We have an internet that has every bit of the worlds existing information and digital devices that remind, remember and tell us where to go, you would think that we’d all be leading this simpler life and we’d spend our free energy accessing the endless knowledge online to educate ourselves into a super-mind status. Instead, you might find yourself busier than ever and the only thing you seem to find online is hours and hours of cat videos, food porn, and other irrelevant information that does nothing but eat away the free time you gained from living in the this digital future we dreamed about as kids.
Did the world hand us a shiny Bugatti and we ignore drivers training? Don’t worry about learning, just turn the key and go. Don’t worry about taking the time to learn, just Google the answer and go.
One approach to helping you make the internet more like a tool and less like a black hole is setting digital boundaries that free your time and help you avoid mindless distractions.
I define Digital Boundaries as a set of guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify the type of activities they wish to partake in online in order to not get lost in the black hole of information that exists on the web. (This is of course a play-on definition of Personal Boundaries)
The following are my 3 simple steps to creating Digital Boundaries
- Identify a set of unchanging interests that are important to you.
- Group your interests using the tools available.
- Avoid the impulsive/careless buy in.
In case you weren’t aware, I’m the poster child for A.D.D. It’s not uncommon for me to forget what I’m doing and get lost staring at a shiny object. My interest circle can get pretty full at times and seems to get crowded if I’m not careful with what or whom I choose to allow in. I think that most people are the same way. There’s so many amazing things that people are doing/making/saying/thinking that it’s easy to discover something new and interesting.
The first thing I did to be more disciplined with my online activities was Identify the unchanging interest that are important to me. What do I mean by unchanging? These are interests that will always be important to my everyday life and that I would like to be identified by. An example for me would be – Health. My wife and I are always looking to educate ourselves on better eating habits, better exercise routines and so on. Health is a very wide topic so of course I had to simplify my definition to focus on heart healthy foods and exercises. Once you’ve listed out a set of interests that matter to you, it’s now time to organize them.
From your browser to your social networks, you can group your interests using the tools they provide. Examples include Browser Bookmarks, Twitter Lists, Google+ Circles, Facebook Lists and so on. Search engines and social networks are perfect examples of black holes that can suck you in and rob you of precious time and brain energy. Setting up these tools can allow you to search for information quickly as well as build influence in the right communities. If news is important to you, many news sites like Google News allow you to follow what’s trending but also customize your news feed to focus on what matters most to you.
There’s a lot of great information out there on the web and it’s not uncommon to run across a post from a user you don’t know but really liked what they had to say. It’s also not uncommon for some people to Like, Follow, or send a friend request as soon as they see that post. This is where you should avoid the impulsive/careless buy in. Before you add people to your network, take a glance at what their interests are. You can easily do this by reading their last 20-50 posts. (of course this is more difficult if they have a private profile) This can give you an idea of what they like to talk about as well as their overall attitude. This may save you from adding a person who made a random post about something they normally don’t talk about or someone who comes across as debbie downer.
The web is filled with some amazing knowledge there for the taking. You can learn a different language, learn how to code, learn how to play an instrument, or even take free courses posted by professors from Stanford, Harvard, etc. With Digital Boundaries, you could end your day learning something that matters to you other than what some dude you don’t know had for lunch….