The Internet Sucked Away My Life: Seminary Time Waster #2

Technology has given us the Internet, and the ability to instantly communicate worldwide. Wonderful isn’t it?

It has also given us

  • email in-boxes full of spam
  • stupid forwards you’ve seen a thousand times already.
  • access to millions of webstores where we can spend all the money we don’t have
  • video games, the most fun way to waste your life
  • other entertainments which are an outright danger to our souls.
  • millions of blogs to read on every imaginable subject, written by fun and fascinating people.

For all its virtues, the Internet very rapidly goes from being our servant to being our master.

Go On a Low-Information Diet

Tim Ferriss is an author famous for his brutal elimination of electronic addictions and freeing himself from the immediacy demands of email and electronic communications.

He insists that we need not be slaves to these technologies, but that drastic steps are needed to prevent it.

Here are some suggestions, culled from multiple sources, about reducing technological time drain.

Check email at specifically designated times. Ferriss suggests as a starting point to check email no more than twice a day (11am and 4pm), and never first thing in the morning. If check your email first when you get to work or to the library to study, it will suck your energy and concentration away in nothing flat. Resist the temptation. Choose ahead of time when you’ll check it, and stick to it.

Set Time Limits. When checking email, reading blogs or web surfing, give yourself a time limit. Like watching television, hours can go by before you know it, while vital projects are patiently awaiting your attention.

I’ve gone so far as buying an egg timer for my office. When I sit down to clear my email and catch up on my RSS reader, I set the timer, usually for 15-30 minutes. When it goes off, I change over to something else. It may seem silly, but that little discipline has saved me lots of time.

Use a good spam filter. The money it may cost is worth every penny of recaptured time.

Forward the forwards. We all have friends who send us those crappy email forwards threatening you with horrible things if you don’t pray this prayer or forward this email…. blah blah. Add those friends to your blocked senders list in your email program. If anything really important happens, they’ll call.

Don’t worry about the news. No news is really new. It’s the same news as yesterday, only the names and dates have changed. Try quitting the news altogether. I bet you won’t miss it. If something really important happens, someone will tell you about it.

Stop trying to keep up with everything.

Technorati currently states it is tracking over 112.8 million blogs, a number which obviously does not include all the 72.82 million Chinese blogs as counted by The China Internet Network Information Center. (Source)

Point: there is way more out there than you can ever keep up with. Don’t try. It’s more important that you really focus on your studies, your time with God, and your family and friends. Real life, in other words.

If you are a blog reader, there are several things you should do.

First of all, use an RSS feed reader of some sort. (I use Bloglines: web-based, free, easy.) Lots of people use Google Reader. If you don’t you are wasting time checking for updates that can be found automatically for you.

This is a great video introduction to RSS.

Cap your number of feeds. Choose a number of feeds you will follow, and try to reduce it as you go. I peaked at 50 blogs I was tracking in Bloglines, and am trying to slim that down further. Current count is 44.

Only follow feeds that are genuinely helpful to you. Does this blog add real value to your life, or is it only a distraction? If there’s no value, eliminate it. I mean that for THIS blog, too. If doesn’t add value to your life, then don’t waste your time here.

Subscribe to aggregator feeds rather than individual blogs. Want to keep track of the theological world? Justin Taylor does it for you. Want to keep track of blogs at Southern Seminary or Asbury? They each have aggregator blogs that do that for you.

Better: use a human aggregator: find some friend of yours that wastes all of HIS time following blogs, and occasionally ask him—if you can tear him away from his computer—what’s new or interesting on the blogosphere.

What has worked for you?

5 Replies to “The Internet Sucked Away My Life: Seminary Time Waster #2”

  1. Great post. It’s stuff like this that keeps SSG in my RSS reader even after reading Ferriss’s manifesto on a low-info diet.

  2. Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, College Professor, fabulous preacher and author, spoke at the United Church of Christ’s Synod last year on Narrative in the age of Twitter. She recommends use of the internet with filtering (my summary of her words). In her words the internet gives you incredible access to wonderful narratives – but you need to choose the narratives you follow. Use this wonderful electronic gift and be selective!

  3. Love, love, love a new add-on called Leechblock!! Developed by an assistant professor over at Reformed Theological Seminary, Leechblock is a proven grade-saver (specifically, those of us driven by those prevailing winds of internet-blogged doctrine!) It allows the user to block all or specific portions of the internet during times also defined by the user. For instance, I block Facebook from 8:30 A.M. until 5:30 P.M.–those times I am supposed to be studying or, since I assist my seminary from home, working. Plus, in a move surely inspired by the law perfect love, the application is absolutely free. The only drawback is that it only functions as an add-on with Mozilla. However, for the desperate among us the change-over is a small price to pay.

    But seriously, this was a costly problem for me; one that yielded little more than a dismal crop of wasted time, frantic attempts at recovery, and most often, despair.

    Hope this helps someone. Tim Challies recommends it and–for what it’s worth–so do I.

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