Practising Intentional Internet Use
Being at home more can make it tempting to be online more. Sometimes this is helpful – like connecting with our support network. And at other times I find I need to be intentional about how I use all the tools we have for receiving information.
I doubt there’s a universal prescription for getting this ‘right’ in all the varied circumstances we might experience. But these are some guiding questions I find useful, to help me practice Intentional Internet Use:
Does my use of this technology support my values?
Digital tools are just that – useful tools to facilitate what is important to us. There are many life-enhancing ways to use technology: to connect with others, to share helpful info and resources, to learn and grow, or for pleasure (that’s important too!) When I notice I’m using tech in a ‘non-valued’ way, I take steps to reduce that habit.
How often do I need to use it?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this. In my case, at the moment, it means that checking emails once or twice per week is usually enough. Neither do I need to be on social media daily. I don’t even have my phone switched on every single day. And though it’s tempting to watch TV-on-demand as a space-filler, many spaces are more enriching if I don’t fill them.
After using a digital tool, do I feel better or worse?
When it comes to social media, website browsing and TV consumption, this question helps me to choose online environments that generally leave me feeling restored, empowered or uplifted. If I feel depleted, overwhelmed or judgemental (of myself or others), it’s a cue to check if it really is somewhere I want to spend time.
Am I choosing to engage with this, or is it choosing me?
To retain the ability to use technology mindfully, I have as many notifications turned off as possible. That way I can respond to messages at a time of my choosing, when I can give my attention fully. This also means I can be truly present in the rest of my life, instead of being pulled into a closer relationship with my smartphone than with my loved ones.
Am I being considerate of other people?
I try to remember that we also impact each other through our use of digital tools. So I ask myself… On social media – am I being sensitive to those who might have a different perspective to mine? When I text or call someone – am I being respectful of the time of day? (I know I said ‘internet’ – I generally have to use wi-fi to get a phone signal too). When emailing – am I creating extra ‘digital load’ for others? Or am I taking care to send concise information to the people who need or want it? If I find I have a lot to say in an email, I might try to save it for the next time I can have a conversation with that person.
Of course, I’m only human, and it’s easy to slide into ‘unintentional’ internet use. But a bit of mindful awareness can restore some balance. So if you email/message/call me and I don’t get straight back to you, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just AFK (as the gamers say – ‘away from keyboard’).