Day One of Operation “No Social Networking”

Today at midnight, I nuked all of my favorite websites: reddit, facebook, buzzfeed, to name a few. By “nuked” I mean that I used a FANTASTIC Google Chrome extension called StayFocusd, and I blocked all access to every website that sponges off of my time and productivity for the next 168 hours. That’s 7 days, if you misplaced your calculator. I didn’t stop there. Nope, I had my sister put in her own pass-code on my phone to restrict my access to Instagram, Twitter, even my phone’s web browser. Oh yes, I went all out. I did the same thing on my tablet. Sigh. Now that I am effectively cut off from all social networking, I’ll have some time to think.


What my browser looks like when I try to access a restricted site.

What’s the first thing I did?

Well, the first thing I did was try to access facebook from my phone about 20 times. Not because I have no willpower, but because it was a compulsion. I saw the purple, flashing light telling me I had a text message, I checked it, closed the message and immediately clicked on my browser. Just like that. No malice, no thought afore. I checked it like I was breathing or blinking. It was automatic. After I realized what I was doing, I was a bit disgusted with myself. It had only been a half an hour and I tried to check facebook 20 times. It was an eye opener. With a heavy heart, I consciously reminded myself not to do it every time I picked up my phone.

What did I do next?

Well, next I looked at my computer, dumbfounded. What was it’s purpose now? I kicked myself for not checking the front page of /r/ShitRedditSays before I clicked the button that so affectionately says “Nuke Em!”. So, I watched cartoons for a bit. And then, something incredible happened: I picked up my tablet and I started reading a book. Granted, it’s a book I’ve read before (Fight Club), but I was reading. I wasn’t just reading, no, I was consumed. I actually zoned out while reading a book. I haven’t had that happen since I read The Hunger Games trilogy while I was on deployment.

So what came after that?

After that, I felt incredible. I felt I could do anything. I feel that I can do anything. I read some more. And then, I thought, “I might as well live dangerously”, so I MEDITATED. I sat in silence for TEN WHOLE MINUTES! WHAAAAAT?! Who was I? What have I done with myself? I don’t remember the last time I just sat in silence with no electronics to help stave off boredom. For 10 minutes, I wrestled my “monkey mind” from branch to branch, tree to tree, until it was time to return to consciousness.

Things I did for the rest of the day

  • Read some more
  • Spent more time with my son
  • wrote this blog post
  • drank some chamomile tea
  • listened to music WITHOUT mentioning it on twitter
  • and I just let myself be

How I feel about the week ahead

I feel very confident. I wasn’t so sure about this no social networking thing. It seemed radical to me. How would I go 7 whole days not knowing what my friends had for lunch? How would I go 7 days without telling everyone what I had for lunch? But I made it the first 24 hours. I only nuked those sites for 7 days, but I’m hoping to transform this into a month long journey.

Websites that aren’t shameless time leeches

With some help from the internet (read: Reddit), I have compiled a list of websites that aim to help you be more productive rather than a mindless consumer. The following was copied almost word for word from a Reddit comment.

I plan to use this list extensively during my social networking hiatus (that starts tomorrow).

  • – Watch thousands of micro-lectures on topics ranging from history and medicine to chemistry and computer science!
  • – Help end world hunger by correctly answering multiple-choice quizzes on a wide variety of subjects!
  • – Blog/site dedicated to all things manly, great for learning life skills and good insights.
  • – Randomly selects an educational video to watch instead of useless drivel.
  • – Educational site that works with universities to get their courses on the internet, free for you to use!
  • – A collection of browser-based games and the like to improve knowledge of geography, math, and such.
  • – Collection of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talks in which knowledgable speakers address a variety of topics in short videos (< 18 minutes)
  • – Learn to hack life! Tips and tricks for improving all areas of your life.
  • – Recently started life hack site that offers lists of useful knowledge.
  • – Collection of infographics to get some good information in an easy to digest visual format.
  • – Practice your basic math skills with a simple game
  • – Hundreds of free guitar lessons as well as some basic music theory.
  • – Learn a new language for free while helping to translate the web!
  • – Learn things quickly and efficiently with flashcards that are spaced based on the spacing effect
  • – A site containing one man’s explorations in food, with step by step instructions for making a wide variety of dishes.
  • – A weekly blog run by a professional dating coach, offers advice on a wide variety of relationship topics.
  • – Blog about improving your life by making it simpler.
  • – Fitness resource for the average person.
  • – Articles meant to expose you to interesting info, whether to “make you smile” or to really get you thinking.
  • – Compendium of free learning resources, including courses, textbooks, and videos/films.
  • – Site dedicated to reviewing charities so you can easily research any you might be interested in and see how they hold up.
  • – Their tagline does better than I can: “Correspondence deserving of a wider audience”
  • – On the opposite end of the vulgarity spectrum from, a daily dose of useful knowledge, quotes, and other random things.
  • Adding in some suggestions from elsewhere in the thread (sorry if I missed any):
  • MIT Open Courseware – Free access to quite a few MIT courses that are on par with what you’d expect from MIT
  • – Pretty nice website with introductory courses for various programming languages and web technologies.
  • – Learn about the world of finance, from basic terminology to in depth analysis of various areas of investing. – Free courses mainly focused around mathematics and programming. Aimed at people of all skill levels.
  • – Write posts in a language you’re trying to learn, get them critiqued by a native speaker (and in turn help that native speaker learn your language)
  • – Job hunting site meant to help you find a career. Rather aptly named.
  • – Reddit’s very own University! Learn from fellow redditors, or try to teach them.
  • – Collection of videos in which Bill breaks down various feats of engineering in layman’s terms.
  • – Take part in investigating various interesting studies of nature, science, and culture.
  • – Ask questions you’re curious about, answer those you’re knowledgable about. Tailor your own feed to fit what interests you.
  • – Aggregation of articles from various higher education journals and publications.
  • – A convenient list of lots of awesome sites to learn from. Includes pretty much everything listed here, helpfully grouped into categories. Hover over links to get descriptions that may or may not beat out mine!
  • – Community dedicated to the idea of everyone being fluent in multiple languages, teach or be taught another language with the goal of conversational fluency.
  • – Breaking down the science behind fitness into layman’s terms.


An original short story.

I used to knit socks for you. Did you know that? I’d sit there and start a pair for myself and a pair for you. I’d pick out the colors and imagine them on your feet. I’d imagine what you’d look like standing in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, wearing the socks I knitted you, cooking breakfast. I imagine that I would have come up behind you and grabbed you around your waist, kissed you and said, “Good morning, sweetheart.”

I would have nestled my head in your back and listened to your heart beat. I used to knit socks for you. But not since you left. Since you left I haven’t knitted much of anything. I have no fantasies of the man I love cooking for me, kissing me. No, not since you left me. Now I only knit one sock. Just one. One solitary little sock. All alone little sock. All alone…like me.

Did you know that? Did you know you would hurt me so bad when you left? Did you know your love gave me the energy to do the things I love? I used to knit socks for you. I’d sit there and knit a pair for myself and a pair for you. I’d pick out the colors and imagine them in the drawer next to mine. I’d imagine you calling me into the living room, smiling that beautiful smile and saying, “Babe, my feet are cold. Can you bring me some socks?”

I would have laughed and pretended to be upset that you called me all the way in here just to ask me that. I would have brought you the socks that I knitted you and I would have thrown them at you in pretend anger. I used to knit socks for you. But not since you left.

I buried those socks deep, deep down somewhere where no one can find them. Not even me. See, I don’t want to remember you anymore. So, when I hit send on this e-mail, this will be it. You can take up no more space in my head. I’m alone…like the lonely socks I knit. And I’m ok with that.


The Phone Call

Today I received a phone call from the woman I call my grandmother. I say it this way because she is not my biological grandmother, rather a good person who saw that my teenaged mother needed guidance & was there to lend a hand. I love the woman; I really do. But today I felt swells of another emotion. Today I pitied her.

My grandmother asked me if I was an atheist. I replied “Yes. & I have been for about 6 years now.” I figured it had made it’s way back to her via my little cousins because they saw it on Facebook. And that’s fine that they confided in her. They were confused. Someone who sat next to them in church when they were younger was now the “enemy”. I don’t fault them for the things they’ve been taught.

She hears my answer but does not consider the fact that nothing she can say will change my mind. She asked me “Why? Why have you turned your back on God?” I try to tell her that I have not turned my back on god because I don’t believe in him. She goes on telling me that it’s sad that I can’t believe in god when he put her in my life when I needed her most.

My throat dried when she said this. My blood pressure raised. My body temperature skyrocketed. I began to sweat. Why would she say that? Why would she say something like that knowing our history? Yes Grandma, you have always been there for me. You have always provided….but let’s not pretend that me knowing you has been the best thing ever.

Had I said this to her, I surely wouldn’t have to explain what I meant. She would’ve known. She would’ve known I was referring to a Christmas Eve some 11 years ago when her brother-in-law molested me. But she would’ve misunderstood my logic for hate towards her & her idea of god. She would’ve been wrong.

I love my grandmother. I really do. But had she & I never known each other, I could’ve skipped a very harsh period in my life. All those years of depression & suicidal thoughts gone if “god” hadn’t have brought her into my life.

But I’d be the bad guy in her eyes. I’d be the back slider, the lost soul, the devil worshiper, The atheist.

I said none of this to her, of course. My lack of belief has hurt her enough without me dragging up old skeletons. I just told her that I’d done my research & saw that there was no reason to believe & I let her continue her speech from there.

My son woke up from his nap & I said I had to go. We said our “I love yous” & hung up the phone.

She walked away from the conversation thinking she was talking to a lost cause. I walked away from the conversation knowing that I was talking to a lost cause. She’s been a believer for 60+ years. It’s the only thing she’s ever known.

Today I pitied my grandmother.