Italy – part 1: Internet and the „Fear Of Missing Out“ – underestimated potential for addiction?

A view from the camp site at Lago di Garda, Northern Italy.

Currently in La Spezia, Cinque Terre, after staying 5 days on a campsite at lake Garda in Italy.

Finally some travelling again! Home lent out to good friends, and on the road for a bit of time…hurray!

What I really love about travelling is that you come to see different things, leave your every-day life and surroundings behind you and get open to see everything from a different angle. For me that’s like a retreat from common life, like being raised to a kind of meta-level where you can see life more clearly and understand better what is important, what already goes right and what could yet be improved.

I belief everybody is different in how to find this kind of insights and quality time, but for Woodpecker it is definitely travelling. Thus I am willing to quite un-frugally invest quite some fraction of household budget to it (rest of the family luckily agrees on that).

And a first insight already pours in:

After not having accessed the internet for 8 days, partly because I was too lazy, partly because there was no WIFI access or too expensive, I am coming to the conclusion that back at home I spend way too much of my spare time on the computer and in the internet! I read way too much upsetting and ultimately unimportant news; I sometimes spent too much time in discussions that simply lead nowhere; I too often check on stock quotes that rather reflect hectic markets than additional fundamental news and I did too much of searching information that I actually not really need for having a good day.

To put it right:

I think the internet is a fantastic medium, it connects people, it provides information and allows to exchange with people thinking like you around the whole globe, like in this or in other great blogs, and finally it’s cheap! That’s great! And I really am happy to live in a time where I can benefit from that.

But then there is the downside:

The internet just is vast.

You know it – you can spend hours and hours looking for this and that, you are tempted to consult it on every little question that arises.

And you find way too much useless news and information.

Reading them might give you a feeling of being constantly informed in an ever faster rotating world.

But the truth is:

There is not as much happening out there as the internet makes you think. Not so much world-moving history is made each day as all the news chatter does suggest. If you tune out for a while actually you will not miss that much if anything at all.

I found that out the last days:

Each day when I went to the little shop at the camp site to buy bread I glance at the headline of the German and English newspapers that are sold there, and in the end it’s always the same:

Some new (probably the 100th) rumors on the Euro, a tiny scandal, some experts claiming to have found the truth to economic salvation or something else, some weather event somewhere in the world and some more or less surprising sports news.

The cosy village of Portovenere, Cinque Terre, Italy, from sea side.

That’s more or less it.
Most of the millions of news and “breaking news” articles you will find on the internet or TV are just a repetition or permutation of ultimately unimportant stuff.

My definition of important would be:

Will you or somebody else still remember this particular piece of news in ONE year? Check it, 99% of what “news” you read will not fall into this category.

It occurred to me than instead of each day checking so many online-newspapers, stock market quotes, online boards, involving into discussions that lead nowhere, it might provide more happiness just to have a glance at the headline at the grocery and to follow a very limited and well-chosen set of really interesting opinions, blogs, discussions or so.

It’s not so much about saving time but on improving happiness

Due to their downshifting efforts, Woodpecker’s enjoy ample free time, so the argument is not only about saving time, but about the constant fire of information and news that might make you nervous, tensed and alerted beyond what is necessary.

There might be a point where the internet turns from a great source of information into an addiction. Some call that FOMO (“fear of missing out”).

And then news in the internet tend to follow the economics of information, i.e. the most agitating and threatening news and scenarios will prevail, no matter how realistic they are.

Again, I would like to propose the middle way for a try:

Studies show for TV consumption, that ½ hour a day adds to your happiness, everything beyond is negative.

I don’t know any studies on internet consumption yet, but for a first go I would suggest to try to reduce it as well to 30mins per day.
That does not include organizational work, like doing your banking and you might add a bit for truly creative work, like writing your blog but you get the picture:
The consumption part, like reading news, surfing around, spending time on Facebook and so on I clearly would like to limit to max ½ hour per day. Among that maximum one source of news – and please select a trusty and serious one that covers a wide range of areas, such as to minimize sensationalist and unnecessarily unnerving information as well as a too narrow point of view (German readers might like to try e.g., but that’s a personal preference only).

Ah, and yes, woodpeckers goal would be to spend any freed up time on strengthening real world social networks – one of the strongest and proven happiness providers.

That’s a tough one, and easy to say if you are on holidays and distracted anyway. Let’s see if it is realistic to stick by it, but at least let’s start being honest about internet and its addiction potential.

Cheers from northern Italy,



8 comments on “Italy – part 1: Internet and the „Fear Of Missing Out“ – underestimated potential for addiction?

  1. AJ says:

    I don’t know how the news works in other countries, but for US readers might I suggest *two* sources for your news? There are no unbiased news outlets here in US, so your best hope for balance is to pick one each from opposing sides and use your best discernment about which is right about what. Its important to listen to viewpoints that disagree with you, otherwise people get very entrenched in one way of thinking with no outside input. Just a thought…

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Yeah, maybe thats a good suggestion. Or you switch your source every now and then.
      I think the important thing is to stop switching through 10 different news providers on the search of different news, like I caught myself sometimes doing. Because all they add is typically additional “sensational” but ultimately useless information trying to differentiate themselves from others.

  2. Thomas says:

    Hi woodpecker,
    die gleichen Gedankengänge hatten meine Frau und ich ebenfalls. Wir unterziehen uns im September einer kleinen Entziehungskur, die da wäre : ab 18.00h kein Fernsehen sowie Internet mehr. Es gab Abende, an denen saßen wir, nachdem die Kinder im Bett waren, im Wohnzimmer und surften sprachlos nebeneinander her. Die Symptome einer gewissen Informationssucht sind auf jeden Fall gegeben. Ich persönlich beschränke mich zwar schon auf ein paar gute blogs, die Zeit zerinnt einem trotzdem zwischen den tippenden Fingern. Außerdem bilde ich mir ein, dass meine real-life Kommunikationsfähigkeiten stark nachgelassen haben. Die Fähigkeit in einem realen Gespräch eine pointe zu setzen und spontanen witzigen Einfällen freien Lauf zu lassen erfordert schon ein gewisses Training. Das war während dem Studium kein Problem, hatte damals keinen Fernseher und kein Internet. Verfolge trotzdem weiterhin deine Einträge, da wir in der gleichen Lebenssituation sind und beide was für Schnurrbärte übrig haben.
    Rock on

    ps eine campingplatzempfehlung für den lago ?

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi Thomas.
      interessante Beobachtung, das mit der Kommunikationsermüdung, ist mir auch schon ansatzweise aufgefallen. Auch eine gewisse gelegentliche Ungeduld, die m.E. durch Internet/Medienkonsum gesteigert wird (aus der Gewohnheit heraus, dass alle Information dort sofort verfügbar ist). Kenne durchaus Leute, deren größte Sorge z.B. auf Dienstreise ist, ob das Internet im Hotel schnell genug ist – und zwar nicht für berufliche Arbeit. Schon seltsam, wenn man drüber nachdenkt.

      Camping am Gardasee: Wir waren auf dem Platz “Europa Silvella”. Ich fand den recht gut, v.a. mit Kids, große Stellplätze (wir hatten einen direkt am See vorreserviert), super Pool, günstiges Restaurant und nette Promenade (s. Photo im Post) zu einem kleinen Ort. Sanitäranlagen nur ok, aber auch nicht wirklich schlecht. Prolldichte erträglich.
      Ausserdem kenn ich noch “La Quercia” bei Lazise, ist ein riesiger Campingplatz mit viel Infrastruktur, super für Familie/Kids und gute Lage, halt nicht unbedingt was für den Hardcore-Indiviualisten oder Sportler (dann lieber an den nördlichen Seeteil fahren).
      Viel Spaß!

  3. Alexander says:

    Hi woodpecker,
    ich verfolge seit kurzem deinen Blog und muss sagen, er gefällt mir.

    Ich bin dieses Jahr leider noch nicht weg gewesen, da mein Enkommen sehr schwankt und bisher kein Geld übrig war zum wegfahren. Aber wenn bessere Zeiten kommen, würden wir (Ich + Frau + Tochter) mal gerne alle Bundesländer erkunden um mal aus dem Alltagsleben zu entkommen. Beginnen wollen wir mit Bayern, um genau zu sein möchten wir zum Starnberger See fahren und suchen noch nach einer schönen Unterkunft.

    Mit dem TV-Konsum habe ich kein Problem, seit in meinem Studium der Fernseher abgeraucht ist und ich mir keinen neuen leisten konnte bin ich sozusagen “geheilt” und schaue bis heute kaum Fern. Meine Tochter (2,5 Jahre) guckt aber Täglich ganz konzentriert eine Stunde Kika. Ich finde das gerade noch ok, manche unserer Freunde lassen Ihre gleichaltrigen Kinder gar nicht Fernsehen schauen, oder der Fernseher dient als kostenlose Nanny, was ich auch nicht optimal finde.
    Das Internetsurfen ist allerdings fast schon eine Sucht bei mir, dank Internet -Flat achtet man ja gar nicht mehr wie lange man surft. Da muss ich echt was unternehmen, vielleicht erstmal auf eine Stunde reduzieren, obwohl das einem kalten Entzug gleich kommen würde…

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi Alexander,
      vielen Dank!
      Unterkünfte am Starnberger See kenne ich leider keine, es gibt aber einen extrem idyllisch gelegenen Campingplatz am Fonsee, Osterseen (südl vom Starnberger See). Sehr einfacher Platz, allerdings unschlagbare Seelage mit Bergblick etc.
      Viel Spaß!

  4. […] weeks after Woodpecker’s are back from their fantastic Italy journey (see here and following posts), I would like to wrap-up some general findings from this […]

  5. […] is fantastic, one of the greatest inventions of modern times (right next to the dish washer), but more information is not always better. The internet is also dangerous in that it can distract us from living life itself. Distracting us […]

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