It’s too easy to get caught up in what I call the Infinite Loop, which I’ve blogged about in the past (here and a similar guest post here). Basically the Infinite Loop is a cycle of online checking that just keeps cycling back to the beginning.
For example, I’ll be on the Internet to check my personal email account, then I’ll check my email account I use for the blog and author correspondence, then my editor email, then I’ll check in on Facebook and Twitter, maybe then I’ll check my website stats for the day and reply to comments on my blog, then my Twitter account might ping and I’ll go check to see what’s going on there again, and so on and so forth. By the time I’ve gone through all my checks so much time has passed, I’ll have to start all over again, and by then I’m so stuck in the Infinite Loop, I’m like a hamster running in one of those wheels who’s never gonna get out.
Part of the reason why it’s so hard to get out is because I’m so connected all the time with my phone, which is pretty much never turned off these days. It’s so convenient not to have to turn on my laptop just to check my email, but it’s ON All THE TIME! And I usually boot up my laptop when I have an hour or two when the boys nap in the afternoon. I’ll have all the best intentions of going on to write, but then I decide “just to check my email” and BAM, three hours have gone by and The Boy is up from his nap needing attention and The Prince needs to be nursed.
I’m a work-at-home mom who writes and edits, i.e. I’m home with just the kiddos all day and it’s often hard to feel connected to the outside, adult world. The Internet is great for that, but you gotta set some limits. There are all kinds of things you can do to keep from getting stuck in the Infinite Loop for too long from the simple set-a-timer and then sign off to programs that block your Internet connection for a set amount of time.
But I’m not really interested in discussing that right now. What I really want to talk about is why I get stuck in the Loop. I think I’ve pinned it down to not wanting to miss anything. The Internet is such a wide, awesome resource for connecting. I don’t want to miss that latest interesting or important news bit, I don’t want to miss that so-and-so agent is having a pitch contest, I don’t want to miss that cutie little picture of my friend’s daughter.
Here’s the rub, though. If I don’t choose to disconnect and miss those “important” Internet things, I’m going to miss out on a lot more. I’m going to miss having some real down time for myself, I’m going to miss important writing time, I’m going to miss important reading time, I’m going to miss letting my brain wander free without stimulation, I might even miss a precious moment or two with the kiddos.
So right here, right now I’m going to give myself permission to miss stuff on the Internet. If the news is really worth hearing, I’ll eventually hear it. There is always some kind of pitching contest going on, and besides, I can always query my next project without any kind of contest. That friend with the cutie daughter posts plenty of pictures, so missing a few won’t be a big deal.
And I’m going to give you permission as well. Don’t feel like you have to answer every email as it comes in; don’t let yourself be constantly be bombarded by your Twitter feed; heck, I’ll even say don’t read my blog unless you feel really compelled to and have the time. Because if we don’t step away from the keyboard or smartphone, step out of the Infinite Loop, and allow ourselves to miss all those wonderful (and admittedly often dumb) things on the Internet, then we’re gonna miss out an awful lot on real life. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to give up my real life for a virtual one.