Thoughts On Building a Healthier Relationship with the Internet


I recently started thinking about my (several) passions and the role they played in my life. When I was a child, my main hobbies were drawing and painting, and doing random craft projects inspired by Art Attack, in addition to playing with friends or alone. Growing up, I abandoned all the former (offline) hobbies and blogging became my new passion project, especially during highschool, when I discovered the web. But we all know that the internet is like a black hole, once you're in, times flies and you can spend 3 hours at the computer without even noticing it.

Lately, I started missing my old hobbies, so I decided to be more intentional with my time online, because this instant gratification thing that social media give us is very bad for my ability to focus on one thing at a time for more than a couple of minutes, plus it's unhealthy. I also realized something that made me freak out: I couldn't even watch a TV show without checking my phone, it's a bad twitch. It's scary.

Here are some steps I took forward to have an healtier relationship with my tech during the last few months:
  • I check out Feedly only from my tablet. After abandoning Bloglovin', I moved my list of blogs to follow over Feedly, which is more robust, has more features (even a Chrome extension) and it isn't social. These perks, though, made me accumulate a ginormous library of sites and it was so easy to reach out the browser bookmark when I got bored at my laptop, because I knew there was always something new to read there. So, I purged my list and deleted the bookmark, using it only from the tablet app now, this means I can use it only when I actually have time to spend intentionally reading.
  • I save articles to read later on Instapaper. I love this tool, because it's free and has a cleaner interface than Pocket, also it allows me to highlight quotes and save articles for future reference. It's also a good way to properly read the articles and posts from my favorite blogs when I have time to dedicate them and leave meaningful comments.
  • I use the Medium app only from my tablet. I used to check Medium on my phone all the time, that site is the hub of productivity articles and I could spend hours browsing through the contents (very unproductive, I know!), but having it only on my tablet prevents me to procrastinate.
  • My tablet is my reading tool. I still use and love my Kindle ereader for books, but my 10 inches tablet is a nice companion and my mind associates it with "serious" stuff, because of all these reading apps installed and the lack of social media and games that might distract me. Also, I use it for taking notes at university, store articles, slides from my professors and so on.
  • The only social media app on my smartphone is Instagram. Well, I have Snapchat too, but I only use it to send silly selfies to my parents and close friends these days; since the launch of Instagram Stories, basically all the people I was following stopped posting on Snapchat.
  • I use Facebook like an hybrid version of Reddit. I deleted my actual profile 3 years ago and I created a new (secret) one that I use to manage a couple of pages and to interact inside groups, I don't have any RL friends or family members there. Most people says they couldn't leave Facebook, because they use it to stay in touch with people, well, I never used it that way, because I have WhatsApp for that purpose!
  • I don't use Twitter anymore. During the last 6 months, Twitter became the hub of sadness for me, because of politic and negative tweets that come out every hour of the day. I started purging my following, create lists and things like that, but they are useless if even your friends share that stuff, so I decided to step away from that. I've set up email notifications for mentions and I have a couple of IFTTT recipes to share my latest articles and blog posts. I feel incredibly better away from that negativity.
  • I'm taking a break from Instagram challenges. I decided to try and stick with photo challenges for the last couple of years, because I wanted to consistently post at least once a day, but I didn't have enough ideas to do that, so they were what I needed to keep sharing with consistency. I used Later to schedule photos to share at certain times and I had monthly lists of prompts on Trello. Now I am enjoying the app sharing photos only when I feel like it, even if I stay a week without posting.
Stepping away from all this, made le realize a couple of things. For example, I didn't have a private hobby anymore, everything has been shared online. I started studying hand-lettering and calligraphy last year, but I stopped it eventually because I felt the pressure to share my progress all the time, because I thought people expected it. This sounds incredibly silly, I know, but this is how my mind worked. I definitely want to start this hobby again, but I won't tell the world about it this time. Same with LOTRO, I felt the need to share my in-game experience because some players followed me back on Twitter, I even wrote a couple of posts here on the blog, but, to be fair, it wasn't super spontaneous, I was, once again, feeling the pressure to let people know my progress.

While I was writing this post, a blogger I admire also published a recap of her social media detox, I think it's an inspiring reading and I invite you to visit her blog.

I leave you with a quote by Alexandra Franzen:

Yet, in the midst of my tweetery, I often felt a nagging feeling inside. A voice asking, “Alex, is this really how you want to be spending your life-minutes? Isn’t there something else that might be a more meaningful use of your time? Wouldn’t you rather be walking outside, talking to your mom, writing a novel, having sex, working out, mailing a letter, volunteering, you know, all of those things that you ‘never have enough time’ to do?”

How I Use Google Keep As My Main Inbox


After the announcement of the upcoming Wunderlist demise, I started using Todoist for my daily tasks, I also moved there all my other random lists, but not having due dates, those tasks were a bit hidden to me, especially on the mobile app. Todoist is great if you basically only check the Today or Next 7 Days sections while on the go, but the rest of your projects aren't immediately reachable, it requires too many steps for me to get there and this way I tend to forget about them. I know the desktop app is better and I use it to plan my week, but I mostly check Todoist on my phone.

That's why I decided to use Google Keep as my main Inbox and Capture tool. The main reason why I love the app, in addition to the smartphone widgets and the Chrome clipping extension, is that, when you open it, everything is in front of you. Sure, you can archive notes (and I usually do that adding tags for things I want to reference in the future), but everything you add stays in this general space which is like an infinite inbox or, how I like to see it, a digital whiteboard full of post-its. You can drag and drop the notes, search them, and order them the way you prefer, but you can also pin them to the top or add tags to keep things organized. No notebooks, text formatting or similar though, Keep is super simple.

I started using it more and more after purging my accounts, because I wanted to simplify my life and it was nice having all in one place. I tried to use Evernote as my main capture tool for some time, because I wanted to take vantage of my Premium subscription, but, since I already used it as an archive for my articles and university class notes, I noticed the app was always working in the background using too much battery life and power of my smartphone. Google Keep, instead, is a super light app and works amazingly well on my Android devices.

Being able to add checkboxes and change the color of my notes makes Keep the perfect place for lists (grocery lists, book lists, movie lists, wishlists, you name it), for example, I share a note with my mom that contains the links to the websites of the cinemas we like, so we can easily check their timetables each week.

Other things inside my Google Keep:

  • ideas and random notes
  • books I want to check out at the library
  • articles I want to read later
  • websites to check out from my laptop
  • Instagram hashtags
  • photos of the products I have to buy (like medical stuff that are usually difficult to remember)
  • ebooks on my Kindle that I still have to use
  • drafts of articles
  • quotes


I usually process Keep once a day from my laptop and move tasks to Todoist, ideas to Trello and visit websites. But I don't practice "Inbox zero" there, I still keep my lists for future reference, because, again, I don't like the way they are displayed on Todoist. You can also add time/location based reminders (that are also connected to Google Calendar), but I don't usually use this feature very often to be honest.


I couldn't recommend this app enough, it's free and connected to your Google account (so you don't have to remember another password), it's easy to use even for non techy people, it has a nice layout and it's even connected to Google Docs.

If you like Google Keep, but aren't still sure how to use it, I highly recommend this video, it gave me tons of inspiration.

Do-A-Thon: Intentional Living for One Week (May 1 – 7, 2017)


Better later than never they say. I finally decided to join Mollie's Do-A-Thon for the next week. I never joined a Read-A-Thon before, because I can't finish a book in 7 days with my schedule and not even think about 3 books in 5 days or things like that, but when I saw Mollie's challenge I thought I could at least try participating. In Mollie's words:

What if we applied intentional “marathoning” to our lives outside of books? [...] I want to devote a week of my time to doing the things I always say I’m going to do or want to do. [...] This isn’t bucket-list-athon (though it absolutely can be about those bucket list items). 

The DO-A-THON is meant to be broad, because we all have different tasks, dreams, goals, fears to overcome, and desires. However, to choose intentional goals, the following may serve as a great guide for you:

  • Do one thing that scares you or do something that challenges the story you tell yourself.
  • Complete a project (creative or otherwise) that you’ve been putting off.
  • Do something that involves someone else or do something for someone else.
  • Learn something new.
  • Do something to foster a calm or welcoming environment.
More info can be found on the original blog post and this introductory video.

***

Well, I don't have a task for every single point of the list, but I had to make actionable plans, since I'll have classes from Tuesday to Friday next week. Here are my Do-A-Thon goals:
  • go to the dentist: I already scheduled an appointment, but it was something I kept postponing, since it's always super expensive.
  • contact 2 professors of mine for exam programs: again, another thing I kept postponing, this time only because I'm afraid of the amount of stuff I'll have to study, ugh.
  • finish reading The Fellowship of the Ring: I started rereading LOTR in March and I still have to finish the first book, because I lost my focus and I read 2 other books at the same time this month, but I'm very close to the end so I want to finish it!
  • write another article for Middle-earth News: nothing crazy, but I have tons of ideas and I keep procrastinating, I really want to get better and publish, at least, an article per week.
That's it! Here are my super simple goals for the next week. I never did a challenge like this before, so I don't know what to expect from myself, I don't even know how I'll keep you updated (since I'm supposed to be on a self-imposed Twitter ban, haha), but I hope that writing this down will motivate me to complete this tasks.

10 Years of Blogging


Not longer after creating a new Twitter profile for my productivity articles and more archaeological stuff the other day, I regretted it. It all started when I've been followed by the British Museum during an art week event last year, they followed me as @alicegreenleaf and I immediately felt uncomfortable, because they could now see all my fangirl rambles, LOTR live tweets and so on. I know, that the BM media staff won't actually check out my profile, but I genuinely freaked out when a coworker of the library found me and added me on Twitter. I have nothing secret there, but the italian academic environment is not geek-friendly, you aren't taken seriously if you enjoy/share geeky stuff, even my everyday life friends think that managing social media for Middle-earth News, for example, means playing all day long and procrastinate.

All this made me start having mixed feelings, I created a new profile, I regretted it, I thought about deleting it already and then I decided to self-impose a Twitter ban to myself for the whole month of May. I deleted the app from my phone and set up email notifications for mentions. It's so hard being unemployed and constantly thinking about how you would appear to a possible future boss (especially in a country with a very outdated mentality).

But it's not all. After 10 years of blogging (I started my very first Windows Live Space blog in 2007 after my family acquired our first laptop - the big computer was mainly used by my father for working and occasionally by me for school reasearches and The Sims) I feel tired of sharing, tired of all my many accounts on social media, of not-chronological feeds (I'm looking at you, Instagram). I think the best way to explain it is using Bilbo's words.

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

I keep hearing everywhere that blogs are dead and I think it's true in some ways. There is a new way of blogging, that's all about SEO, stats, numbers and, yes, money. There is nothing wrong in doing what you love, but I'm tired of seeing advertisements everywhere to be honest. If you pay attention to it, Instagram is all about "rep search" and the perfect flatlay, thanks also to a random feed. It used to be a place to share your everyday adventures and, being things displayed in chronological order, it made sense. Now I see breakfast pictures in the evening and sunsets in the morning (from people with my same timezone), it's a mess! The only one that's still has a chronological feed is Twitter, but for me it's like being in a super crowded room screaming to say something and nobody noticing it.

In the past, I would say myself "you're just burned out, it shall pass", but I think that "uninspired" is the appropriate word. The internet is saturated and I feel myself uninspired. I feel the need to start fresh, but I don't know where to begin, so I end up not showing up anymore.

As I shared on my Instagram stories yesterday, I took only a single photo during this whole week, I will have a Project Life spread full of colorful cards instead of my own pictures. It's not like I used to do and it's annoying to me, because Instagram used to be my happy corner of the internet, a place where you could find me 24/7, the place where everything was beautiful, positive and joyful. It was my hobby.

I toyed with the idea of starting fresh with a new blog, to celebrate my 10 years of blogging, but I'm not actually sure it's what I really want. I simply miss the old days and the inspiration I had.

This is not an announcement to say "The Geeky Burrow is closed, you can find me here and here now", I'll keep this blog as long as I'll be able to afford the domain as a broke student, but I don't exclude I'll start something new on Wordpress.com sometime soon, something very casual and easy to maintain, like from the smartphone app. Micro-blogging always fascinated me, but I never had a good relationship with Tumblr and I saved elirwyn.wordpress.com years ago as a placeholder (fun fact: it's the name of my very first LOTRO character), maybe it would be the right time to start using it. Who knows?

Thank you for reaching the end of my 10 years of blogging rambles! You're the best.

A New Addition to My Tolkien Collection


Last Thursday, I finally made myself a little gift. After checking out my Amazon wishlist very single day for 4 months (no kidding) to track the price, this Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings finally reached 29,90 € and I placed my order. You know, I alredy bought this set back in December for the same price, but it was a gift for a friend, then I received some Christmas money and I wanted to purchase it for myself, but the price was increased around 50 € and I couldn’t afford it. I was hoping it would return around 30 € sooner or later, but I had to wait 4 entire months for that!

However I’m so happy I finally got it (for a good price, yay perseverance!), because as unbelieavable as it might sound, I never watched the Extended Edition BTS of The Lord of the Rings, just a couple from The Two Towers at my friend’s home. Some people might say I wasn’t an actual fan, because I only owned the theatrical cut edition and my shelves aren’t full of memorabilia (I got my own replica of the One Ring in my early 20s), but believe me when I say that Peter Jackson’s movies have been everything to me during my teens and deeply shaped my life. It’s just that DVDs were incredibly expensive at that time!

After purchasing this box set, I felt incredibly guilty, because it was 30 € after all, plus I was adding something material to my life once again (if you’ve read my previous post about Minimalism, you’d probably know what I mean). But then I remembered what Minimalism is all about: happiness. This box set is not the next shiny object to me, it’s something I really care about, something I wanted since I was 12. It’s a little piece of personal history added to my collection, not a random movie on a DVD.

Middle-earth and the Wizarding World always made me happy and helped me a lot through my life, plus Harry Potter is the only geeky passion I share with my mom (even if she still refuses to accept her inner fangirl), so it’s okay spending money for that once in a while. I’m not going to become a collector and dedicate a whole room to merchandise, so IT’S OKAY, ALICE. It’s okay. Now breathe.These are the best 30 € I’ve spent in the last couple of years, I watched the LOTR BTS for the entire Easter weekend (while I wasn’t eating) and I still have to start The Two Towers! Clearly the DVDs I would bring with me on a desert island. :)

Do you ever feel guilty for your purchases (even if they are super special)?