Monday, October 1, 2012

Somewhat Reduced Posting Frequency

I've been a little MIA lately.  It isn't an accident.  I've dialed back my internet time just a little on purpose.  The internet is great obviously.  I love it.  But in my case I think I've over done it just a little and I think it's preventing me from developing some things in my life that I would like to develop.  I want to share a little about the thought process that led me to this conclusion and what I'm doing about it.

What's kind of funny is that I don't know if I'd have realized this without the internet.  The internet is both the cause of and solution to these various problems.  The same thing Homer says of alcohol.

I developed my reasoning skills a great deal thanks to the internet.  Back around 1998 I got involved in an email discussion group that addressed the Catholic/Protestant debate.  My logic skills were poor.  My writing skills were poor.  But I enjoyed the debate enough to participate despite that, and my skills developed.  Armed with better reasoning skills I attempted to defend the Bible and Christianity.  You know how that worked out.  Learning new facts (thanks particularly to the Secular Web) and at the same time using logic to develop conclusions, I was led away from Christianity.  And I'm grateful for that.

The same thing happened with Republican type politics.  Corporate media has a pretty loud megaphone, and without the internet I suppose I'd have continued to be led around by the nose in a manner they preferred.  My view of the world and the US role in it had been the standard, rah rah, murica is the best, etc, and now I think it's more informed.  This wouldn't have happened without the internet.

So the internet is good for human development in so many ways.  But of course there's a lot of other stuff on the internet.  Stuff that you do that doesn't really help you develop as a person too much.  In the summer of 1995 I happened to be stuck in an apartment in Ann Arbor.  Single, working as an intern, and with few friends still in town I was quite bored.  I had a roommate that played guitar.  I was always fascinated by it.  Maybe this is not true for a lot of people, but to me it seemed absolutely baffling.  How could someone possibly play this device?  And sing while they played it, doing both things at once?  It seemed so complicated.  And yet I knew that all kinds of people did it.  It had to be possible.  And I was bored.  So I asked my roommate and another friend that knew how to play to teach me.  And they did.  I still play.  Here I am trying to play Canon.  It's beyond my abilities to do it well at the moment.  I'm sure I could improve.  But the key is I developed a skill that is very rewarding to me.  It brings me a lot of pleasure to strum and pick various tunes.  I'm proud that I was able to develop a skill that at one time seemed so complicated.

If the internet in 1995 had been what it is today I honestly don't know if I'd have ever learned to play.  There's too much fun to be had.  Take this subreddit as an example.  Hilarious stuff.  You can kill a lot of time there and fail to be motivated by boredom to develop a skill that brings real joy.

Part of what contributed to my desire to reduce my internet usage was this subreddit on minimalismThis video is maybe a good example of some of the information that informed me.  It's about a guy that lives an extremely simple life.  If you watch it (it's 13 minutes) you'll see that he's in an apartment that is completely bare.  I'm not advocating or not advocating such a lifestyle, but I thought it was kind of liberating to recognize that in terms of material possession we don't really need a whole lot.  Since we don't lack in material posessions, what do we lack?  We lack skills and abilities that require time to develop.  We don't have unlimited time.  You can go out and buy a possession today.  But you can't just pick up a guitar and start playing.  That takes time.  Do I really value my golf clubs, my sound system, my cool TV, all the various crap stuffed in closets around the house?  Not nearly as much as I value the knowledge I've gained in debate online or the skills I've developed playing guitar (and I know these are not great skills, and even still I value them).

So the reason I'm a little less active on the internet lately is because I'm trying to develop some other skills that are important to me.  There are a few things that I aspire to do.  One is to learn a foreign language well enough that I could converse in that language.  To me it's like the guitar.  It's baffling that people have this capability, and yet I know millions of people do it.  So perhaps if I applied myself I could do it too.  About a month ago I was thinking about this while at the library and I saw some materials for learning Mandarin.  Why not?  So I grabbed it and I've started working on it.

To succeed at a foreign language you've got to commit.  My commitment may not be enough at the moment, but I'm dialing back internet usage to apply myself more to language.  Maybe in the future I'll try my hand at Spanish.  I've made a run at it before.  I made progress, but not enough to where I could have a fluid conversation with a native.  But maybe I'll try again with a more intense commitment.  Maybe one day I'll try my hand at piano.  I've always been interested in that.  If I could do it I think I'd value that skill more than I value my material possessions.

A while back I realized that I was wasting too much time with sports.  I'd spend all of Saturday watching college football and all of Sunday doing the same.  I could easily waste 6 hours on a Saturday and another 3 on Sunday.  What do I have to show for all that sitting?  Knowledge of what happened during a sporting event that just doesn't matter.  Not that I don't like football.  I still like watching.  These guys are impressive.  But my prioritization wasn't right.  I reduced the time I spent watching dramatically.  Instead of watching the full Lions game I'll usually just get the highlights.  Or maybe not even that (I actually don't know who won yesterday, or even who the Lions played).  Instead of watching football I was reading books on controversial topics that informed me as I debated online.  For me the knowledge gained there was a lot more valuable than the knowledge I would have gained watching a football game.

What I learned of football I think applies somewhat to my internet usage.  I'm not planning on giving it up.  I'm still here debating.  But maybe just a little less frequently for a while as I try to work on some other life skills that will be rewarding if I can achieve them.


Jonathan said...


That’s great to hear that you’re reprioritizing things and realizing that one of your most valuable assets is your time and not your stuff. Over the past few years I’ve found less and less time for the things I used to really enjoy (watching football, playing video games), and instead I spend it on things which bring much more satisfaction and better me as a person (spending time with family/working on developing my side business, and related skills in management, marketing, etc).

BTW – There’s a great book you should definitely check out, it’s called “Intentional Living – 10 Ways to Do More with Less”. Here’s a link.

I figure it would be right up your alley because the author actually talks about how to *learn Mandarin in 3 months* through an analytical approach...

Ok, so I lied, that first link is to the book 4 Hour Work Week, but that should be the title – and he breaks down stuff such as learning Mandarin in an analytical way, and then turns it into how to automate your life. There’s a reason the book as 1000 5 star ratings., and I think you’ll like his approach to problems and making positive lifestyle changes.

Ok, off my soapbox – when are you going to post a video of you playing guitar singing a song in Mandarin?

Jon said...

Playing guitar singing in Mandarin? Hat tip to you sir, that is funny.

That's another good example that you mentioned. Building relationships. I want to try to work on that as well. That's another one of those things that take time and is rewarding, whereas like you say, developing skills to master Street Fighter IV is less rewarding. Maybe more than football.

But that's not easy either, right? Everyone is always so busy. If only our work weeks were shorter.

HispanicPundit said...

Kuddos man. I did that years ago. Forget the guitar and stuff like that, simply rolling around with your kids on the living room floor is the highest priority.

I try to cut all internet "fat" out of my life. Arguing for arguingsake, is too expensive. If I am not learning, I move should too. Find the most rewarding peaks, and only stick to those.

HispanicPundit said...

Now, if only I could do the same with work...

Examinator said...

Good to hear you are still hale and hearty.
I'm in favor of mininimalizing just not asceticism like in the video.
As I said some time back I've already cleaned out what I thought was superfluous to reasonable requirements down sized maintain a vehicle that is old and functional as opposed to a RV or image vehicle.
I'm fortunate that I can work as much or as little as I NEED i.e. last year's gross income was less than $30k. I'm comfortable ( except perhaps, after a bike ride)
PS I was given a set of 'skins' for recovery and they work.
Cheer and enjoy.

Ken said...

Now you have time to read Atlas Shrugged. You and the wife and kids should come out one weekend and we could jam. I didn't know you played guitar.

Jon said...

Forget guitar? No way man. Guitar is fun. But rolling around with the kids is one of my favorite things. Better than economic arguments. You should see my boy. I can't believe how much I struggle these days to out wrestle him and he's only 12. I always tell him that he'll never be able to whip me, but I think we both know that my days are numbered.

Ex, that is another one of my pet projects distracting me from the internet. Minimizing. I actually have no problem with the asceticism you see in that video. I guess I think I would enjoy it, but I could be wrong on that. But I'm married with two kids, so this will never happen. But I can say that my wife is really great about this too. She's accommodating my desire to minimize to some degree. I've probably hauled 10 van loads of crap to the local charity place. We're making a lot of progress in this area. My goal is to get down to where I'm more in your situation. Maybe $30K a year is plenty. Or too much. When you have less stuff there's less expense. Less to maintain, you purchase fewer things. Then I can figure out ways to work less, which again allows me to focus on things that I regard as more valuable.

Yeah, you're right, I should read Atlas Shrugged. I don't know if I know how to jam. More folsky for me. Strumming, picking. But that works too, right? I'm up for it. Let's work it out.

Anonymous said...

congratulations, good luck on the hiatus, glad to hear that at least internet pron was not the eater of time and energy for you that it is for so many million others