This is not a sponsored post, no affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own.
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about people needing to decouple from the internet. Internet gurus– ironically?– offer us respites in the form of digital “fasts”, “detoxes”, “diets”. Like candy, the empty calories of morning listicles are leaving us feeling lethargic and distracted. And it’s not just that constant connection via smartphones is lowering our productivity. It is believed that new technology is causing teens to experience a sudden spike in suicide and rates of depression.
Now, I don’t know how much of these calamitous warnings are the first outcries of a major public health crisis vs. “kids these days” but I do know my brain and, in particular, my concentration has nosedived since I started using a smartphone. My eyes are generally tired from staring at a screen. I have less patience to push through difficult tasks. And, in general, I’m beginning to question how much control I have over my technology vs. the control it has on me.
In an attempt to rescue my brain from the depths of mindless internet browsing, I uninstalled all the apps from my phone that had me clicking for vague dopamine hits. That meant disabling my Slack, uninstalling Poshmark, and– worst of all– removing Mint from my mobile front page. Gasp!
But it wasn’t just my phone. Oh no. I’d spend hours throughout the morning and evenings vaguely reading blogs, shopping online, watching videos to distract myself. And at the end of the day, I felt tired, in a fog, and generally like my life was slipping by.
And so, I downloaded the Freedom app to help me regain control.
Freedom is a multi-platform app that helps you block distracting sites on Mac, Windows, and iOS. Freedom allows you to define which sites you want to block (grouped as blocklists) and when you want them to be blocked (defined in sessions).
When defining your blocklists, Freedom makes recommendations of oft-distracting sites you probably want limited access to like Netflix, Instagram, Reddit, etc. In addition, you can manually add other domains to your blocklist. For instance, here’s my Shopping blocklist: You can make any number of blocklists to define different types of sites you might want to block or leave open during an internet session. So, for instance, I have separate “Shopping” and “Personal Finance” blocklists in case I want to remain free from ebay while in the middle of blogging.
When deciding when to block sites, you can schedule a session to occur immediately, in the future, or on a recurring basis. Since I want to start my mornings and evenings on the right foot, I’ve blocked all my mindless browsing sites before noon and between 5-8 PM every day. On top of that, I’ve blocked all my target sites during regular business hours, so I don’t get distracted when I’m working from home.
If you think you’ll have an itch to suspend your session, you can also put yourself into “locked mode” which means you cannot disable Freedom in the middle of a session by yourself (though if you are desperate enough, you can send in a support request to their team to unlock you).
Right now there are a lot of Freedom 40% discount codes floating around so the service, normally $29/year can be had for $17.40/year instead. In addition, with a subscription you also get access to Offtime, which is helpful for doing a full multi-platform detox on Android as well.
Already, I’m about a week into using Freedom on my laptop and Offtime for my phone. As far as initial progress goes, I can recenter myself a lot more easily now with less screen time. I still feel easily distracted, like I have extra fidgety energy to burn, and throughout the day I’m still grabbing at my phone only to realize I can’t do anything with it. But, since I don’t have Poshmark at my beck and call any more, I’m slightly more eager to redirect that energy to working or, in my off time, exercise, cooking, and other forms of physical self-care that allow my mind a break from the glare of the screen.
How do you stay mindful while browsing the internet?