4 Ways to Surf the Internet Mindfully


Second only to Narnia, the Internet is the most magical, make-believe place in the world. And because it’s so magical, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in it; jumping around from one distraction to the next – from pictures of food, to cute kittens, to cute girls on Facebook, to an interesting article about Barack Obama, to checking if anyone retweeted your latest tweet. I’ll be the first to admit that more than once I’ve “woken up” from an Internet daydream where I’ve gone on a mindless clicking spree of cute kittens, hilarious pictures, and random Wikipedia pages.

With such a compelling world at your fingertips, it’s incredibly important to practice mindfulness on the Internet whenever possible. By using mindfulness on the Internet, you can become much more productive and spend your time much more wisely.

Since I’m told that people on the Internet like lists, here is a list of ways to practice mindfulness when you’re surfing online.

  1. Get an app to help you out. There are a number of apps available on both the Mac and PC that will play a sound or display a message to remind you to focus and be mindful of your actions, or take a break. I like BreakTime for the Mac, and the Insight Meditation Society recommends Mindful Clock for the PC. Break Reminder is also good on the PC, and this website will work on whatever computer you happen to be using.
  2. Slow down! Your mind has a better chance of understanding your actions when you move slower. Slowing down when you’re surfing the web might sound like a weird way to become more productive, but it will likely mean you will spend less time on pointless websites, saving you precious time.
  3. Limit yourself. By only checking twitter when you have more than 30 tweets to read, or catching up on Google Reader when you have more than 25 articles to read, you allow the sites you surf to serve the purpose you hire them for (entertaining you, informing you, connecting you with other human beings) instead of just something to stay on top of.
  4. Reflect: is this something I should share? Like most people, there are a ton of stupid pictures of me floating around the Internet. And for every stupid picture or video that’s floating around of me, there was the mindlessness that led to posting it in the first place. This may sound like pretty cliché advice, but it is worth being mindful of whether something you send or post is something you’d want to share publicly.

At the end of the day, practicing mindfulness on the Internet has to start with intention. If you intend to be aware of your actions as you perform them instead of surfing on autopilot, it will be infinitely easier to practice mindfulness online.

It’s not all cookies and cake; you’re bound to lose your awareness and get sucked into a black hole or two on your way to enlightenment. But you’ll preserve a ton of your time and attention along the way.

Photo credit: Katie W.

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