For some, NoSurf is a movement for netizens to self-regulate compulsive internet usage. For others, NoSurf is a community of people who are focused on becoming more productive and wasting less time mindlessly surfing the internet.
It can be whatever you need it to be. Self control is an essential skill that human beings learn, one that takes practice, and this challenge becomes much easier with supportive communities available.
We believe that the internet should be used as a tool to better our lives rather than serve as a source of mindless distraction and shallow entertainment.
NoSurf is essentially a community of people who are interested in digital wellness. Whether you have a goal of being more productive or feel you’ve picked up some bad digital habits, we are here to offer a supportive space full of practical information and like minded individuals to help you on your journey.
Our philosophy is one of healthy, mindful, and purposeful internet use, so that our devices serve us – and not the other way around.
There are no strict rules – you decide how far you want to go and what changes you want to implement. Our community is centered around supporting each other to reach our own goals. The following is a list of insights to get you started on your journey of transforming the way you use the internet.
Install Blocking Software
In the “Willpower Instinct,” Kelly McGonigal, PhD writes about the fact that willpower has been proven in scientific experiments to be a finite resource. We can only exercise so much of it at any given time and the amount is drastically impacted by common everyday occurrences like tiredness, hunger, and stress.
If you have a goal to cut back on social media or overall screen time, don’t rely on pure willpower alone. Make sure to leverage and take full advantage of software that’s been engineered to solve this problem.
Community Effects Positive Change
The social aspect of lasting change is incredibly important. Research has shown that surrounding yourself with like minded people has a positive, increasing effect on your chances of success. We are social animals and are influenced greatly by the behaviors of those we associate with regularly.
Most of us won’t be able to find many people in real life to talk to about the kinds of digital issues we discuss here as NoSurf is still relatively small and new when looked through a lens of global proportions.
Fortunately we can meet and discuss advice, struggles, and solutions with each other using the internet. Subscribing to this subreddit and being exposed to other people’s experiences feels like an insignificant action, but is actually the first small step of what could be a significant and lasting transformation.
If you’re looking for more personal connection, motivation, and accountability, feel free to check out our discord server where we discuss self improvement and digital wellness topics:
Get Inspired With Success Stories
Success stories are a powerful tool because not only do they contain priceless, battle-tested gems of knowledge that have helped others succeed, but they also subconsciously raise our belief about what we consider to be possible for ourselves. Reading success stories gets us excited and makes us feel like anything is possible. That’s an amazing state to be in, because we generate better ideas/actions from that state than when we’re slogging through the daily routine of life in low-energy mode.
Stumbling across a success story is a pattern interrupt that makes us stop and go: wait a second, maybe my life could be richer. If this person succeeded, and we sure seem to have a lot in common, why not me?
Fill Your Life With Fulfilling Activities
When newcomers first discover our community, one of the first questions that commonly arise is “If I stop mindlessly browsing the internet, what am I going to do all day?” It’s a question that illustrates just how dependent we’ve grown on the devices around us: we have trouble fathoming what life would be like with out them.
Fortunately, there are countless answers to the question. There’s a whole world out there on the other side of our screens. It’s a world that won’t give you instant short term pleasure. It doesn’t appeal to our desire for instant gratification. But what it does offer us is worth so much more. Fulfillment, happiness, and meaning are within your grasp, and the following list of activities serves as a gateway into the world in which they can be found:
Reading Helps You Develop New Understanding
When you read NoSurf related books you form new neural connections in your brain as you absorb the authors thoughts and insights. This new understanding not only increases the quality of your thoughts, but expands the set of potential actions you’re now free to take. Reading “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr was a life-changing event for me and instrumental in my NoSurf success because it exposed me to the world of neuroscience and helped me understand what was happening to my mind. After reading the book and absorbing the information inside, I was overflowing with new ideas of things I could try to improve my relationship with the internet.
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
- Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
Have a Specific Goal: Why Are You Doing This?
An important thing to get clear on at the very beginning of your journey is why you’re embarking on the journey in the first place. Why are you doing this? Do you want to be more productive? Do you want to be able to focus and get better grades? Do you want a greater sense of mental clarity? Do you want to have more time for your hobbies and passions? Do you want to get in shape? Spend more time with your significant other/kids/family?
Answering this question is important because it enables you to clearly define your why and lets you hone in on what your true desire is. Desire and knowing your why are powerful forces and will help you tremendously as you encounter challenges and setbacks during your journey. Nietzsche touches on the essence of the idea: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Get Leverage On Yourself
Human beings are driven by two primary forces: the desire to gain pleasure and to avoid pain. Any time you act or fail to act, it is because on some level, whether consciously or subconsciously, you believed you would gain pleasure, would avoid pain, or both.
The important part is believed. At any given moment each of us has a set of beliefs consisting of what we think will lead to pleasure and what will think will lead to pain. One person believes consistently working out will lead to ultimate pleasure and starts going to the gym 4 times a week. Another person puts off going to the gym for 5 years because they associate the experience with pain.
Fortunately we have at our disposable the most powerful tool on the face of the planet: human imagination. We can use our imaginations to get leverage on ourselves and change our mental associations of what we link to pain and pleasure.
In “Psycho-Cybernetics,” Dr. Maxwell Maltz writes “Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a ‘real’ experience.”
Your imagination gives you the ability to create mental pictures in your head, and that ability is all you need to create leverage for yourself.
Sit down in a chair, close your eyes, and fast forward 5 years using your imagination. What does your life look like if you don’t change today? What opportunities do you miss out on? How will you feel knowing you wasted so much time? Knowing you wasted your potential? What will you look like? What will you feel like?
When you sit there imagining this, actually feel these feelings in your body while making the connection that not-changing is going to lead to significant amounts of pain.
Next imagine all the pleasure that’s going to come from finally taking control of your digital habits. If you could direct your complete focus on your passions and goals without getting distracted, procrastinating, or wasting time in the never-ending pursuit of instant gratification, what would be possible for your life? Visually imagine your life better related to the why desire from the earlier section and feel exactly how you would feel in your body if you had already made the changes and achieved what you desired. Doing this repeatedly will make the connection that changing is going to lead to lots and lots of pleasure.
This exercise will help you gain the leverage on yourself necessary to succeed in making any major change of habit. You succeed not when you want to change, but when you must change, and not when you must change “sometime” but… when you must change now.
Your Results Will Match Your Belief
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you are right.” – Henry Ford.
This quote by Henry Ford illustrates one of the fundamental truths of life: our beliefs determine our reality. Life will give you exactly what you ask of it.
If you start this journey full of hope and expectation, believing you are someone capable of change and are going to succeed, you most likely will.
If you start this journey full of doubts, limiting beliefs, and a bleak outlook on your own capacity of change, chances are not much is going to change for you. Not until you change your mental conception of yourself and what is possible for you. I can’t recommend “Psycho-cybernetics” enough:
“It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true. These negative ideas have exactly the same effect upon our behavior as the negative ideas implanted into the mind of a hypnotized subject by a professional hypnotist. A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment… We act, or fail to act, not because of ‘will,’ as is so commonly believed, but because of imagination.” – Dr. Maxwell Maltz
Mindset Is Everything
Will you treat each setback as a learning experience and opportunity for personal growth? Or will you use each one to hammer negative judgements on yourself and further reinforce the negative, limiting beliefs you hold about yourself? If it’s the latter, chances are you’re suffering from a fixed mindset. This is incredibly common and is actually the result of the way our education system is structured and lack of properly educated parents. If you want to succeed in your NoSurf goals and in any other goals you may currently have or will have in the future, it’s critical that you start adopting a growth mindset as early as possible. I highly recommend watching this short video by Dr. Carol Dweck and then ordering her book (you will get 25x more out of reading and absorbing the information within the book).
- Developing a Growth Mindset with Carol Dweck Video
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck Ph.D.
The Self Compassionate Succeed
We’ve been brought up with the insane idea that being hard on, overly-critical, and unforgiving of ourselves will somehow help us get in line when we stumble and succeed/do the things we know we should. The research shows that not only does this not help our chance of succeeding, it actually reduces it. The right approach is one of self-compassion, and I highly recommend reading the book “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind To Yourself” by Dr. Kristin Neff to anyone serious about accomplishing their NoSurf goals as the journey is one of many stumbling blocks and failed attempts, and the attitude with which you respond to those setbacks will make all the difference when it comes to succeeding or failing to make lasting change.
Identify Unmet Needs and Address Them
Unhealthy internet habits might be a sign that you’re using the internet in an unsuccessful attempt to fill needs that are supposed to be met in the real world. Maybe your life lacks novelty and rich diversity of experience so you turn to the internet to get it digitally. This is actually a bit of a catch-22 because you turn to the internet as a result of your life being boring, but then your life stays boring because you’re always on the internet. Or maybe deep down you crave love and intimacy and are trying to meet that need by watching an ever-increasing amount of pornography.
Whatever your specific situation may be, it’s worth it to take a few minutes and reflect on whether your internet usage might be the result of a subconscious attempt to meet deep, innate human needs that aren’t being met in the real world. This understanding alone will be incredibly valuable, and hopefully it leads to new decisions and actions to try to meet those needs in the real world like our ancestors before us have for thousands of years. Hopefully the NoSurf Activities List will be a good starting point.
If you suspect you suffer from a serious medical-grade internet addiction, the truth is that it’s an extremely delicate mental and emotional condition that 99% of us posting about more casual digital wellness on this subreddit aren’t trained to help you with. In our wiki we have a short section of professional help resources that will hopefully serve as a good introductory point for the research you’ll have to do before starting treatment with a trained professional and getting better.