Drinking: fennel tea
It's 5:49 and I first woke up 20 minutes ago when I hit my head and then again 5 minutes ago as I couldn't deny that I felt awake. My shoulder doesn't hurt as bad as yesterday. I just tried to browse the internet a bit before writing, but funnily enough, being a Friday today, my internet blockers are out in full force and are stopping my from browsing anything before 7. And then a nice quote from the Dalai Lama appeared.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. - Dalai Lama
Yesterday a friend of mine shared a link to a guardian blog thread within which the paper was reporting on the developing information on the relaxation of the lock-down rules in the coming days. I had heard rumours of friendship groups for up to 10 people so I was very excited about that prospect, however I did not want my hopes dashed, so I tried not to acknowledge these feelings. I read the Guardian thread in the morning first, wherein they speculated mildly about what was expected of the announcements from 10 downing street. This was ok, but there was no concrete information, the only thing that I gathered at that point was that picnics are expected to be allowed again. The next time I read the thread was at around 2:30pm and there was a lot more information, but a much lower percentage of it was actionable for me. Much talked about the political infighting. The main piece of information that I gathered at the second round was that Mr Johnson will deliver the main information on Sunday at 7pm. And so, although it's bloody difficult, I should not visit the site again until Monday as by that point, the smoke shall have cleared and people will have written concise summaries of Johnson's information. It's difficult for me not to check it more often than that because I have the feeling that I may stumble upon crucial information if I check often enough. However something that I just realised is that unlike when I spent many an hour researching Yu-Gi-Oh in college, currently what I consider crucial information (restoration of socialising rights) is crucial to the rest of the country too. Therefore they will be as interested in it as I. Because of this, it is likely that anything significant on that front will be shared in one of my circles of friends. This is beneficial for me as I find trawling through newspapers and similar websites bad for my mental health.
So the following is how I practice it so far. It's a work in progress. I do not visit any news websites through their homepage. I only visit articles that are forwarded to me by friends and family. This helps in 2 ways. First, any articles that come my my way are pre-vetted to be important information, and thus have gone through one filter. Secondly, by going directly to the article I don't get dopamine pathways setting up, as the route to access the novel information is never the same. If it was that I go to the Guardian every Friday to find new info, that would become a dopamine hit due to the process of seeking and finding what I'm looking for through a consistent channel. I am somewhat conflicted about the system that I seek, because I feel like I'm taking advantage of those around me by saying that I'm too important to spend my time filtering through information.
In addition, one main stream of consistent dopamine for me is that of reddit and youtube. Both of these had become one-stop shops for everything that I wanted to know about. The problem, as with many similar sites, is that they are structured in a way that they maximise the time that you spend on them. They don't care about what kind of brain worms you pick up along the way. For me, I had a lot of uninvited guests that stuck around longer than I'd like thanks to the services of these websites. Both of them have been a steady source of conspiracies that I indulged in because it made me feel smart to know the "secret knowledge and truth of the world". Secondly reddit in particular became an absolute behemoth in porn. What was ostensibly all about cute doggo gifs, became one of the largest repository, suppliers and producers of porn that I'm aware of. With it's internal structure based on topics of shared interest via subreddits, it allowed for thousands of interests to spawn their own community. I don't say this to shame others. It was hot. I can still remember first discovering some of my favourites and how it absolutely ticked a box for me. It still would if I still visit. But I don't, or at least, I work on making it unnecessary because I don't want to.
This is not a healed man, showing you how to become so yourself. This is a wounded man, showing you how not to hurt yourself. If I could go back to when I first watched porn and I could somehow stop it, I would. Hell, even delaying it for a few years would probably have done me a service. I firmly believe that not having that as an outlet for sexual urges would have given me the space, time and energy to focus on real life relationships.
So my current system of keeping that habit in check is with a habit tracker. I keep track of when I'm aroused, when I see and use NSFW content and other key metrics such as when I get off. Overall, this helps me keep my head on straight and not get into a tizzy when I get sucker-punched by a sex scene in a normal movie. I don't know if it works, but it's a start.
This idea of avoiding news and other harmful information did not come out of the ether of my mind, itwas gently guided toward it over time by others. Here are a few of those who did so.
One of them was Peter Adeney in his blog on the topic of the low information diet (1). I can't remember his thesis terribly well as it was a while ago when I read it. Nonetheless it was a raucous and caustic look at the damage one does to oneself when one has access and makes use of 24/7 information streams. Whether that be traditional channels such as the news or radio or more contemporary ones such as youtube, facebook, instagram or twitter. Although never explicitly mentioned within his article, there is a strong rehtorical foundation of Stoicism.
Another source was a rather well crafted metaphorical article on the role of the internet as concierge. In an excerpt from his book, Blake Snow writes on how the internet has become a servant to every user of it (2). Whatever you want, it will immediately deliver. Whatever you want. At first, this caused a palpable giddiness within as you were coming to terms with the scope of what is available at your beck and call. But over time hedonic adaptation kicked in and it became a tool as banal as your diary.
It has become a "free" diary. You are free to write in it as long as you want. And it will tell you things, fascinating factoids and sordid secrets alike. As you write more the diary will become cleverer and help you more. It will remind you when your own memory has failed you. It will be there for you when others cannot. And you will love it for it.
However, what happens if your diary wants to to control you?
(1) mrmoney mustache Low Information Diet
(2) art of manliness King Complex