Why “put down your phone and go outside” is Bad Advice.

by madi_hexa1 min read20th Apr 20211 comment

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Self ImprovementTherapyPractical
Personal Blog

If you’re like me in 2017, your phone is your drug of choice. My insurance didn’t provide me with any internet abuse rehab options. (Though at least one place exists.) I was sick of being a NEET and spending all my time online, so I gave my phone and laptop to a friend because a lot of people on Reddit had talked about this “cold turkey” approach. Cut to me asking for my devices back a day later. My friends were all too nice to actually hold me accountable. So I descended back into the murky ocean of online lurking, my life experience reduced to an endless scroll, searching for novel information and parasocial fantasies. 

The cold turkey approach and similar “digital detox” methods are very popular in the “no surf” community. I see the appeal, it’s tempting to blame the internet on all of your problems and assume you’re better off without it. For hardcore internet users, which I believe is becoming the norm for young and old alike, it’s just probably not realistic or even all that helpful. 

Cut to 2021- I’m in school and employed. I’m still an “internet person” but my phone screen time is around 2.5 hours per day when I used to hover around 15. I use my laptop for school and only fall into endless scrolling hell when I’m particularly depressed. 

“Put down your phone and go outside.” didn’t work for me. I went to therapy. At some point I gained the ability to actually experience life directly, to be present in the current moment. I realized that the reason I had no life is because I was constantly escaping it. I had to start feeling my feelings. Running away wasn’t working.

 

That's the tldr; of how I escaped NEETdom. The recovery process is a bit more complex than I've alluded to, maybe I'll make a part 2 in the future.

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maybe I'll make a part 2 in the future

Please do. Although "the standard advice does not work" is a useful information, telling us what worked would be even more useful. Removing one option still leaves a huge search space.

I agree that various forms of escape are less about the attractivity of the addictions (although yes, they do become more efficient, and after some time they form a habit) and more about unattractivity of the life you are trying to escape. Back when we did not have internet with all the dark patterns, some kids spent entire day reading books. Blocking one escape route may just drive you to find another.

I think it is easier to feel your feelings when you also have someone you can discuss them with openly, at least once in a while. Therapy can work, good friends too. It probably helps to get an outside perspective on where you need to adapt to your environment (learn to suffer the frustrations of everyday life), and where you need to actively change the environment (do some work to fix the things that frustrate you). As in the classic "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference", the therapist or the friend can provide the wisdom, so you can focus on the remaining two parts.