Before the Internet

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Before the Internet, you would just sit in an armchair with a book open on your lap, staring into space or staring at a decorative broom on the wall—kind of shifting back and forth between those two modes of being.

Before the Internet, you might take it upon yourself to do a drawing. You’d quietly start sketching something in a notebook, not sure what it was, but you’d let inspiration guide you and then—woop!—turns out you’d drawn a squiggly alligator with a cockeyed approach.

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Want More Time? Get Rid of The Easiest Way to Spend It

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What I learned

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was nothing difficult about not using these services once they were off my phone. I didn’t miss them, but I did find myself, many times a day, taking my phone out and absently swiping through it. This impulse usually came at moments when there was some waiting to do: when food was heating in the microwave, when a friend had departed to the bathroom, or even when a website was loading slowly on my laptop.

By Day 6 my phone had become a much less interesting object. I took it out much less often, and spent little time on it whenever I did. The absent-minded swiping impulse, whenever it still happened, became a reminder to either get to whatever responsibility I was avoiding, to wait mindfully, or to read a book or an article. (I made good use of an app called Pocket, which stores online articles for later reading offline.)

Whenever I did log on to Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit, I found them quite boring, and even kind of repulsive. This is how I put it in my log:

…after taking even a little time away from these platforms, whenever I check in I can’t help but see them as repositories for stray feelings, and energy that we don’t want to spend on anything consequential. They seem like places to go when you’re bored, or when you’re actively avoiding the thing you know you should be doing. I know a lot of this feeling is pure projection—I have certainly used these platforms that way.

How Everyday Africa Sparked a Movement That’s Changing Western Stereotypes of Africa

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Too often, the African continent has been captured by the West in a series of clichéd images: women carrying jugs of water atop their head; children either starving or wielding AK-47s; elephants and lions silhouetted against a savanna sunset. But that narrow focus is expanding.

This overdue perspective is thanks in part to Everyday Africa, an Instagram account-cum-global movement that’s shifting photojournalism toward collective, localized storytelling

Me Vs. My Social Media Self: Why Gen Z Is The Saddest Generation

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Back in her room, in bed and depressed, she would scroll through her Instagram feed, jealous of the friends who looked like they genuinely loved their lives. It didn’t occur to her that maybe they were faking it, too. She considered taking a break from school — going home to Rockville, Maryland — but she was afraid that the gap would only make college (and her misery) last longer. She felt like everything about her life as a University of South Carolina sorority girl was contrived, but she lived in the house. She was trapped. But as soon as she could move out, she quit the sorority. Then, most importantly, she stopped posting on social media for the length of her junior year.

Once she stopped performing on social media, Steimer had the time and headspace to focus on bettering her life in the real world. She landed a communications internship in New York at NASDAQ, which helped her learn more about who she wanted to be, “a serious person who works hard.” She cut her hair short and dyed it brown. The fact that she didn’t share every little detail about her new job or new look on social media also gave her freedom to experiment.

“I’m posting this mostly for myself, but I think there’s probably some people out there who need to hear it,” she wrote in the caption. “To all the people who have told me I was prettier as a blonde, to all the people who have told me I used to be more fun, and to anyone who really thinks I was a cooler person when I had cooler Instagram pictures: The girl on the left is someone pretending to be happy and praying to get enough likes on her pictures to feel fulfilled, which never works. The girl on the right is a girl who learned how to look at life for what it is, not how other people see it or how it looks through a camera.” The photo got 200 likes and 24 comments, all positive.

Father Of 4 Daughters Refuses To Sugarcoat His Instagram Pics, Takes Internet By Storm

Father Of Daughters

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If other people’s perfect photos make you feel bad about yourself, it’s because they don’t show the reality! That’s why Simon Hooper, father of 4 daughters, decided to show what parenting really looks like. The result? Now he has more than 190k Instagram followers, and they’re growing like crazy.

 

How I Got My Attention Back

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For twenty-eight days this winter I lived on the grounds of an old estate down in central Virginia, next to a town called — terrifyingly — Lynchburg, making good on a residency I had been offered by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I had done other residencies before, and knew in order to eke out maximum productivity, internet disconnection was nonnegotiable. And so it began, the day after the election: my month without the internet.

It felt like a cop-out—like I wasn’t allowed to escape the “real world” so easily. But the quieter my mind became, and the deeper I went into my own work, the more I realized how my always-on, always-connected state had rendered me largely useless.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal. Did any of us remember how to sit quietly, alone, without a phone in hand? I certainly didn’t. By the time the curtain closed on act one of our political tragedy, if there was action to be taken, I was in no state to take it. I had long since lost control of my attention.