Humans struggle with a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation – we get used to what we have and want more (aside: this is one of several interesting behaviours that fall under the realm of Behavioural Science – check out Min’s BehavLab blog on that here!). Stoicism attempts to counter this problem by resetting our expectations through the kinds of exercises we write about on this blog – voluntarily exposing ourselves to temporary discomforts, visualizing life without the things that are meaningful to us, and generally appreciating the basic things we do have.
This week we’re taking a more proactive stance. One of the things that most perpetuates hedonic adaptation in modern society is the Internet and we are going to go on a restricted Internet diet. A detox of sorts.
The Internet is full of aspirational, often unrealistic caricatures of our lives. Through our social networks, advertising and curated/produced content we are constantly being bombarded with imagery and messages that make us want more, whether that’s being wealthier, more powerful, more fit or attractive, more fashionable, and so on.
Personally, I am a news junkie. I get entangled each day in my spare moments in a smattering of sensationalist stories, and lately my phone has even started notifying me when it thinks it has relevant breaking news (thanks, Google). Min gets stuck in her update feeds on Facebook and LinkedIn, and gets pulled into a chain of linked articles. In either case, we’re usually getting riled up about an injustice, or looking with envy to someone who appears to exceed us in some way. This can unravel a lot of that Stoic training pretty quickly! So this week we’re starting at the source of our daily comparisons.
Unfortunately, we can’t cut the Internet out entirely – we both rely on it for work. But we can live our life with a far more restricted usage.
Activities that will be deemed “acceptable use” of the Internet this week include:
- Communication (direct messages and emails, using our phone as a phone)
- Research (for work, or for personal things like directions)
- Music streaming (sure, there are messages, but usually much more metaphorical and not apparent unless you really study the lyrics)
The restricted list includes:
- Browsing our social networks (sorry friends! We legitimately enjoy your posts, but won’t be leaving any comments this week)
- Video streaming (no Netflix, no YouTube, etc.)
- News and weather (if something really important happens, we’ll probably still hear about it)
- Blogs (we’ll have to pass our time with real books – there’s a stack we’ve been waiting to get to)
As an added bonus, combined with our early mornings, this should help with the procrastination.
We challenge you all to do the same. Let us know how it goes when you come back online!