07 April 2014

Letting Go of Mental Clutter

I’ve been having some issues with my eyes lately. Nothing too worrisome. . . I’m probably just getting old and need reading glasses. I did (do) have a non-serious infection in one eye that is clearing up with drops. 

But for the past few weeks I’ve really noticed how tired, red, and irritated my eyes get when I spend too much time on the computer. (Ahem.) I just can’t do that kind of close work frequently anymore, and therefore ended up with kind of an unintended break from blogging, commenting, interacting as much as I’d like. 

I don’t mean to go all blessings-in-disguise-nothing-happens-by-accident on you, but I do think this is/was ultimately a good thing.

Why?

Because it forced me to evaluate what I really want to look at when I’m online and what is simply mental clutter. I had to admit to myself was how much time I spent following pointless leads and wasting brain space. I began to notice how often I click on links, blogs, and pages that get me riled up for no reason, even when they are well-intentioned and even when I agree with them completely.

I simply don’t have time to do this when I only break out the laptop once a day for a limited amount of time.

I’m sure I have mental clutter in other areas of my life that could use a good spring cleaning as well, but for the purposes of this post I’m focusing on what I read/follow online. (Mostly Facebook, but only because I’m still so new to Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest that I haven’t managed to mangle those yet.)

Oh, I’ve tried this before. But to be perfectly honest, my past attempts were akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Yes, it made me feel better temporarily. Yes, it looked nicer and neater and more streamlined. But, in the end it was still a disaster.

So, even though it’s something I’ve done previously with mixed results, I once again completely re-evaluated what I’m reading/spending time on and why. I considered things like the following:
  • Are those positive parenting, don’t yell at the kids, find the joy in motherhood, here are some helpful tips pages motivating me? Or giving me one more thing to file away under am I doing this right? Are they truly uplifting, or just adding unnecessary stress?
  • What about following/reading articles on vaccination and other science-related topics? Is it doing me any good to get in a huff over this daily? Do I need to nod my head along with folks who agree with me?
  • Here’s one that was hard to look at: group homeschooling blogs. Were these really helping me in my journey, or giving me too much information to process? Do I really need to take this in every single day? Do I need to read other peoples’ problems/questions on a regular basis? Do I feel compelled to respond?
What did I do differently this time? What did I cut out of my social media world now that I couldn’t see as contributing to the problem in the past?

For starters, I stopped reading all of the above. With very few exceptions, I no longer have these “encouraging” articles coming through my newsfeed. Even the really “good” ones which promote all sorts of positive things and give terrific suggestions and which I’ve felt connected to for years. I no longer have the desire to take in this much information, no matter how relevant and useful it may appear on the surface.

I also limited the number of personal blogs/pages I follow on a regular basis to about 30. This number will likely increase, but for now I want to concentrate on supporting individual parenting/homeschooling bloggers I feel I can relate to on some level. I’d rather have a few interesting blogs to read than a newsfeed full of mediocre ones.

I made a conscious effort to not follow interesting-sounding links that have nothing to do with my personal life. (So long, HuffPost and Thought Catalog and Buzz Feed.) I don’t have time to read about/think about problems I don’t have. 

All but one news source, gone. (For the record, I chose BBC World News, which I only follow on Facebook. They tweet stories/headlines obsessively—it was overtaking my Twitter feed—but share a manageable amount of main stories on Facebook.) I found that most other news entities, particularly U.S.-based ones, were often sharing a lot of “excess” in the way of entertainment and other unimportant non-news. I need to know what’s going on in the world, but I don’t have time to weed through chatter to get to the basics.

I want what I interact with online to rejuvenate me, not stress me out further. I’ve had to accept that sometimes what I think is “helping” me become a better parent, a better homeschooler, a better whatever is just . . . not.

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