Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What the internet gave me; And a few tips on how to make the internet work for good.

Money in my pocket.
My husband.

Just a few things the internet has given me over the past ten years.  

I'm of a generation that hardly remembers what it's like to write a paper without the internet.  I do vaguely remember making copies of Very Heavy Books in the public library for my report on tortoises.  And I do know how to work my way through archives of bound government documents, but only because I was a history major (and I think that's fun).  But I truly cannot fathom a life without the internet.  Sometimes I get a little down about that and daydream about the good ol' days when children spent all day in the backyard as I chatted with our next door neighbor while both of us hung our laundry on the line.  I decry my love of the internet and admonish myself because I just can't seem to go a day without it. 

But let's be honest here: We live in a society that assumes internet access.  It's also quite different from that of my grandparents.  

Instead of sitting around sipping coffee and playing card games with the neighborhood ladies, my days as a stay-at-home mom are fairly isolated.  I can go to play groups, but guess where I find about about those?  Facebook.  And they are often far away (which means I would need to google some directions).  

I didn't learn how to sew or cook or keep house from my mother as my grandmother did from hers.  So I watch YouTube tutorials and follow blogs with housekeeping tips, google "how to remove a ____ stain" (you would not believe how many options there are for that blank until you have a toddler!) and search for local sewing classes.

In a modern society where babies aren't nearly as abundant, I entered motherhood without a clue and still frequently can be found asking, "Is it normal that my toddler _______?" in a myriad of Facebook groups.  

I don't have time to leisurely read the newspaper with a toddler afoot (and no neighborhood kids to keep her entertained). I keep up on current events by reading news stories online and discussing them through social media in the small pieces of time I have throughout the day.

The internet kept me sane after my miscarriages.  I googled and before my eyes appeared other women with their stories and their advice.  There were other women who had experienced miscarriages! And many of them had some of the same thoughts and feelings I had!  So I wasn't crazy after all!  I researched and ordered the most helpful books to read.  I found a Catholic counselor online.  And a local pregnancy loss support group.  And Facebook groups about loss and infertility.

My life has been immeasurably enriched by the internet.  Of course, meeting my husband online was the greatest of these internet blessings.  Four of my deepest friendships (including three local friends that I see regularly) were women I first met through social media.  I also have made innumerable friends through the blogging world and social media, women who I may or may not ever meet, but who have been a lifeline for me particularly through my miscarriages.  My husband even found his current job (after an unfruitful yearlong job search) through one of my blog readers!

Instead of longing for a life without internet, I'm learning to accept it for what it is and it's role in our current society.  The internet is not inherently bad.  Living an "unplugged" life is not inherently good.  The internet is a tool, and you can choose how you use it.  Here are a few tips for maximizing the potential for good while limiting the bad:
  • Record your time. For a day/week, record how much time you spend online and what you're doing with that time.  This is fairly easy for me to do because we don't have wireless internet and I don't have a smart phone, so I have to actually sit down at a computer to use it, but if you do have more mobile methods, make sure you include those!  Once you have a list of the basic internet activities you do and how much time you spend on each, divide the lists into two categories: online activities that enrich your life, and those that don't.  You might realize that you're spending less "wasted" and more "productive" time than you thought or...the opposite.  Work on cutting out the waste, but acknowledge that not all your internet time is bad.  
  • Log out. After you're done on Facebook, Twitter, your blog reader, even your email, log out.  If I force yourself to log in each time you go online, it an extra barrier up and forces me to reconsider, "Am I only going on because I'm bored? Do I really need to check Facebook right now? Will this I'm-just-going-to-check-real-quick turn into 20 minutes wasted? What can I be doing instead?"
  • Schedule specific internet time.  I'm awful at this, but when I stick to it, it really cuts out the internet crap.  In the morning, I'll set aside a specific time of my day to go online - maybe nap time or after Lucia goes to bed or a set our like 2-3. Before that time, I'll jot down the various things I "need" to do online.  When the time comes, I usually have to prioritize my list because I won't have time to work on a blog post, pay a couple bills, research blood clotting disorders, manage my blog and business social media, and read all the new posts in my blog reader.  Focusing on specific tasks keeps me focused.  And if I do have extra time left after I get everything done that I wanted to, I don't feel guilty wasting the rest of my time on mindless internetting.
  • Fast.  Consider fasting from the internet or from a specific site - be it one day, three days, a week or a month.  Take note of what  you really miss while you're gone.  When I've taken Facebook breaks, I've realized that I didn't missed as much as I thought I would.
  • Be choosy.  That's the beauty if the internet, right? You get to decide what you see.  So if someone's posts or comments tend to bother you, unfollow or unfriend.  If you find yourself often just pressing "mark as read" on a particular blog in your reader, just unfollow.  If you find spending time in a particular FB group makes you depressed, grouchy, or frustrated, leave!  If you spend too much time in another group but the benefits don't outweigh the wasted time, leave!  Since I've left a few facebook groups (and unfollowed others so the posts don't pop up in my news feed to suck me in), I've just naturally found myself with not a lot to do when I get on Facebook.  So I log off.
  • Make a "one tab" rule.  If you are like me and have the attention span of a squirrel, it's easy to go down the rabbit hole of the internet, opening tabs here and there like a madwoman and never quite doing what you meant to do.  Make a rule to never have more than one or two tabs/windows open at a time.  This will force you to complete the task at hand before you move on.


For more thoughts on the internet and social media visit my friends (who I met through social media):

Kendra (Catholic All Year): If My Social Media Friends Had to Do This in Real Life, a screenplay in five acts (in which I have a small part!) 
Molly (Molly Makes Do): One is Silver and the Other is Gold
Haley (Carrots for Michaelmas): Dear Moms, Don't Hate Yourself for Liking Social Media
Christy (Fountains of Home): Life Online is Part of Your Life Too
Bonnie (A Knotted Life): A Shortcut to Friendship


  1. Fitting post for national screen-free week! We're doing it over here--although I limited myself to screen-time while toddler sleeps. This is pretty much the only blog post I've read all week, which is a lovely coincidence. Great tips!

  2. Thanks for the great list, Mandi! It's stuff I know, but need to put into action :)

  3. I hadn't thought about it in years, but the internet actually introduced me to my husband too! We celebrated our 10th anniversary last month.

    After experiencing my ectopic, I turned to blogging as an outlet and way to record our lives. I have been so blessed to meet other women like you and your health and family remain in my prayers.

  4. I've found even just closing a tab helps me use my time more wisely - keeping tabs open with facebook/feedly/gmail, etc. just makes me automatically click one more tab before closing the computer. But if I close the tab, I'm a lot better about not checking *every single thing* when I don't need to!

    1. Good point! It reminded me of another piece of advice I meant to mention (and just added) about only letting yourself have one or two tabs open at a time.

  5. I just left a long comment at Bonnie's blog about my problem with Facebook, but you advice to "be choosy" is making me think that it will be ok to unfriend some people (or a lot of people actually). Thanks for the advice!

    And you are right about the internet helping a woman stay sane after a miscarriage and while dealing with infertility. I did not know anyone in real life that was dealing with miscarriage and infertility, so reading about and connecting with other women going through the same pain was very helpful for me. And sometimes those situations are not a perfect fit, like you mentioned, and so you may have to step away from sometimes. But i have found that the good has outweighed the bad.

    By the way, I am so happy that I bought my Lila Rose flex clip. Thanks for the links to the sizing video and chart at Rosie's blog several weeks ago. They were helpful. I have plans to buy another one, but the stinky budget is holding me back!

  6. Loved this, Mandi. And what a great idea about logging out - I will have to try that!

  7. Just found your blog! Love it and am so glad to be here. You make great points and I too am grateful for the plus side of the internet & blogging. How beautiful you share about your losses--and the support you received. My heart's with you & those little angels in heaven!

  8. Hi Mandi!
    Love your thoughts on internet use and you give great tips! That's neat you met your husband via the computer and what a great way to find a job! Networking at its finest :) It's been a blessing to "meet" you in blog world and through our mutual friends. Maybe one day the good Lord will allow our paths to cross in real life too :) God bless!

  9. I really appreciated this. While I have recently chosen to delete Facebook, your tips work for all internet activity, including blogs. I have considered going back to a "dumb" phone so I cannot easily depend on the internet, but you are right, in these times, it can sometimes be okay to depend on google!:)


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