I'd like to stay off the internet for a day or for a period of a few days, every so often. When I try to abstain, I yield to temptation. How can I force myself to be successful?
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You need to more clearly define your problem statement.
I highly doubt that 'too much internet' is the problem. The problem is 'too little of something else, because of time spent on the internet'.
Your solution needs to address this clearly defined problem statement. Don't focus on spending less time on the internet, focus on spending more time doing whatever else you want to be doing.
If you are swearing off the internet because it is causing you to not spend enough time with your family, then organise family events (board games with the family, read to your kids, cook/bake with your spouse, I don't really know what sort of things you enjoy, but you can fill in this detail).
If your internet use gets in the way of exercise, establish an excercise schedule that you can stick to.
If you want to read more, find a more engaging book (without knowing you, I can highly recommend Magician or Foundation)
Ultimately, if you're just swearing off the internet with no good plan for what to do with the extra time, you will fail. particularly if reduced internet simply leads to increased watching of whatever happens to be on the tv.
Put your router, or any other piece of equipment that is essential for you to be able to connect with the internet, in a time-lock safe.
(I could have posted this as a comment to @Jackson's excellent answer, because a time-lock safe is a place of "inconvenience", but thought I would post it as a separate answer because this option may be exactly what you are looking for. I don't know how addicted you are, but I can imagine some people burying their router in the garden and then digging it up again before the end of their intended abstinence period, whereas they might feel that cracking a time-lock safe open with a hammer might be going a little too far.)
Do something that interests you. You can hide your router anywhere you want, but if you have nothing to do, you'll get tempted anyway.
You say "without leaving home", so it cuts some options, but do whatever you like that don't involve internet. Work, invite friends, read, tune the radio, strum the old banjo, practice your Lindy Hop... do whatever comes in your mind.
You can maybe hide your computer to a place where you don't see it, like a closet, and shut down your router to cut your mobile data.
Usually, when I go slack off on the Internet, it's because I feel I have nothing else to do. Vary your activities, and try to motivate yourself to do them. You can also find various motivation methods by searching on the Internet, if you think you lack it.
Starting a new activity can be difficult, but once you begin, you can get concentrated on it and forget to check the Internet.
If you primarily use some kind of Android device, I highly recommend this app, called Block Apps. You can choose which apps to block and for how long. I set it up to block my web browser and everything else distracting, as well as the app store so that I can't download any new distracting things. I mostly use it to force myself to get off my phone and go to bed, as well as to temporarily disable most of my phone when I'm trying to get work done.
Use the mail
I would lock the router in a safe with a key. Pick something strong, for added security you could also lock in the box the tools that you have that might open the lock.
Send the key to yourself by mail. It will take a few day for them to arrive in your mailbox. For added security, send both keys in separate mail, so if one get lost, you'll get the other.
You can imagine a lot of variations to best fit your need:
- If you use a locking app, randomly generate a long password that you can't remember, print it and send it to yourself by mail.
- You could also simply send the router by mail. But the price will be a little higher because you need to send a box, not just an envelope.
- If you do this over the weekend, it is likely that the mail will not arrive before a few days.
Place your router and any wireless-connectable technology in a place that is of most inconvenience to you- like an attic. Or boggle around with your router settings, unhook the cables in the attic (if you have one) or if you are extremely attached, bury it somewhere. Good luck!
First of all, depend on your goal - spend less time on the internet, or spend more time on something else?
I encourage you to think positively, means, think of what you want to do and focus on that, instead of focusing on what you don't want to do.
If you have other things that you might want to do, but feel that you're dragged into surfing the internet without doing any of the things you wanted, maybe some of these ideas will help you get started with what you really want to do!
A few ideas:
- Give your router to someone to keep it for you.
- Put a virtual lock on your internet connection - with password, for a specific time, scheduled start.
- Similar to a virtual lock, you can find something like that that will take money from you if you stop the lock before time (and maybe donate it to an organization of your choice).
- Donate the processing power of your devices to a good cause.
- Usually, those are app/programs that you can download and will use your device to calculate and search things, while you're idle. Maybe there's an option to set it up for a scheduled time, and not only when you're idle - this will just consume your device processing power, and you won't be able to use it much.
- Physically lock your router/devices in a box/cabin.
- If with a key lock:
- Give the key to a friend.
- Send it to yourself by regular mail.
- Leave it in a keys copy store and ask to come back later to take the original and the copy. Come back after a few days (maybe you should let them know you're going to be late...).
- If with a code lock:
- Ask a friend, family member or a neighbor to lock it, without giving you the code.
- If it's long enough or you're bad with numbers - write it down and treat it like it was a physical key.
- It would actually be better to take a picture of that code, send it to someone and delete it from your device. When writing with our hands, we remember better - so taking a photo would be the best chance not to remember it.
- If with a key lock:
- Ask your internet provider to freeze your internet connection.
- Send your devices to fix something in them.
Some of the ideas are more/less suitable, depending on some parameters such as:
- If you're the only one who uses the internet, or others depend on it too.
- Which devices do you use (mobile, desktop).
- If you're willing to go out of your home at the beginning/end of the period time.
- Your will to bypass yourselves restrictions.
A friend of mine tried the same by destroying the network cable. It did the trick and when he felt that he was freed from his online addiction he bought a new cable. At least he now knows that he can do something to control his urges if he really wants to. Though I doubt that he has accomplished anything beyond that.
I personally prefer shaping behaviour in a gentle way by reinforcing the desired patterns with whatever works for you best. Chocolate. A round of your favourite computer game. You name it.
For reasons that @Scott pointed out, first of all, you might want to understand what it is that you want to do in the freed time. Start from there to condition yourself towards the desired behaviour.
Store the router in a safe with a lock. Then leave the key at your place of work (overnight or over the weekend). In order to get the key, you would have to drive back to your place of work, which should be a significant deterrent if your place of work is far away (and especially if your place of work isn't open!).
Contrary to other answers, I have actually done something similar to this and found it extremely beneficial. In my case however I do leave home to prevent using the internet. When I need to use a computer I take a laptop with no internet capability.
For me the essential aspect is to make the barrier to re-accessing the internet quite high. In this way I do not use the internet quickly for something. This is very tempting because there are many things that are important and easy to do, although they are not urgent. But this is important because I found that using the internet quickly like this leads to longer usage of it after completing the initial action.
There are several other answers with quite good sounding suggestions. However, I do not advocate ones where you are strictly prevented during a set time. There may come a case where you really will benefit a lot from using the internet. In this case it is helpful if it is very difficult but still possible to access it. Therefore my favourite suggestions are:
- Lock your router away and store the key somewhere that takes time to get to. Even better if this is somewhere you walk not drive. Then it takes more effort but not time to get there (you are trying to increase the effort barrier but not waste your time - your time is still valuable) and as a bonus you get a little bit of exercise if you do need to go there.
- Since you don't want to leave your home to stop using it, flip the situation. Disable internet from your home totally. Then you go to another location when you do need to use it. To start with you could just unplug the router rather than stopping your connection completely. Of course this requires some more investment such as finding reliable places nearby you can get online, but it should be very effective at making your internet usage more efficient.
Although it is not quite related, I also endorse tracking your time as suggested in another answer. I found this very useful too.
This is meant as a tongue-in-cheek answer, but it has a serious part as well:
Do not pay your internet and/or electricity bill. You will be disconnected and depending on the providers of these services, it may take a couple of days to get you reconnected.
Or you can simply tell your provider to disconnect you for a couple of days, there may even be some options in your online account management which do not require talking to a human. Or just turn the computer off. The hassle of turning it back on would be just enough for me to stay offline.
Or you can use the old smokers' addiction relieving trick - if you feel the urge to go browse the internet, do something unrelated for five minutes and the urge will decrease.
You can destroy the router or use a software that block internet but you'll find a way to come back online. It's inevitable.
What you need to do is to understand how many hours you spend on the web. When you'll understand it, you'll be capable to control yourself.
To do this you can try to use apps like smarter time on the phone. You can also simply use a timer then write down how many hours you spent on internet. At the end of each day you should understand that you spent your x% of the day on internet. So you are going to spend y% of the week, w% of the month, v% of the year and z% of your life on internet.
Awareness in this case is everything.
I'm pretty sure this question is a proxy for something else.
Let us say that temptation is smack-down overcome. The next stage is boredom. The boredom drives back into the original bad behavior. Overcome the boredom by changing your manner of life to something else. Merely saying to yourself I will stay away from X won't work too well if X is easy; but replacing it with a different Y is much more effective.
More tongue in cheek advice -
Sod this positive approach instead why don't you document the worse case scenarios if you continue your internet abuse as a means of identifying a "monster" to run from.
For example "she leaves me due to lack of interest" or "I fail this year's exams whilst racking up huge student debts and then can't get a job at all due to lack of qualifications and die penniless, young and alone".
Nothing else motivates quite as well as existential terror.
Break your internet socket, then go to a shop paying for a new one and fit it - depending on how lazy you are this can take a small amount of time, or a lot.
Either way, you'll go outside, experience new skills and maybe realise life off the internet isn't so bad ;)
Unplug your router. Put the power brick in an envelope. Mail it to a known bogus address on the opposite coast. Post office attempts delivery and returns to sender in a few days. Worst case they lose the package and you have to source a new power brick.
A common trick to use is the following: make a concrete plan of how you want to use the internet, e.g. certain times, only special pages for usage or a list for avoidance. Then give a friend an envelope with an amount of cash inside that has a certain impact for you, 50€\$ or more. Address that envelope to a party or a foundation, company, association that totally disagrees with your values. Ask your friend to send this envelope if you don't follow your plan. If you fail it will be a double loss - you lose money and support something you don't want to support. E.g. if you are a vegetarian, address the envelope to the meat industry as a gift. Of course you are the only one who protects you from cheating and your friend must be willing to be reckless if you fail.