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"I hate the internet for what it brings out in me" - Thoughts on Conquering Distraction

I received a thought-provoking email from a reader about the nature of the internet. Here's the key quote that I think many people with empathize with:

I feel like a big luddite for saying this, but I hate the internet for what it brings out in me.

... I am trying to deal with what can only be described as an addiction.

Addiction to high-stimulation-distraction is quite common for intelligent people in the modern era. Surfing the internet, video games, things like that. There's sort of a natural selection websites go through, where the more addicting sites win out and spread and take marketshare and mindshare away from less addicting sites. Paul Graham wrote about this in, "The Acceleration of Addictiveness."

Three key thoughts for you, and then I'll share some of my experience with it -

The endless voice of fear and paranoia

On The Tiny Octopus

Hello again - kind of a small follow up to my overanxiety and such posts. I was resting earlier and trying to do a half meditation regarding what is the source of negative overanxious thoughts. I think a lot of people suffer from bad idle thoughts during downtime or periods of unfocused thinking. Anyway it'd be nice to get these to stop as they generate all sorts of unwarranted negativity that will likely never come true.

The process: I was just letting my thoughts run wild and then in the middle of it just grab a sudden burst of consciousness and try to figure out where that train of thinking originated. I couldn't find it most of the time. For reference this same process is how one trains themselves to be lucid dreamers (waking up consciously while still sleeping/dreaming with the added bonus of being able to control the dream consciously). Anyway I just realized a lot of my thinking was automatic and while I could trace the train of thought I could not originate it most of the time. Scary stuff huh - most of our thoughts are spawned from some sort of nothingness without our conscious input.

That's when it hit me. Maybe negative thoughts are just reptilian brain autopilot. It is like we are born with microcomputers embedded inside us which play an infinite sort of paranoia loop regarding things we need to do to survive. If it's not eat / drink / sleep / shelter it's pay the bills or I hope x,y,z doesn't happen etc... Basically it's an automated task you can't really quit that runs in the background if you idle your thoughts enough to peek behind the hood. Given that maybe it's best not to take it too seriously then as it's original intent is to keep our physical bodies intact. With that goal maybe it is better we have these reptilian brains lest we aim our thoughts too high then forget to tend to ourselves for a couple days and fall ill or die.

Anyway to conclude: there's a delicate balance at hand here. We should check on it every so often like a task calendar but not become so obsessed with it to the point of actually just staring at it and ruminating at the contents for hours. It's there to keep you alive and it's there to give you information - and that's it. When you're driving you keep your eyes on the road and what's in front of you. You should not be staring at the speed gauge obsessively all the way down the road as that is a sure-fire recipe for an accident. The reptilian paranoia brain is a point of reference and a survival tool but given the amount of attention you give it in your life it should remain solely as a reference. Check the speed every so often but keep your focus and drive on your destination.

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