How I Made My Online Diet Healthier in January

27 Jan 2012

Wall of Rainbow Chard

Whew! That was quick. It's already time to report on the first month of my "Healthier Online Diet" project!

So, when I announced this thing, I said that my first decision would be to choose a few ideas each month that I wanted to focus on, and apply that filter to my online time.

Screen Shot 2012-01-10 at 1.46.44 PM

You know what? That didn't work. Overall, the nature of the internet landscape is just too varied and unsorted and rich. Applying these subject-matter filters did help me to avoid some needless link-following, but at the end of the month, I don't feel like I've gained anything much in terms of these key subjects.

I realized that this is because there are essentially two brands of internet-consuming for me:

  • Random wandering
  • Focused searching

Anytime I want to know more about sewing clothes or plastic canvas, all I have to do is turn to Google. But honestly, that's best done when I have a specific question to answer, like "how do I build my own dressmaker's dummy?" or "who is building space-vehicle models from plastic canvas?"

rain down.
Image by kelsey_lovefusionphoto, via Flickr

The focused searching, I realized, isn't my problem in terms of creating a healthier online diet. It's the random stuff that feeds into my consciousness from Twitter that consumes time and overstuffs my brain. If I want to enjoy the community and conversation on Twitter, I have to find a way to cope.

So, I gave myself permission to follow waaaaaay fewer links this month, and that was helpful. I know so many people on Twitter at this point who share tons of links all day long, but there's no way I can provide everyone with clicks and reactions. So instead, I followed only those links where the tweeter gave me enough understanding of why I'd find the link valuable. That helped – I gained some time and brainspace, and I saw more that was genuinely interesting to me.

…And also interestingly, I discovered that it really is true that anything I truly need to see will find its way to me. I saw links to Alex Gross blow through my Twitter feed yesterday, but wasn't compelled to click. And this morning, K turned to me and said, "Hey, have you seen this guy who turns old photographs into superhero portraits?" Turns out, I'm glad I did.


Un-Pinning Pinterest

I also stayed away from Pinterest this month, and you know what? That was kind of wonderful. For one thing, the problem of bad attribution over there seems to be growing worse and worse, and repinning so often becomes a ridiculous hunt for the original creator's link. It just frustrates me too much.

Not only that, I realized that I've been staring at that endless stream of images as a means of distraction. I don't think these images help me toward being a better or more original designer. I think they just overstuff my head with pictures. Staying out of that stream has definitely helped me think more deeply about my own projects in progress.

Tomato as pin cushion

Image by blmurch, via Flickr

In future, I'll just apply that "focused searching" mode to Pinterest as well. When I have a specific project happening and need visual references, there's a search box that will deliver what's relevant to my needs.

Perhaps we're making some big assumptions that these socially-based tools require our constant presence, when in fact we can really just swoop in and use them as tools when we actually need them. What do you think?

February Computer Desktop Wallpaper/Calendar

Image by redstamp, via Flickr

For next month…

So, what info-health change will I make in February? I want to put some focus to blogs – the number of them I read, why I read them, and how I approach that reading. I feel like the state of general online overload has us poised for another big evolution in how blogging fits into our lives.

I'll report back here! Thank you for witnessing this project. Your presence makes a hige difference.


"I get a general feeling, from friends and readers of my blog, that many people are over their first crush on the internet. Looking for new ways to relate, to cut back, to create and do more than browse and curate and market and procrastinate."

Kate, that is gorgeously-said. I've been elbow-deep in podcasts from 2005 and 2006 lately, and getting a taste again of that first crush, when everything felt so new and exciting - and there was a LOT less of it to keep up on. Those were great times!

I think you're right - we're on the cusp of a big evolution in how we relate to the web. I think one component of it will be for us to stop assuming we "need" to be present on every internet tool, even as marketers, and find those few that really provide us with the experiences we want to have. The social web is a very exciting thing, but it cannot respect the limits of human time and attention, so we have to step in and mind our own overload.

Thank you, Pam! :-)

Ooh, I love that trick, Ellen! I may just try that out - very smart!

Are you using Google Reader, perchance? Everything's still there, just in new spots. Feel free to email me with questions, and I can help you.

Spot on! I'll take some time to play, and if I still can't make sense of it, I'll email you again.

" in fact we can really just swoop in and use them as tools when we actually need them."

Yes! This!

I think that it depends on your goals with these tools. If they're tools for YOUR creativity, then let's remember to only go to them when we need something (connection, inspiration, specific answers).
On the other hand, if you're using it as a marketing tool to grow an audience (esp as an "unknown" on the scene), a higher level of involvement (listening, replying, finding, sharing) will be needed at FIRST.

And while it's tempting to tell ourselves that we NEED to be there, 24/7, for "marketing", that's just an excuse to not find another way to be, or to market.

*steps off soapbox and tries to apply this to MYSELF*

I love the order in which you put these things: "listening, replying, finding, sharing." I feel like a lot of business owners, eager to say what they want people to hear, approach social media in the opposite order. And this definitely contributes to the noisy environment we're in.

I say this all the time in my classes: "We love the people who notice us online." I think marketers can get a lot more done just by noticing others.

*Steps off my own soapbox!* :)

I'm intending to do something similar, at least in trimming the list of blogs in my reader, but since it's been redesigned, I'm going to have to invest some time in learning more about the blog reader before I do the sanity check!

Sorry, should have been "really LOVING reading your thoughts on this topic"...

You asked "Perhaps we’re making some big assumptions that these socially-based tools require our constant presence, when in fact we can really just swoop in and use them as tools when we actually need them. What do you think?" I think you are right, but I also think that it's very hard to treat it that way. It's difficult to shout out into the internet, and honestly be unconcerned as to if anyone is listening or approving, will we get any comments, retweets, will someone reply to our helpful suggestions on the forum...

The social part of the internet is addictive. It's natural to feel that one should reciprocate. At worst it becomes a matter of paying for comments or likes, by commenting and liking and the spontaneity is lost. Sometimes the liking can even feel less than genuine. I've noticed that this kind of reciprocal sense of obligation, seems to happen a lot between online buddies, and is less frequent with an offline friend. Good point in your dialogue with Jodi!

I think for any kind of personality type, that has a desire to communicate, to be helpful and supportive, it's very difficult to just float on Twitter or Facebook without feeling like "I should contribute". Which also makes all these online forums addictive!

I get a general feeling, from friends and readers of my blog, that many people are over their first crush on the internet. Looking for new ways to relate, to cut back, to create and do more than browse and curate and market and procrastinate.

Really reading your thoughts on this topic and I'll be most interested to hear what you think of blogging in today's over-saturated digital life!

I have not found much value in roaming idly around Pinterest. I mainly pin things I want to return to. There just is not time in my life to look at everything interesting online. Trimming my online time and trying to keep it a little more focused has let me accomplish a lot in my crafty life - loads of knitting going on around these parts! One stupid thing that seems to work: I generally give Facebook and Twitter a quick look-through on my iPhone instead of sitting down at the computer (once my designated Internet time is over!). I get a quick idea of what people are posting and it has to be a pretty compelling link to make me want to check it out on the phone or fire up the computer to check it out.

Yes, yes and yes. I desperately need to cut back my feeds and let go of my silly fear of missing out. And I think, as my confidence in my creative self grows, that point edges ever closer.
But I still feel slightly panicked whenever I think of a true culling process.
As for Pinterest, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I LOVE it when I get a few blissful hours to get sucked into that vortex of gorgeous images. I feel enriched. But the flipside is I feel pressure to set aside time for the vortex. And then I get irritated when circumstances conspire to keep me away from the vortex. Addiction 101?
As it's been a kind of crazy period Christmas and time away with limited connectivity, it's actually been a couple of months since I've been able to follow my Pinterest stream with any continuity; (hello, my name is Christen and it has been 2 months since my last pin!) and, frankly, just as Dana above did, I feel more relief than anything else.
My head is currently a-swirl with how to balance everything; how to continue to contribute through my blog(which I *truly* love doing) and show appreciation for other's contributions whilst ameliorating my need to trawl through thousands of feeds, thousand of pins (I already just swoop in and out of Facebook and Twitter so they aren't really a drain for me). And that for me is, in a nutshell, what it boils down to: paring back, slowing down and ensuring I place my online focus only where I find things that resonate the *most* with me. Much of my problem, though, is I seem to be able to find resonance in every little thing. But if I'm really strict...Which will also , I hope, leave me with enough time to (re-)engage with all those wonderful people who are putting stuff that I love out there. I don't comment enough anymore. I pin and don't bother to go back to the original source and thank them for that first pin or project or whatever. I'm so overwhelmed with all these "committments" that I'm not even doing the bare minimum and the very thing that I myself want most of all: to hear from poeple for whom my projects or stories or photos have resonated.
Thanks Diane, FAB post.

Thank YOU, TB! I so agree - it does get to feel like a lot of warring obligations after a while. And I think so many of us are finding it harder and harder to find time to leave comments on other blogs, and then feeling sad because we're all getting fewer comments on our own these days.

More and more, blogs are representing something fundamental and essential to me - a chance to know you through the words you sat down, thought through and wrote. That feels like a deeper channel of connection than social media interaction, though I've made a lot of wonderful friends through Twitter. The problem is, it takes time to read a blog post and takes time to comment on it. When my world feels like it's full of these warring online obligations, I rarely feel that I have "enough time."

Howdy. I've been working to make my online diet healthier as well. Last fall, I modified how I approach Pinterest. First, I decided not to endlessly scroll and repin. I instead began to only pin things that I found on my own, perhaps via my feed reader. And, like you, I do focused searches, generally for crafting or decor. Those things I generally "like" and rarely repin them, instead opting to go to the original source and do a fresh pin. Lastly, I do browse the pins of my friends, but I've gotten bolder and have unsubscribed from some of their boards that don't interest me. As an example, I see too many of those ever-popular text images. They can be cute or powerful, but I can do without them and ditch such .

Now, to slim down my feeds ... yikes!

Bravo, Jodi! I think this is a big step many of us fear taking - "tuning out" of friends' streams of info. It definitely feels uncomfortable. But when I separate my emotions from my more logical thinking, I come back to this: no matter how much I may love someone, that doesn't automatically mean I'm obligated to follow their every word online. I can be a good friend without keeping up on tweets and Facebook posts and blog entries. Those are just pieces of information - they aren't the living, breathing person I like and admire.

...However, I have to admit that my emotional brain still drowns that out pretty frequently, and I feel like a bad person. :-/

Oh brava lady! I love this post. The internet is probably the thing in my life that I have the unhealthiest relationship with. My wireless modem broke down a couple of months ago...and I specifically did not fix it, so I would have to plug into the wall. Otherwise my computer would never leave my side...although now it's hilarious how much time I spend in my room. It's an on-going struggle.

I completely agree with your assessment of Pinterest. I feel like it's become Tumblr for crafty types. Re-blogging w/ a bad attribution rap and TOO MUCH CONTENT. It's crack to be sure.

As a single, unemployed mom, my financial means are limited (for now). My appreciation however is abundant and believe me every time I see 'Fattr' and 'donate' buttons my hart jumps with joy because I know they're signs of the new-economy making its way. True, heartfelt sharing of 'whatever' will become a healthy way of making a living. Not long now...
Concerning the overload of images, the only ones that count for you are the ones that pop up from inside. Of course inspiration can be very nourishing but in fact you don't need it. Your images will pop up anyway. Best to not let them get chocked in overloads of inspiration.
"Trusting that what you need finds its way to you" Your blog is the only one I follow and I must say the timing of your thoughts and questions are mysteriously perfect for me. It makes me trust the flow of information even more. Gosh! the internet is becoming a spiritual playground! ;-) x

That's beautifully-said, Chris - "The only images that count for you are the ones that pop up from inside." Amen to that!

I agree with your idea of the web being a 'spiritual playground' - in the sense that information has a kind of magnetic charge to it, and tends to find the minds that seek it. There's something so powerful about getting clear about what you want to know!

When I realize that one out of every four persons in the modern world has a Twitter account, and I guess one out of three has a Facebook account and one out of five has a blog (and most of them just to tell us how their tomatoes are growing), my head spins! (My statistics, nothing scientific here!) It tells me I can't follow everything, and everyone, so I better choose. I have 25 blogs I follow in Google reader, and it's it. Sometimes I delete some, sometimes I add some. I choose very useful blogs, like This is Colossal, providing inspirational artists to share with my students, or crafty Pod, who really talks about relevant subjects, or good looking blogs that make me happy when I look at them. But still I'm spending too much on the computer, even though I'm half dead on Twitter and Facebook! Focus, focus!! (I didn't choose a word for 2012, but it should have been that!)
What keeps me also from not following too much on the internet, is that around me there are still people who don't even own a computer, and they are leading a very happy life! Makes you thinking!

HAHA! Your statistics make me want to go lie down, Mary! :-) That's a really nice idea, limiting the number of blogs you follow to a specific number. That's a bit like limiting a wardrobe to fit within a specific closet - when something new comes in, something older has to go out. And it's nice that each of us gets to decide what sources of information are really useful and valuable to us. I'm glad to see so many of us giving ourselves permission to set limits like this.

Thank you for your kind words about the blog!

I'm so glad I read this post. I'm only just starting my own craft business and have been trawling the net for info on how to go about marketing. Everyone says you need facebook, Twitter, a blog and all the other networking sites. But now I'm feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained from having to keep up, read, repost. And whats worse, all those images are not stimulating my creativity. Instead it's filling my head with too many ideas that keep me awake at night and the time I spend online is keeping me away from actually making things. So thanks for a wake up call. Time to scale back and get back to doing what I loved in the first place.

I'm so glad this post was useful, Michelle! I wish you great success with your new business!

Ooh yes what Kate said! and everyone else for that matter! Perhaps that pendulum is finally swinging back to a good balance? mmmm
I do honestly think there is a huge sense/feeling of obligation as has been suggested, and I know I've been guilty of this myself. Also fully agree that we're feeling that "it all" needs our constant presence and attention and I don't even do twitter or facebook or Pinterest! :)) I'm having this stress from just my blogs and online presence such as my stores, and trying to be something that I think I 'should' be. But I think I'm slowly beginning to master the beast.....slowly.

Look forward to your next post Diane. Esp if it's as good as this one x

I have no interest in Pinterest at all, and do not feel obligated to read every post that comes my way. Unless it's directly connected to what I'm working on at the time, I tend to bookmark the post if I'm 'interested', and chances are when I get back to it, it really doesn't interest me enough to read it. Right click, delete is a very good thing for my creativity and my painting has not suffered in the least.

"...I realized that I’ve been staring at that endless stream of images as a means of distraction. I don’t think these images help me toward being a better or more original designer. I think they just overstuff my head with pictures."

So accurate, and an exact explanation of why I haven't joined Pinterest in the first place. Flickr, for that matter, can be a little overwhelming. There is so much out there, and the need to consume can become overwhelming and even paralyzing. Ditto for social media.

Wow, congratulations! That's not easy to do - in fact, I don't think my RSS reader has EVER been at zero. Ack!

I use pinterest for bookmarking only. I see so much content, I don't need more.

One thing I did that's helped is get my Google reader down to zero items. It was an accident. I was sick and sat all day with my laptop either reading or deleting down to nothing. If I can keep it manageable, I'll see good stuff and when it runs out go on to other things.

That's a nice idea, Elizabeth - do we want the real-time picture or the catch-up session? Both seem like valid choices to me, and it's cool that we have communications options for both.

Thank you, Aviva! :-)

There's some really wonderful comments on this post.

One of my main take-aways when it comes to how much time I spend online is this: No expects us to keep up with every aspect of their life in person, so why should we try online? Outside of those that live in your house, you don't know the every day details of everyone you've ever known, so why do we do this to ourselves online? It's crazy.

There's also a lot of be said for the perspective that summarizing the week or seasons of life in a good catch up session with a friend provides.

I've stayed away from Pinterest because I fear the time suck I know it would create. I figure I already have more than enough distractions. And like you say, the things that I need to see, those things will find a way to pop up other places. And they do!

I really appreciate you not only tackling these issues, but sharing your progress and what you're learning. As always, you inspire me! :)

Great post, Lauren - thanks for sharing the link! I haven't tried this technique yet. It's also something Julia Cameron assigns as an exercise in The Artist's Way. Maybe after a period of releasing myself from all the perceived obligations of being online, I'll feel more comfortable taking that kind of break. I'm glad it had such far-reaching effects for you!

i appreciate your efforts to cut back. i have cut my reader way back and don't feel i am missing stuff. frankly, it's a relief.

as a visual person, i doubt browsing photos will ever end, but now i feel less obligation.

i have more cutting to do. thanks for the inspiration.

Having you ever considered doing a full-fledged "media diet" for a week? I did one similar to the one prescribed in Timothy Ferris' "Four Hour Workweek" and it helped enormously by breaking the addiction/compulsion I had to surfing. I wrote a little bit about it here if that helps. :)

I love that you have created this series of peaks into your process - wins and fails at finding a way to have a healthier online diet!

Seriously, I don't do twitter, or facebook, and haven't visited pinterst in ages - my google reader is my only window to what is going on in virtual space and that is more than i can keep up with if i spend any quality time crafting.

We can not have our cake and and cookies and pie and custard and still have room for veggies!

Heh! That's so true!!

I agree with you. Since your last post I stopped reading about projects that I might want to do someday and focused on stuff that I want to do now. Let face it the net the is full ideas and crafty people can get swept away in looking at other peoples ideas and coming up with their own spin on it. Then our minds get so full that we can't decide what we want to or how to organize those thoughts into an actual project because we're so overwhelmed. So instead we start the cycle again because we're stuck. I also don't have time anymore to do crafty things because school has started up and I need to reserve brain space for that and honestly crafts/blogs distract me. I would be thinking about how to make something while writing a paper instead of just giving my mind to the paper.