Understanding the addiction that keeps me from my dreams
I feel like a failure writing this. I already attempted quitting technology to focus on my goals multiple times; I watched a "last" YouTube video and celebrated playing a "final" round of Counter-Strike, only to fall back into the same habit of spending hours in front of a screen a few days later. I can't follow through with my technology breakup, which scares me because I'll never reach the life I dream of if I keep wasting my time.
On the 25th of September 2021, I published My Breakup with Technology. I promised to become a digital minimalist for one year and focus on my Big Goal. One year later, I am writing the same article again while not being any closer to my goals and spending my days consuming content. I made a big fuss about the exact time I finished my "last" YouTube video, and I stopped watching for 100 days, but that streak ended when I started researching my Perfect Digital Setup.
Is YouTube Bad, Though?
YouTube videos inspire my new digital setup, and I would have never thought about using a Zettelkasten method - the most incredible recent addition to my life - if it wasn't for this video by Artem Kirsanov. Do I intentionally miss out on a unique source of information because I don't have the mental strength not to watch someone playing video games?
- Time is my most valuable possession
The thousands (sadly accurate) of hours I spend on YouTube stand in no relation to the advantages I get from them. I know I would be closer to my dreams if I'd spent those hours working on my projects instead (The Blaubär Era), and frankly, thinking about the hours I spend mindlessly consuming digital content or playing games fills me with regret. Sometimes I am convinced I have already wasted a big part of my life.
- Better sources of knowledge
The other day I watched another 30-minute video on different note-taking apps to realise afterwards that I haven't learned anything new. When paying close attention, a lot of information on YouTube is very shallow, barely scratching the surface of a topic while dragging out the video. My time would be spent better looking for higher quality sources - a more challenging yet rewarding process.
- I want to live my life in the moment
While time is my most important currency, the moment is the most important point in time. Consuming digital media pulls me out of the moment I'm currently experiencing and shows me a moment in someone else's life which doesn't have any relevance to me. I want to live my life, and the digital world is keeping me away from that.
For my whole life, I was interested in technology, loved video games, and shared my photos online. Lately, though, I realised that I don't enjoy the digital world anymore. A place that was inspiring and happy now drains and depresses me.
I saw a picture of my grandfather reading the newspaper while having breakfast in a hotel I had just stayed at myself. While he read a summary of significant events in the world and afterwards focused on experiencing the day at a unique location, I spend my morning consuming other people's days on Instagram and reading about all the misery in faraway countries, and during the day, I pay more attention to Reddit than the environment around me. I realised that I am envious of my grandfather, who lived in a time without digital distractions. But should I? After all, I can eliminate the negative influences while keeping the advantages.
I know many people won't agree with this mindset and might be better at controlling the house they spend in front of screens - and that's ok. Though, if you see a little bit of yourself in what I have written so far, you can follow the journey I'm embarking upon, including any tips I find along the way in my newsletter.
So I just stop watching videos? Why do I constantly fail at this simple task?
I never thought of having an addictive personality because I never struggled with any "common" addictions. When I read articles about internet addictions, I always disregarded them as being written by old people who don't understand technology. One of my classmates nearly failed school because he spent all his time playing World of Warcraft, but I was always far from these numbers, and while digital tools always played a significant role in my free time, I never considered this behaviour to be unhealthy. But my struggle to quit made me rethink. Am I addicted to the digital world? To the consumption of meaningless content and the "social interactions" with people who don't even know I exist?
An addiction can destroy someone's life, and while I don't want to go so far as to say that technology is ruining my life, it is keeping me away from the life of my dreams. And if I don't manage to break this habit, I might never reach my goals.
I can't see how much time I spend watching videos, but Steam gives me a good idea about the time I spend playing Counter-Strike ... and it is scary. I could have already been there if I had spent those hours on my goals. But the time I worked towards my dreams is a joke in comparison. I know the life I am dreaming of and what I have to do to get there, yet on a daily basis, I choose to invest my time consuming meaningless content.
This thought inspired my first project after my digital breakup: The Blaubär Era: matching the time I spent in Counter-Strike with progress.
How can I follow through with my digital breakup? This isn't my first try, after all, and the past has shown that I always fall back into old habits. I celebrate watching my last video, only to be back on the screen a week later. How can I ensure that I follow through?
To be honest, I don't know. I feel that this is the golden question whose answer is the key to the life of my dreams.
- Preparing my environment
In Atomic Habits, I learned how my environment influences how I act. To spend less time in the digital world, I blocked social media sites on my phone, uninstalled apps I don't want to use, and stored away my gaming mouse. I also moved my phone charger to the kitchen and make it a point not to carry my phone in my pocket the whole time.
- The goal in front of my eyes
I printed an image of an oyster yacht and have it lying on my desk. It reminds me of the dream I work towards, and I look at it when I am tempted to give up on working hard. Going back to consuming digital content would mean giving up on ever reaching this goal.
- Something to relax
I cannot work every hour of the day and need some time to relax. These are the moments when I open up YouTube and get trapped. I need something analogue to do in my free time, so I grabbed a book I haven't read yet from my shelf and put it next to the picture on my desk. When I need a break, I read a few pages instead of watching a video.
- Hold myself accountable
Sharing this journey creates some pressure to follow through. It didn't help the first time, but it'll make giving up a bit more embarrassing.
- Just Do It
And at some point, I have to stop talking about doing things and follow through with my plans.
So today, on the 7th of October 2021, I will break up with technology (again). I will prioritise my analogue life over digital consumption and focus on working towards my dreams instead of consuming other people's lives.
If you want to see how it will turn out, you can do so in my monthly newsletter.