The Web doesn’t usually play nice, but you can still wring the best experience from it.
Going online to find the stuff that matters to you is like navigating a gigantic labyrinth to find your way out. It’s not at all easy. There are too many false starts, dead ends, and monstrous websites to deal with. If you enjoy these elements of uncertainty and adventure, and like your online life just fine, feel free to give this article a miss. But if this digital minefield leaves you overwhelmed and anxious, adopting the following simple mantras can act as a tonic and help you manage your Web space better.
Less Is More
Websites, ideas, articles, videos, apps, discussions, groups, etc. keep popping up online every second of every day. Some of them become insanely popular, while some drift into oblivion. The others hover somewhere in between, waiting to be discovered by those on the same wavelength. You’re guaranteed to miss out on a lot.
The smart thing to do is to focus only on a handful of areas that you deeply care about. Use the Less is more slogan as a solution to absorb only the best of what the Web offers in those areas. Leave the rest for the rare surfing binge.
If your interests are too wide and too varied, delving into them on a rotational basis is a good idea. Create a library of your favorite content with a service like Pearltrees, so that you can return to it when the mood strikes. You can also try a curation service to select fresh content and deliver it to you. If you still find yourself falling back on a bad information diet, block time-wasting websites.
Substance Over Style
On many occasions, I browsed through websites and installed apps for the only reason that they were shiny and inviting. On the other hand, I ignored some really informative websites because they did not hold much aesthetic appeal. Only after I decided to declutter did I notice that I spent too much time being taken in by clever marketing strategies and slick interfaces, while not spending enough of it on things that provided something of use to me.
Visual appeal plays an important role in the workings of the Web and your perception of it, but if you have to put something on a pedestal, let it be value. Putting substance first and style next when you browse the Web can help you zone in on content that is useful and interesting to you.
The Magic Number
Given the depth and nature of the Web, it is not humanly possible to explore it completely in one lifetime. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to do just that. In a frenzied manner, we fill our Web space with all manner of content to read, watch, laugh at, listen to, create, and learn from “someday”. Either we never return to most of that content or we end up frustrated and exhausted trying to get through all of it. The bottom line is that we can do better.
A simple way to deal with information onslaught online is by limiting yourself to a magic number, of your choice of course. For example, if you’re an RSS packrat who doesn’t read most of the articles in his feed, decide on a certain number, say, 20. Go through your subscriptions and retain only the top 20 — the ones that appeal to you the most. The idea here is not to put a damper on your exploration of the Web, but to help you devote your attention to what you consider the best of the best.
The Weekly Purge
We power through (and hoard) digital content at an alarming rate, often without being aware of it. It’s necessary to have some system in place to counter the anxiety that comes from relentlessly taking in, or being forced to take in, too much information. Clear out the extras from your digital life regularly. Delete bookmarks, unused apps and accounts, old emails, unread newsletters and feeds, and anything else that clutters up your digital space.
Unsubscribe, unfollow, unfriend ruthlessly. Keep only those elements in which you have more than a passing interest. Doing this purge weekly prevents the clutter from assuming scary proportions in future. It also allows you to focus on the portion of the Web that you love, without having to wade through the one that you don’t. You can also try a digital sabbatical and return to the Web with a refreshed mindset. Such a break promises to renew your appreciation of your life online as well as offline.
Start Trimming The Fluff
The Web has creators and consumers of every kind. It belongs to everyone and no one. The best way to make it work for you is by aligning your Web experience with your interests, needs, and habits. This will not only save you a lot of time and effort, but also make the Web less overwhelming and more manageable.
What tricks do you use to keep the Web from choking you? Share them in the comments.