- Does the phone accompany you to the first bathroom run of the day? Can’t pee without it!
- Need a hit of email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest first thing in the morning before anything else? Yep!
- Every hour, do you check your traffic stats? Heck Yah!
- Obsessed with how many likes your Facebook post has gotten since the last time you checked (5 minutes ago)? Ummm, that’s given!
- Do you check 5 different online news sites every morning? If I don’t, how will I know what’s happening!
- Check email every 5 minutes AND answer immediately? Sure!
- Does TV consume you and you just can’t stop watching every single reality and network show that airs? Yep!
- Do you constantly text or surf on your phone all day? Uh huh!
- Do you ever choose to play around online instead of going out with your friends and family? Yep! And What friends?
- Do you spend time on your phone even though you are out with others? They ain’t talking about nothing!
- Would it really bother you to unplug for 24 hours? I would die!
- Notification whore? Yep…*sad face*
There are many other symptoms of an information addict. This is just a small list. It varies with each person.
Is It Really A Problem?
In the wake of a plethora of online activities available to us, information addiction is becoming more and more common. Some of us find it very challenging not to compulsively check our email, update our Facebook status, and similar actions. People are spending more and more time consuming and engaging in digital activities and it can have negative consequences.
It’s very easy to find a big part of your day slipping away because of these activities. << THIS is the problem!
Note: What about those whose job is to consume information, i.e. social media managers, etc.? Then it’s treated just like any other job. You get in and do your job and do it well. But just because you’re a social media manager, does that mean you have to consume information while you’re sleep and go to the bathroom with your phone? I think not…
I used to justify having a notification for every single app on my phone so that I know when things come in and can respond immediately. I wanted to respond to client emails instantly so that they’d know I’m there for them quickly; I wanted to respond to tweets to keep the conversation going in real time; I wanted to play my turn on Words With Friends so that the game wouldn’t last for weeks. Sounded good to me.
But at what expense? What am sacrificing by thinking this way?
I soon learned that being an information addict tore me away from things I was supposed to be doing and causing me to not be fully engaged elsewhere. I found myself using wasting more of my time online and/or on TV (gotta watch my fav shows right?) but kept feeling overwhelmed that I supposedly didn’t have more time on the activities I identified as high priority.
Something’s gotta give…
How to Stop Being An Infoholic
If you would like to change your attachment to the digital world and overcome information addiction, you’re in the right place! Even if your symptoms are a bit milder than the ones above, pay attention so that you don’t spiral out of control.
- Assess what you’re doing. Really take a look at what’s going on. What type of distraction are you most attached to? What time of day do you feel the greatest urge to connect digitally? For a couple of days, track your digital behavior. Keep track of how many times you check your email, tweet, text, and check certain websites. You can’t tell if you’re making progress if you don’t know your starting point. During this time, there’s no need to change what you’re doing, that will come later. This is just the first phase – Assessment.
- Pause for the cause. Addictive behaviors don’t have a lot of thought behind them; they’re practically automatic. When you feel compelled to engage in your addictive pattern, simply stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?” Even if you go ahead and indulge in the behavior, at least you’re breaking the knee-jerk response and immediate impulses.
- Take breaks often. Every hour or so (don’t go more than an hour or you’ll start to experience diminishing returns), take a 10-minute break and get away from the activity. Find something else to do. Go for a walk, do a few pushups, clean your desk, make a phone call, or do some other activity. When your break is over, see how much longer you can go without reconnecting. Keep track of the time. In addition, be careful not to multitask. Use your super focus powers to do one task at a time, eliminate distractions and stop interruptions as they happen.
- Schedule your digital time. Try setting a schedule and stick to it. Aim for 100% adherence but know that sticking to your schedule even as low as 75% of the time is a good start.
- Make a list each morning. Every morning create a list of important things you need to accomplish. Complete at least one task before you get online. What I started doing was focusing on me each morning. Before I reach for my phone or go online, I do other activities first like mentally planning how I want my day to go, reciting my affirmations, drink water, etc. I feel good when I invest in myself first before getting into other people’s stuff. Earlier, I wrote about the biggest mistakes people make with to do lists, so you may wanna check that out too.
- Go old school. Have things scheduled that don’t involve online activities. Go to a movie or meet a friend for dinner. Play with your kids at the park. Leave your digital device in the car or turn it off. It’s kinda sad though that doing what we used to do like hanging with friends and other offline activities seem like “old school” activities.
- Turn off those damn notifications! I tell ya, as soon as I turned off sound notifications, I felt better about life! 🙂 No kidding, I felt free and at ease. I didn’t feel the urge to jump at each distinct sound coming from my phone and tablet. I no longer felt I had to respond to clients immediately. I learned that my time is just as valuable as theirs and I’d respond within a reasonable amount of time. Don’t worry, if something is an emergency, you’ll get a phone call, not a tweet!
- Cut back. Now that you’ve completed Step 1, you know where your biggest hitters are and what you need to cut back on. Step 4 had you create a schedule. Now, stick to it! Limit yourself on the number of [fill in the blank] a day. Check out this manifesto “Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-Mail Overload and Triple Productivity in 24 Hours” popularized by Tim Ferriss. It has some very simple tips. I highly recommend it!
- (For the extreme cases) Go cold turkey. Cutting back isn’t working? Do you need more extreme help? I suggest an Information Fast or detox if you will. You might need to completely cut out activities for a little while and go through withdrawal. Then slowly reintroduce yourself back into the digital world. You may need to enlist the help of a trusted friend!
So there you go. Sounds simple but this process will definitely require work on your part. Start slowly and tack your progress over time. As long as you’re making regular, consistent progress, you’re headed in the right direction. Don’t be too hard on yourself either, but expect to be uncomfortable for a while as you develop a new pattern of behavior.
Over to you…
The Internet and all the related stuff that goes along with it can be very seductive. It’s a quick and easy way to entertain ourselves. If it becomes a troublesome issue for you, then it’s time to do something about it. Unplug a bit and you can discover more joy in your “real” life.
Now, are you ready to stand up and declare that you’re an information addict? How do you plan to replace digital distraction with action?