The Internet, subjectively speaking, the greatest invention of the modern times! You have probably been using it wrong or at least not juicing it out as productively as you potentially could be. The internet is an exceptionally powerful tool, especially when it comes to productive working. Considering the sheer scale of the internet, there is incomprehensibly so much to learn, discover and do. Yet, most of us limit ourselves to the same dull, repetitive, fruitless social media websites, scrolling endlessly to a point of complete mental exhaustion (extreme cases!) or till your phone battery runs out (for the better). It’s like we are practically addicted to consuming media on the internet. But how do we use the internet in the most productive way possible? Let’s break this down part by part.
Why do we get hooked on media consumption on the internet?
An important question. Like everything else we need to understand the roots of the problem. To begin, consuming media releases dopamine, which is a ‘feel good’ hormone. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, it activates the same part of your brain which is also ignited when you consume addictive substances! And on top of that, social media websites are specifically designed such that you spend as much time on it as you possibly can. With their extremely complex algorithms catering you the exact content you would want to watch, creating a positive feedback loop where you keep on scrolling, seeing more algorithmic content and this goes on. And a point to note is that, the internet has so much to offer that you can practically go on for hours and hours on end and still end up finding more dopamine intoxicating content. Also, since it’s ‘addictive’, like every other addictive substance, you start becoming more and more tolerant of it, hence, you need to consume more of it in order to produce the ‘same amount’ of dopamine.
How do we control these self-destructive tendencies of consuming media?
It all starts with practicing self-control, being in conscious control of your habits, being aware of what you are doing. The first step would be to analyze your habits. What catalyzes you to open social media websites? How much time you spend on what type of websites: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. You can do this by checking your phone’s screen time or by downloading third-party apps which track your screen time. This will make you more mindful of how much time you are spending on those websites. And then, you can start by putting time limits on these apps; set a goal like you won’t spend more than an hour on these websites. For YouTube in specific, what you can do is, use YouTube without logging in to your account and clearing its cache frequently. Cache is basically the information that YouTube has regarding your center of interests, i.e. what things you like to watch the most. This will prevent YouTube from showing you algorithmic content, which in turn, prevents you from spending an unreasonable amount of time on it. But overall, it all really depends on how much you are consciously or ‘forcefully’ controlling yourself. And be honest with yourselves, as there’s no external force of nature that can help you, but yourself!
How do I productively use the internet?
Addressing the elephant in the room: Learning. May it be anything from your academics to your personal ventures, you can practically find everything from school notes to even learning how nuclear bombs are made! It’s all just a Google search away. Don’t limit yourselves to learning only what your academic curriculums require you to! Go on ‘learning adventures’, look for answers to abstract concepts; perhaps look for ways to be better at your hobbies as learning in itself keeps you healthy by keeping your mind engaged and body active. Learning is necessary to get new and knowledge-based perspectives of the world around you. It helps you gain new experiences, trains your mind to handle a wide range of challenges, and keeps your neural pathways active.
Apart from the learning element, it can also be used to express yourselves, to deliver something valuable by creating, and to change other’s lives (and your own) in the process. This may be in the form of art or music or writing (like myself) or even some online businesses! The act of creating allows your brain to subconsciously sort through everything it needs to while your more conscious reasoning watches ideas of those nearly indescribable, intangible neurochemical signals and transforms them into real shapes and colours or words or objects. Moreover, the internet is the most accessible platform available to channel your passionate creations.
However, with all that being said, it is also necessary to allow yourselves to rest and restore your mentals. Just like our bodies, after a tough workout, our minds also get tired after mentally straining activities and it is necessary to replenish your mental freshness in order to keep you going in the long run and allowing for better quality work in the future. But don’t get carried away and spend too much time ‘relaxing’ as that’d be very counterintuitive and would only make you dull and slothful. Furthermore, it will entangle you back into those loops discussed prior. Try some infotainment, something informative but also entertaining like ‘What if’ on YouTube.
But the fact remains that the best way to achieve this is to determine the amount of time you spend on the internet. You can segregate your total expenditure into different sections. Set maximum time for educational objectives, then for creating, and the least for social media (unnecessarily). Be extra mindful of the time, set timers and/or alarms to remind you of how much time you are spending on a particular thing. This should allow you to spend your time in a much more controlled and organized manner.
Here are some resources that I recommend, with their very brief overviews
- www.premed.pk – I have been personally using this for my med school entry tests. It provides a big chunk of questions all in one place. Much easier, user friendly and time-saving compared to old fashioned books
- Notion – this app basically creates an all in one workspace – a task list, a product roadmap, a design repository and even your school notes!
- Tweek.so – a very simple, plain, easy to use website to make to-do lists. Also synchronizes all of your lists to cloud, and honestly seeing all those ‘ticks’ on your calendar at the end of the week is a very fulfilling and conclusive feeling.
- Anki – A flashcard application, a life saver for rote learning big chunks of information. You can even find flashcards online. However, I highly recommend making your own flashcards, that are specific to what you need
- Linkedin – A formal social media website, great for building connections, finding jobs and most importantly a way to reach out to a formal, work oriented community.
- Clocktab.com – Very self explanatory; it’s a tab that shows you time. Very simple, allows you to keep track of your time without having to download any apps and whatnot
- Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera – Online learning tools with thousands of courses. Perhaps you can learn something entirely new to you.
- Blocksite – A web browser extension that blocks websites, you can block social media websites or others that sway you away from your work.
- Nightlight – A built-in feature in almost all computers and mobile phones, it sets a blue light filter on the screen, reducing blue-light emissions and displaying warmer colors that can help to reduce eye strain and help you fall asleep after burning the midnight oil on your computer.
All in all, the internet is the epitome of a double-edged sword. It can be used to achieve astounding marvels or it can be the very cause of your downfall. It all really depends on how you are willing to use it. Also make sure you are not spending too much time in front of screens, excessive screen time not only strains your eyes and leaves them feeling dry, but can also lead to retina damage and blurred vision. Take frequent breaks, go for a walk, keep the blood flowing. Wrapping it up, hopefully, this article will help you in succeeding in this age of distraction.