There is beauty

I remember clearly 15 years ago when I finally gained free and unlimited access to the Internet. It was amazing. After struggling through my initial online experiences of logging into bulletin boards, it was thrilling, it was liberating. With a quick click I was now able to access more information than humanely possible to consume. Now flash-forward, and the Internet has become an infinite source of enjoyment and distraction. 

I love design. I love art. I love photography. I love software. And I love reading. In short, I love just about everything that the Internet makes available to me. However, there is a seductive quality to the Internet which always tempts me. I  can hardly be on the Internet for 5 minutes with out finding 5, maybe 10, articles, libraries, or galleries. All of which seem worthy and deserving of my attention.

Just recently however, I reminded myself of my goals and reemphasized my rule to limit the amount of time I spend on leisure activities. The first step involved un-scheduling all of my favorite shows from the DVR. The second step involved un-subscribing from all non-essential feeds and email newsletters. I've left only the most useful and entertaining, what can I say? I can't totally disconnect. The last step is the hardest. It requires my constant vigilance against pointless surfing on the Internet. While "pointless" may be harsh, I have to monitor how I spend my time. 

I once read that one of the reasons why people get addicted to checking their email accounts so frequently is because they are hoping to score a fix, i.e., an important message. Now important can mean many different things, from a message from a close friend to a key business communication. Like gambling we get addicted to checking our email accounts in hopes of hitting it big, in other words, receiving that important message. 

For me, the Internet is also like that. So while it's easy to dismiss taking the time to find a set of web pages that seem unrelated to my goals, I'm addicted to the thrill of finding a golden nugget. Metaphysically, sometimes you find something that fits into what you need, but you didn't know you were missing it until you find it. Some call this "The Law of Attraction." Some call it coincidence.

I know this obsessiveness is overkill, but I know myself. If I don't focus on my goals, I'll lose myself within the Internet chasing down fool's gold. Another strategy I've started to use is Twitter. Sometimes I know something is important, probably worthy of reading, but off topic. So instead of ignoring the new information, I'll just quickly share the link and a few words and then I'm on my way. I do this for two reasons. First, I want to share something I've found that will probably be useful. Second, I essentially archive the link, just in case I need the information, I know exactly where it is.

I've just figured out another tool to help me out. Sometimes, I'll get lost within a topic and end up with a useful collection of web pages that really lay the foundation for understanding something new. In the past, I would use the "Bookmark all Tabs" feature in Firefox and hope to remember to revisit the topic soon. What I've found though, is that I rarely go back and pick-up the thread. So instead of loosing all of my research, I'm going to start sharing my research in brief blog posts. Just as with Twitter, my hope is that I can quickly document what I've found, share it, and have the links ready just in case I need to go back and use them. The key here is that the process has to be fast. The first will be coming soon, as I got lost last night researching art journaling.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Annadriel