The Wonderland way to avoid online overwhelm

illustration by tenniel

Email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, private and public online groups, forums. The possibilities are endless. We can keep in touch with people all over the world, and there’s real value in our internet connections.

But it can be overwhelming, and as we chart our course through the last stage of our lives, it’s important to be discriminating.

Whether you’re new to social media and tentatively finding your way around, or an old hand with many online involvements, here are some suggestions that might help.

Which Alice character are you?

Borrowing from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, what sort of online personality do you have?

Are you a White Rabbit, rushing around looking at your watch, anxiously running around the rabbit warren, constantly worrying about running out of time and missing out?

illustration by tenniel

Or are you a Caterpillar, dreamily smoking your hookah on a mushroom and waiting enigmatically for people to approach you?

Go against type

Consider going against your natural inclinations.

If you’re a White Rabbit, you probably need to slow down a bit, to take a more contemplative approach to your online browsing. Trust that what you need to know and the connections you need to make will find you.

If you’re a Caterpillar, there may be times you need to loop off the mushroom and go meet other people, otherwise you’ll be stuck forever waiting to see who comes your way, and you’ll restrict your choices.

Some specifics

White Rabbits: unsubscribe to all but two or three online newsletters. Choose three or four social networks and focus on them. Use them to build solid online friendships. Cut down the number of blogs you read by about a third. Aim for depth, not breadth. Don’t keep your computer switched on all the time. Go out and do other things: stroll in the fresh air; talk to real-life friends; listen to music in the park.

Caterpillars: ask some of your Rabbity friends what the best sites are. Get out of your comfort zone by signing up for an online network; visit forums; contribute and get involved. Think about your interests and Google some terms (e.g. fly fishing forums). There are networks and blogs dedicated to every conceivable interest. You might not hit on the right ones immediately; don’t be afraid to explore.

Be selective

Whichever Wonderland character you might be, don’t waste your life on the internet. Be selective. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you most enjoy?
  • What are your main reasons for being online?
  • What are the best times of the day for you to be online?
  • Which online activities do you associate with drudgery? (Emails, perhaps?)
  • Are you using online involvements as an avoidance tactic?

Use your answers as clues to carve out an online life that’s right for you, not one that overwhelms you with unfinished ideas. And don’t feel guilty about leaving networks, dropping blogs from your reading list, unsubscribing to newsletters (even mine, although I hope you don’t!). You’ll end up with exactly the right mix tailored just for you.

What about you?

How important is your online life to you, and how do you organise it?

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8 Responses to The Wonderland way to avoid online overwhelm
  1. Donna Catterick
    July 6, 2011 | 4:24 pm

    Tess,
    This is a valuable post. I was totally a caterpillar until I started the SITS 31DBB challenge. I plunged into overwhelming activity. Now I’m ready to find some balance. It’s helped me define what I want to read by reading such a variety of blogs. There is amazing talent out there.
    Thanks for your post.
    Donna
    Donna Catterick recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      July 6, 2011 | 6:02 pm

      Donna, thank you. Yes I agree, whenever people say that blogs are all a badly-written waste of time I just know they haven’t found the right ones.

  2. Kate
    July 6, 2011 | 5:58 pm

    sound advice Tess! I am most certainly a caterpillar (but with a nice mug of rooibos rather than a hookah!) but that is mainly because I am a non driver in a rural area with a chronic illness…what makes me not so much overwhelmed as underwhelmed with the`net is the apparent compulsion of too many of the social networkers and bloggers to “tell the story of their lives” rather than being in the one glorious moment living it…but that said I am also discovering a couple of gems, this being one and of course, The Hermitage, which is how I found you!

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      July 6, 2011 | 7:40 pm

      Hi Kate, yes I think you have to be really picky. There’s a lot of rubbish around. Which almost sounds like the direct opposite of my response to Donna. There are so many shades of possibility.
      You make an important point about living our lives. I think there can be a temptation to live at arms’ length via the computer screen.

  3. Cathy | Treatment Talk
    July 6, 2011 | 11:09 pm

    Great post topic. I can find myself, on occasion, feeling overwhelmed because of my curiosity and wanting to read about what’s new as well as keeping up with everything else that comes with writing a blog. I’m hopefully, on most days somewhere in between the white rabbit and the caterpillar, and do think it is important to find balance, get outside and be in nature rather than spend too much time in front of a computer screen. You have some great suggestions. Thanks!
    Cathy | Treatment Talk recently posted..Diary of an Alcoholic HousewifeMy Profile

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      July 7, 2011 | 6:31 pm

      Cathy, thanks for your column and a warm welcome to my site. You make a good point about the keeping up one needs to do when writing a blog. A lot of behind the scenes stuff.
      I just had a good nose around Treatment Talk – what a great site you’ve put together.

  4. Christine (Blisschick) Reed
    July 7, 2011 | 3:14 am

    Oh…I am such a WHITE RABBIT!!! But I am working on it…for example, recently I started a new morning routine of walking and then having espresso OUTSIDE (without a computer) and journaling and reading. No computer until about 10 AM.

    And my current morning read? The new book by Abbey of the Arts Christine, The Artist’s Rule (which I TOTALLY recommend). :)
    Christine (Blisschick) Reed recently posted..Is Your "Healthy" a Disguise for Control?My Profile

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      July 7, 2011 | 6:36 pm

      I would definitely have put you on the white rabbit side of the scale, not just because of your furry friends! If you’re enjoying Christine’s book, keep an eye out here over the next couple of weeks for a little give-away!