Learn how to use the internet with intent with Viv Kan, a mindfulness coach in Hong Kong.
The internet is an addictive place. With unlimited entertainment possibilities, answers to every question imaginable, and real-time updates on everything from international news to your childhood friend’s daily breakfast, it’s easy to get sucked into the internet.
It can be a great place to be and an even better tool to use—as long as it’s not affecting your daily life. What was once seen as a largely productive tool is now also the cause to many people’s stress. Whether it’s due to feeling overstimulated from the web, feelings of insecurity caused by comparing ourselves to others on social media, or feeling helpless after doomscrolling through the news.
In a 2018 study where 143 undergraduates in the U.S. limited their social media intake for three weeks, the participants’ feelings of loneliness and depression significantly lowered. Now, more now than ever, an increasing number of people are realising the impacts of being on the internet 24/7, choosing to instead make a shift towards using the internet with intention. How do we know if we have a healthy relationship with the internet? And how can we become better at using the internet to assist our life, rather than hinder it? Here are some steps you can take to set better boundaries with the internet.
DETERMINE IF WE HAVE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE INTERNET
“If you have a healthy relationship with something, you should feel empowered to control your actions where you don't have a dependent attachment,” says Viv Kan, a mindfulness coach in Hong Kong. “You can tell if you have a healthy relationship with the internet if you can mindfully disconnect and not feel anxious or nervous about going too long and not checking your devices.”
If you need some examples on what an unhealthy relationship with the internet would look like, Kan suggested checking to see if “we feel anxious about not checking our phones, lose track of time while scrolling, losing sleep over using it too much, or if it puts a wedge in your relationships.” If some, or all of these points sound familiar to you, then it might be time to reassess if you want to change the way you use the internet.
LEARN HOW TO USE THE INTERNET WITH INTENTION
Before jumping online, Kan suggests determining the purpose of our internet session. Is it to find an answer to a question? Are you looking for a specific video? Maybe it’s to look for a dinner recipe?
“Once you're aware [your attention] may be wandering off somewhere else, quickly stop what you're doing, and go back to the initial intention,” says Kan. “Another way is to block off a set amount of time for it.”
BE ONE STEP AHEAD OF YOURSELF
To stop yourself from mindless browsing, Kan also recommends scheduling something to do after your internet session. That way, you’ll be less tempted to continue browsing for hours on end.
“For example, scheduling a yoga class after 30 minutes of research gives me a hard stop to prevent mindlessly browsing. Productive internet use can be practised with a friend or in a coworking space where people around you are there acting as your accountability buddies as well,” she says.
DECLUTTER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
Does every account you follow on social media spark joy? Or do some actually stir up negative feelings? To find out if you’re in need of a social media declutter Kan suggests asking yourself the following questions: “How much does their content positively impact you? Does being connected to them add value to your life? Do you engage with each other regularly? Does this connection drain you or nourish you?”
Once you’re able to identify the accounts that actually bring value to your life, you’ll be able to focus on absorbing content that resonates with you better.
OR, MAYBE JUST USE SOCIAL MEDIA LESS
It’s hard to not compare our bodies, jobs, cars, holidays or even relationships when you’re on social media. According to Kan, one very effective way to avoid self-comparison is “quite frankly, to use it less.”
“And that comes back to the intention of why you're using social media,” she expands. “If there is an account that isn't serving your needs or making you feel self-conscious, definitely unfollow! You hold the power—in your mind and in your hands.”
LEARN HOW TO STAY IN THE MOMENT
Do you get distracted by your phone’s notifications when you’re out? “If you're with friends offline, eye contact can help you stay in the moment,” Kan says. “Engage visually and let your ears open to listen to everything they're saying without interjecting.”
“When you're with yourself, it's about the awareness in your mind, and the practice of mindfulness meditation helps us be more aware and be fully present of every thought that enters our brain and whether it's helpful for us to stay truly present.”