There was a period of your life when the Internet didn’t exist or it was not well known. Do you remember? Everything was done by using books such as: white pages, dictionaries, vocabularies, encyclopedias, etc. Do you remember the sound of their pages while you browsed them with your fingers? If you wanted to speak, you had to use your home 'phone or some public 'phone outside, maybe at the end of the block. If you wanted to write, you had to use an electrical machine or, in the worst cases, your pen. If you wanted to listen to some songs, you had to buy music cassettes, and if you wanted to watch a movie you had to buy or rent VHS cassettes - and own a VHS player, of course.
It is rather difficult to think about those days, they seem to be so far away. It is even difficult to picture yourselves in a hostile environment like that. It seems to belong to another world. An impossible, primitive, weird world that is part of some lunatic fantasy. Believe it or not, but what you think to be a far away world is something you used to live in just few decades ago - namely, the seventies and the eighties.
If you stop for awhile and start thinking about all the commodities the Internet has brought you, and how comfortable and secure you feel with them, a doubt may grab you. How could you survive without them? And above all, what did you do without them? You don’t know, you can’t remember, but you are more than sure that you used to do something - you had to do something without the computer and Internet. Yes, of course! You used to play with your Commodore 64. No, wait, that was a computer, one of the first and without Internet (what a tragedy!).
Well, you had a lot of spare time, that’s for sure, right? So what did you do? The fact is that it is really hard to remember. What happened? Have you forgotten what you did without your loving laptop stuffed with 3 Gb of RAM, 120 Gb of hard disk, Windows Vista, Windows Office, Norton Antivirus, Halo 3, Google Earth, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, 5 Gb of pictures, 15 Gb of songs, and another 12 applications? I think so. You are too busy downloading, updating, upgrading, fixing and tweaking, chatting and calling, reading and digging, posting and sending that you don’t have time to think about those happy days when your life used to be calm, relaxed, funny, full of real friends and of…reality.
Now, you sit down before your computer and in a snap two hours are gone, before you know it the afternoon is over. Computer life and Internet have eaten your life. They are a drug and once you try it, you don’t want to live without it anymore. You need it, you want it, you deserve it. It is part of your life, and in some cases it is your life. At this point you feel doomed, you would like to close the lid of your laptop, you would like to go out and start running, but…wait a minute, somebody buzzed you, you have to reply to your online friend. You have never seen him in your life, but you know he is a good guy, well, he’s your friend, your best friend. You start replying to him. Your fingers run fast on the keyboard and your eyes are ready to jump on every single word that appears on the bright monitor. What were you thinking before? You don’t remember, maybe some silly thoughts. Soon the next antivirus update will come in a couple of minutes. You better hurry up or you will miss it. You open a window, and another, and another one, and click, click, click…
Ok, maybe I exaggerated a little bit with this story, but believe me, there are many people who are so addicted to the Internet and the computer that they barely go out. Sometimes during a day it may even happen to us. We lose track of the time and what seemed to be two minutes on the Internet end-up becoming two hours. I have to confess to you that it happens to me many times, more than I would like to. That’s why I decided to write this little guide to teach myself, you and whoever will have the patience to read it, to remind how not to be swallowed by the Internet and its electronic world. The thing we have to keep in mind is that there are really many things we can do apart from playing, posting and chatting.
Here are the rules:
- Your life is not the Internet or your PC. Changing your mentality is the first step to modify your behaviour and your general approach to your time and the way you spend it.
- Look around you. What things do you have in your house that could be used, apart from the computer, to spend your free time with? I am talking about books, encyclopedias, magazines, radio, CDs, hobbies you have left behind and, why not, the TV (if you used to watch quality programs). See? It is not important to get out of your house to have fun. Live your house and the things it owns. In this way, above all at the beginning, you won’t feel compelled to go out if you really don’t feel like once you turn your PC off.
- How many books do you have in your house? If you own a good library then you can skip this point, but if you have few books or no books, well, it is about time to buy some. Try to buy books about things you like (yes, even about the computer and Internet, after all it’s the first step) and things you don’t know about. Have an open mind about things you have never heard, and try to be interested in them. If you don’t want to buy books because you think not to be able to read them till the end, try at least with some magazine and newspaper at first. In this way you will get accustomed to read, even short articles. From these to reading a whole book, the step will be much easier and less traumatic.
- Try to read at least two books a month to discipline yourself. After having advised you to buy books, how couldn’t I say to you not to read one? Reading a book is good exercise to calm yourself down, to understand how the time really flows, and to discipline your restless mentality. In fact, at first, after you stop using the computer, your mind will preserve that frantic attitude which made you jump from a website to another and from a program to another one, while in front of the screen. Train your mind to do what you want and not the other way around.
- Spend some time with yourself. Reading, listening to relaxing music, watching a nice movie or dedicating some hour on that stamp collection you had forgotten, is a wonderful way to learn how you work. When you were in front of your computer you were totally absorbed by what you were doing. Your whole body stopped existing and your mind was away, in another place. It was inside the Internet. Your body can teach you what you like and what you don’t. Listen to it. You may feel comfortable with your feet on a footstool, your head may ache when you put it on that apparenlty-comfortable pillow, your left hand may be restless if you dangle it and may be relaxed when you place it on your chest or your tummy. You may feel better when you cross your legs or when you stand up. There are many things you can learn from your body and its necessities. Once you have known your body, try to control it. Again, train your body to do what you want and not the other way around. That restless attitude of yours can be a leftover from your Internet life which made you so jumpy, nervous and unbearable.
- Spend time outside. Once you have learnt how to master and manage your body and mind, you are ready to go out. Spending your free time outside is a good way to learn how many things you can do without Internet. You could go to that nice park close to your house to have relaxing walks. You could even take that nice book you have just started with you. If you want, you could even try something hard. Try to run or exercise while out. It is a good way to get rid of that anxiety that sometimes grab your stomach and doesn’t allow you to breathe. Actually getting tired from some activities is a very good way to relax yourself, without speaking about the benefits your body will have from releasing toxic elements through sweat.
- Hang out with friends. Do you have friends? I think so. We are social animals so you must have some. Connect with them again. Call them, invite them, ask where do they go, and hang out with them. You will discover that having, interacting, speaking and looking at real friends is so much better than having virual ones. Real friends stimulate your inner needs of speaking and speaking stimulate your mind, when your mind is stimulated you are more curious and interested in things; when you are interested in something you tend to gather information; and gathering information allows you to elaborate your own opinions compelling you to look into confrontation with friends and people. This confrontation stimulate you more and more helping your inner growth. As you can see, hanging out brings you a lot of benefits - even if you are not aware of them!
- Keep yourself busy with a regular activity in some organisation. Once you are out, why don’t you start doing something useful for yourself and/or for the community you live in? Having outdoor activities is another way to keep yourself busy and make you forget about all the long hours you used to spend in front of your computer just to tweak a small program that didn’t have any use in your practical life. What’s better than putting your free time at the service of those people who need help? It doesn’t matter if you choose some religious organisation, Greenpeace, Amnesty International or the group of people living round the corner who help homeless when it is really cold. Helping is fun!
- Look for a girlfriend (or boyfriend). It may look like a joke, but it is not! Sharing your life with somebody else you love it is a nice beginning after all the years spent on the Internet following ghosts or dreams that lived too far away from you to be real opportunities.
- Go home and look at your computer. Ok, after you have achieved all these goals (or most of them anyway) go home and stare at your PC. Did you see how many things you were missing just to look at a screen? Real life is so more exciting and real than any website or program you may ever find! Enjoy yourself and your new life now! Of course, if you want, you can use Internet again. You can find many interesting information on it, but be careful not to depend on it again. Enjoy your life! Don’t waste it for a game or a program. We live our lives just once.