The virtual storage hub of information, otherwise known as the internet, does many spectacular things. It can arguably be used to improve just about anything, or at the very least, point you in the direction of someone or something that can help.
The internet holds a salient potential to be used as a tool to influence the brain for the better. But what about the negative consequences of stimulation and information overload?
The impact that the internet can have on mental health can be broken down into two ways: how the content itself affects us, and how we interact with the content.
The Effects of Absorbing Internet Content
Even when you’re intentionally navigating the internet with a specific question or need for information, you’re almost guaranteed to be bombarded by some other information that you did not ask for. Our brains move so quickly that we instantly take in this information, much of the time subconsciously. Even if this information is absorbed through our unconscious mind, it is still registered and stored somewhere within our overall consciousness.
There’s a chance it will be brought to light by a triggering thought or action, but if it isn’t, it remains dormant. In this dormancy, the information does not stop affecting us. Instead, our brains draw upon it to form the perceptions that we have every day. This then affects our physical actions, and these actions become how we engage or interact with the information we’re taking in.
Of course, this cycle can be beneficial. However, most of the time, there is no way to guarantee how it might affect you until it does. Internet consumption can impact our language processing, attention and executive function, emotion, and reward systems in the brain. It’s a gamble with our mental health that we take regularly.
What’s an Internet Fast? How Do I Try One?
An internet fast is similar to the idea of fasting nutritionally. It’s the concept of taking a hiatus or distance from an action we’re used to doing innately. That’s the thing. It does feel innate. The tendency to pick up your phone the same systematic way you breathe.
If you find that the internet has become difficult to turn away from, it might be time to create a physical distance.
It’s different from a digital detox, however. Creating space between you and all of your devices is one thing, and working to address the way you process information from the internet is another. A fast can help with this. Follow these tips for using a fast to improve this process in your life.
Plan It Ahead of Time
The same way you’d plan a vacation, schedule your time away from the internet. It’s not lost on us that there are some very legitimate reasons that the internet is necessary daily. Make a temporary commitment to finding ways around these obstacles for an allotted amount of time. Most cell phones have an option for emergency calls and notifications to come through despite the device being placed on a “Do Not Disturb” mode.
Physically Turn Your Internet Connection Off
You didn’t need a whole article to tell you that merely turning your internet off is an excellent way to limit its place in your life. But, the act of turning it off can create a psychological association. Check with your provider to see if you can schedule “WiFi” breaks.
Recalibrate Your Relationship
The key is deciding how the internet will be regarded as moving forward once the fast is over. A fast may be tactful for regaining mental clarity in general, but where is the progress if you fall into the same struggle?
Decide what the internet’s new place is in your life and set boundaries. Having it temporarily on hold will help you identify where it is most present in your life. As well as present you with an opportunity to change it going forward.