Monday, March 26, 2012

Why You Should Quit Reddit (and other internet forums)

Popular social news website is a hub for links, information, and discussion that determines millions of people's daily experience of the internet. I began using Reddit in 2007 after being introduced to it by a friend. I was going through a particularly dependent phase of my life in which I was masking my biggest problems with all manner of distractions - marijuana and the internet being the two most prominent. It's no surprise, then, that I took to Reddit more or less instantaneously.

I was drawn in by Reddit's interesting links, sensational political messages, and instant response discussions. As the site evolved and became more sophisticated, subreddits devoted to increasingly specific topics took shape. It became easier to congregrate with (kind of) like-minded people. It wasn't necessarity the quality of the content that kept me engaged and coming back as much as the rapid-fire discussion and the highly effective boredom killing and procrastination that Reddit's constant link clicking provided.

I never read anything on Reddit that had a lasting impact on my life (except that one comment in that one thread that told me to push the tab of my pants zipper down to keep them from unzipping. That saved me from throuwing out an 80 dollar pair of jeans). There were many instances of 'huh, that's interesting', and 'how could he say that!', but overall, the whole experience felt very empty and lacking.

The much more tangible consequences of my frequent use of Reddit led to a cyclical feeling of guilt whenever I logged on. I would think 'yep, I'm destroying my attention span right now' because of the instantly gratifying nature of the site , or 'yep, I could be actually doing something productive right now'. Incessant link-clicking also destroyed my attention span, and I found myself unable to complete simple tasks away from my computer (picture yourself pacing around your room with one sock on, throwing things around trying to uncover the pen or other stupid object that you absent-mindedly misplaced).

I was miraculously able to break this cycle for a while by forcing myself to get busy with real-world pursuits, but returned to Reddit after realizing that Reddit could be a potentially valuable tool to promote myself. After I became more serious about my music, I began posing my work on Reddit's r/WeAreTheMusicMakers and r/ThisIsOurMusic subreddits. I gained a few fans that way, but I eventually realized that it was an inferior method of promoting my music in the larger picture. Additionally, most of the other music that users submitted was not nearly as good as what I could see by simply going out to one of my favorite neighborhood venues on any night of the week. There, I get the added benefit of networking with real, active local musicians.

People's tastes on the music forums also ran in a singular, homogenized (and questionable, to someone who has spent several years entrenched in the East Coast indie rock business) direction. This was symptomatic of a larger problem that spanned the entire site, something that 'Redditors' (that's what active users of the site call themselves. I was never comfortable using that word even though I probably fit that description) call the 'hive mind'.

Among the many problems with the Reddit hive mind is the predominant site-wide mentality that it cultivates. Reddit is primarily populated by introverted, American and European male teenagers and college students. This fosters a sitewide culture that is predominantly politically left-leaning, atheist, and misogynist. Being an apolitical spiritual female, this culture didn't really jive with me. Users will fervently downvote views that deviate from the accepted views of the predominant established culture.

Furthermore, Reddit users invest an unhealhty amount of their identities in simply being users of the site. Wow, you're a lonely comp-sci major who spends his free time browsing a large internet forum and reading memes? You are SO COOL! Tell me all about yourself! I think this ties into a larger social problem of deriving our identities by what we consume instead of what we produce, but that's a topic for another day.

I finally left Reddit after four and a half years of on-and-off use. I've deleted all of my accounts and blocked the website from my browser. I'm a few months in, and I have to say that it really has made an enormous difference in my attention span, productivity, and outlook on life. I find myself spending less time on the internet overall - in other words, quitting Reddit helped me to drop the other pointless things I was doing on the internet. I will always regret wasting countless thousands of hours on Reddit that I could have put into more meaningful activities that actually brought me closer to my dreams and goals.

In the first week, I found myself wanting to go onto an internet forum and talk about how I had just quit Reddit. Aside from realizing that doing so would only propagate my problem elsewhere, those moments gave me a new insight into the nature of my habit and what exactly it was that drew me into Reddit and internet forums in general. Participating in a forum made me feel like I had someone to talk to any time. I realized that this was a poor substitute for actually going out into the real world and talking to people face-to-face. Further, freeing up the time I spent on Reddit could help me actually work toward the life I talked about having on Reddit.

A few months into being free from Reddit and other internet forums, I've noticed many positive changes. My overall mood and outlook on life is better (largely because I am not paying any attention to news or politics). My attention span is much improved. I no longer drop simple tasks in the middle of doing them. It is much harder to distract me. My existing friendships have improved. I go out more, and as a result have been meeting more people, including several more-than-friends. I am much more productive and my time management has improved.

It's truly mind-blowing how many means and ways there are for people to waste their time and energy with technology. In my mind, Reddit and internet forums are just a notch above TV and video games in terms of how much value they provide to the user (that is, not a lot at all). If you are really serious about getting productive, cut these things out of your life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Is EFT Tapping?

I love EFT.

EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. It is the practice of clearing out physical pain, negative emotions, and bad energy from the body. To perform EFT,  you repeat certain problems or affirmations to yourself while gently tapping on a specific set of points on your body:

(image from

How to Do EFT

Let's say you've been dumped by your partner and you're still really mad at them. The anger is driving you crazy. 

Perfect. EFT is great for this. 

Begin by tapping on the side of the hand (labeled as the "Karate Chop Point" in the above illustration) with your fingertips. Gentle pressure is all it takes. While tapping on the side of the hand, repeat the following statement three times:

"Even though I'm still mad at [my partner] and can't let go of my anger, I deeply and completely love and accept myself."
"Even though I'm still REALLY mad at [my partner] and I just want to get on with my life, I deeply and completely love and forgive myself."
"Even though I'm still mad at [my partner], I don't want to hold onto this anger and I deeply and completely love, forgive and accept myself...and [my partner]."

Next, begin tapping on the points. Most people deviate slightly from the diagram above and start with the eyebrow, ending on the top of the head. I don't usually need to tap on the fingers or the extra points as the effect is pretty fast for me now. Tap on each point about eight times. For each point, say something that reminds you of what you're tapping on. In this case, since you want to let go of the anger you're holding toward your ex, you'd say something like this for each point you tap on:

"This anger"

Once you've finished the cycle of points, take a deep breath or two. It may be helpful to rate the intensity of your feelings of anger before and after you tap on a scale of 1 to 10. Expect to move a couple points down the first time through. If you feel the need, tap through the cycle again, modifying your phrases slightly to:

"Even though I still feel..." and "this remaining anger"

Tap on persistent problems daily and you will notice results within a few weeks. It's important to be prepared for the emotional symptoms that may eventually manifest themselves with heavier problems, namely the resulting (lots and lots of) crying from taking actions to resolve your problems (don't think that EFT is a free ride into la la land! It's kind of like a guide: it shows you the way, but you've still got to do the work yourself).

EFT is really, really simple. You can use it for anything: smoking, aching knees, personal problems, anxiety, etc. You can't mess it up! As long as you are in the general area of the tapping points, it will be effective. If you practice EFT consistently for a time, you will notice that deeper problems will begin to reveal themselves. In that sense, EFT is a great way to shed light on the real causes of your problems.

My Experience With EFT

Though I come from a rather new-agey family, I was very skeptical when I first came across EFT. But since it seemed like such a tiny investment of time and energy to try, I did. I was in the middle of writing a paper that I had put off until it was four days overdue, and I could not get rid of the anxiety that I had about writing the paper long enough to actually type anything into my word processor. After about six rounds of tapping, I was able to crank out a paper. Had it not been four days late, I would have received an A. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

I've used EFT sporadically over the past year, but began using it almost daily after realizing how much it helped me stay away from some of my nastier, self-sabotaging habits (namely staying in my room, smoking at inopportune times of day, and spending too much time doing nothing on the internet) and thoughts (general feelings of inadequacy and failure). I spend about 20 minutes before bed every night tapping on things that are bothering me (I keep a written list).

Things I've begun to notice in my year of practicing EFT:
  • The more I do it, the more effective it becomes. When I first started tapping, I had to tap through several cycles for the same problem, use the extended tapping points, etc. Now that I've been doing it for some time, I usually only have to tap on a problem once to clear it from my noggin.
  • An interesting but common side effect of regular EFT is yawning while tapping. I started noticing this a couple of months in. Now, I let out a huge yawn after about three taps on the side of my hand and am yawning constantly throughout the process.
  • If I tap before bed, my dreams become incredibly vivid and interesting.
  • I have a persistent problem in that my mind is always racing. After tapping on whatever's bothering me, my mind is so still that I can actually focus on the present!
  • On that note, EFT is a great thing to do before meditation. I usually spend 10-15 minutes meditating after my nightly tapping.
Recommended Viewing

Brad Yates is one of my favorite EFT gurus. Kind, gentle, funny, and poignant, Brad has a unique approach to EFT that's more 'train-of-thought' than repetition. Check out his Youtube channel, where he has almost 40 videos on many common problems that people like to tap on. Here's one of my favorites:

After leaving a few 'thank you' comments on his videos several months ago, Brad sent me a free teleseminar recording from the paid-content section of his website. Thanks, Brad!

Magnus is a fantastic British EFT practitioner who delves a bit more deeply into the technique than others. His videos can get a bit repetitive, but the info contained within them is valuable. This Chakra Clearing tap is very powerful:

I can't sing the praises of EFT enough. It's free, it's easy, and it takes very little time, so why not try it for yourself? Put aside any skepticism and prepare to be surprised. The effect is subtle at first, but with repeated practice, it's incredibly powerful.