Friday, April 1, 2011

Conscious Internet/Computer Usage

I'm working on another post right now, one on ethics, and it's coming along pretty well thus far (~4-5 pages in). However I have a few things coming up that demand my attention, so I decided if I wanted to ACTUALLY POST any time soon, I should make a shorter post. As such, I figured I could talk about something I've been thinking about recently that wouldn't demand much time, research, or arguing.

I missed the start of Lent this year, so I started my own celebration of it on Tuesday. One thing I promised to do was to get much better at using the internet (as well as the computer in general) properly, and I figured today I'd talk about some of the goals and principles I'm figuring out about doing that.

Now it should be said that my ultimate goal, in general, is to become wise (which I see becoming super knowledgeable as a part of) and to use this wisdom and knowledge to improve the world and help people. So then how do my goals in conscious internet usage relate to this?

Over time I've come to understand the internet as a hugely complex and quantitative source of information. In considering this, it makes sense that I'm only going to receive so much of this information in my ridiculously short life span, and that I'm going to have to make some tradeoffs in choosing what information I choose to receive/process. Some bits of information will thus be much more qualitatively valuable to my goals than others will be (for instance, a list of Laguna Beach episodes on Wikipedia probably won't be as conducive to truth-seeking as a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy").

This is an important point I think, because so much of our time on the internet we're probably not thinking about the implications of watching/reading/playing certain things. However, if you watch a physics documentary or a TED talk every day, it's most likely going to be much more conducive to a healthy mind than if you spent that time on /b/. It also will most likely change how you think, behave, etc. Our time is valuable, and our use of it (as well as the information we derive from such use) decides who we are as people.

So for now I'll go over some specific principles I've been doing which have been good for my Lent period (hopefully I'll continue such principles after it's over):

-No Facebook, Twitter, or Social Networking Sites: This was kind of hard at first, as I'm on Facebook a pretty large amount. However it's exactly because of this that I banned myself from it. There's a lot to be said about responsible use of social networking (it's how I largely keep in touch with a few people, and sometimes I find interesting articles on it). However there are two main downsides to it. The first is that it's a notorious time-waster, which isn't so bad - that can be fixed by setting restrictions for oneself. The other one though is probably something we should keep an eye on as social media becomes more pervasive: one's real, day-to-day face-to-face social interactions can be reduced to meaningless online relationships. I can attest to how isolating this is. Sometimes I've maintained vibrant Facebook relationships with people whom I don't even really know in real life, and probably wouldn't hang out with often. And the reverse is often true - the people who I really love and hang out with a lot usually aren't on Facebook. Why use it then?

-Educational Videos, Text, and Audio: This stuff is really plentiful, though right now I'm just scratching the surface of what you can find. Most of what I've found so far is surprisingly well done, and there's a surprising amount of very well done documentaries, videos, journals, audio of lectures, etc. for free out there. TED talks, Big Think, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are my favorite (suggestions of related sites are appreciated!).

-Minimal usage of YouTube/video sites: Keeping off of video sites except for educational videos or some higher quality entertainment is a good idea. I'm not saying there's nothing good on YouTube other than its educational videos, only that it's easy to get sucked into watching video after video of pointless crap as the minutes and hours tick by (internet addiction is a concept I'll be looking more into and discussing).

That's what I've been doing for now. There's definitely a lot more to be said on this topic, and I'm not finished with it by any means. Consider this a starting point for further research and thought on this.

P.S. Check out this site: