Old Computer Challenge - Day 4

Jul 14, 2023

OldComputerChallenge MentalHealth

Reading time: 4 minutes

I want to take this post to get out some thoughts about the internet, social media and mental health.

How is this related to the OldComputerChallenge?

Let’s take a look.

For the longest time now I didn’t have a facebook profile, and I never had a twitter profile or a tiktok account or a profile on any of the new social media platforms that are en vogue these days. The only social media I had left was Instagram, but I stopped using it a few months ago because I realized I was just mindlessly scrolling through posts for hours on end without getting much value or enjoyment out of it at all. Which is exactly what the platform wants me to do of course, but it’s also the exact opposite of what I want to do. So I ditched it.

And I was better off for it.

But because I still keep an eye out on what’s new and exciting in internetland (Neuland, as our head of state famously called it a few years ago), I was intrigued by mastodon and the fediverse and the idea of having my own blog and not being at the mercy of an eccentric billionaire who could turn my profile off at any moment with no way for me to ever get it back.

So I got an account on mastodon. And started following a few people, and a few hashtags, and discovered the OldComputerChallenge. And that there was a whole community of people hosting their own blogs on simple webservers, using gopher or gemini, chatting on IRC and basically using the internet like it was 1999 (or so). So that intrigued me, and I decided to do the OldComputerChallenge as well, and blog about it and be in touch with the other participants.

But then something interesting happened. The first few days I tried to keep up with all the blogs, keep up with IRC, follow all the retrocomputing-related tags on mastodon, write my own posts and do all that while working in a slow OS with unfamiliar tools and workflows… and I got stressed. A lot. I tried to do too many things, keep up with too many posts, flip back and forth between different tools and programs and communication channels, write my own stuff and do it all at the same time. Bad idea.

It took me two days to realize that this is really stressful, unhealthy and (most embarrassing to admit) completely unnecessary. Nobody cares if I don’t show up on IRC. Nobody cares if I read their post a day later, or not at all because I missed it. I don’t have to be omnipresent and get all the information as quickly as possible, read all the articles, follow all the hashtags, answer all the posts etc.

It’s okay to disconnect. It’s okay to only show up on IRC occasionally. It’s okay to only scroll through mastodon once or twice a day. It’s okay to not read people’s posts if I don’t have the time or the energy. It’s okay to miss out on some conversations, posts, articles, videos, podcasts and whatever else is out there. And it’s also okay to post my own stuff not when I think I have to, but when it’s ready.

It’s ironic that by slowing down my computer I sped up my brain to the point where it wasn’t good for me anymore, before I realized that the slow approach also works (and works well) in other areas of life.

And finally, of course I went through this cycle many, many times before, and the solution is always the same: notice it, take a deep breath, then change it. But occasionally a reminder to slow down and take a step back is needed, and this challenge certainly served as one :)