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40 tips on how to make the most of your life online

by Alex in |

How can you make the most of your time online?

For my 40th birthday, I’d love to hear your answer to that question. (Tweet it with a link to this page, or leave a note in comments, below.)

I’ve spent the past 40 days looking back at the Internet, so I’m spending today looking forward. How do you manage the amount of time you spend online? How do you make the Internet more enjoyable? How as the Internet deepened your understanding of line online? These are the questions we will all need to answer in the years ahead, so today I have rounded up some tips to get the conversation started.

To keep my mind a little clearer at work, especially in the morning, I try not to look at my email until I’ve sat at my desk for an hour or so. My impulse is often to turn my computer on first thing, but my agenda for the day will often by hijacked by my inbox.

—Alexandra Soiseth

Don’t go on-line out of boredom, but when you have a clear idea of what you want do to there. Otherwise real life will pass you by.

—Antje Ellermann

Feeling distracted? The simple discipline of reading a few full articles per day rather than just the headlines and summaries could strengthen attention.

—Don Tapscott

There’s no “out there”. Anyone who wants to blog something, or tweet something, or post something just to get it “out there” is kidding themselves and wasting people’s time and attention. “Out there” is actually a galaxy of individuals and communities with diverse, conflicting and converging needs and goals, and a whole lot of wildly and wonderfully different agendas. Talk to everyone, and you’ll communicate with no-one.

—Rob Cottingham

Make your life online meaningful. Stop using social media to brag about the hip eatery you found, and start using it to feed the hungry. Stop using it to gossip, and start using it to build community. Stop killing time and start managing it. Most people care less than you think about the cute things your kids say, but family and friends who can’t be close care more. And remember that the internet burns carbon. A lot of it. Use it accordingly.

—Anonymous

Box your time online so you don’t waste it and give yourself adola – ADD oh look there’s a squirrel

—Beth Kanter

If you meet somebody online, then try to meet them in the real world as soon as you can.

—Troy Angrignon

It is perhaps a new skill to learn what fractal of information will open the hearts and minds of others drawing them closer as if around a fire, not bound by space and time. And fractal is the appropriate term for updates, twitter etc., as their power lies in their capacity to trace out a greater whole, to contain immense complexity within apparent simplicity.

—Laura Mogus

Resist the tennis match! Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you have to respond immediately. Invoke your letter writing days. Don’t be afraid of “delayed responses”. Meaningful communication depends on it.

—Leda Dederich

Use the right medium for the conversation’s emotional tone. Text and asynchronous conversation have their limits, and when feelings are running high, a misread phrase, a failed joke or a way-too-subtle bit of irony can trigger a full-on meltdown. Prevent that with face-to-face, voice or chat – the kinds of communication that allow nuance and clarification, and don’t give misunderstandings a chance to simmer.

—Rob Cottingham

I don’t spend a lot of time online, and that’s the way I like it. I have an actual post it note on my actual home computer monitor that says: “remember you lose track of time when you are on the computer.” I have that because I need to remember that I’d rather be moving my body, interacting with my friends in person, or being outside than being online. Not that I don’t find lots of stuff online that is totally worth my time, I do. But since I work at an office 5 days a week, I especially need to remind myself when I’m home that there are other things I’d rather be doing with my precious time.

—Ariel Weintraub

As a pioneer of same-sex partner equity in Canadian immigration, the Internet allowed me to connect people with each other and with information that changed their lives. In the early days of the public Internet, these connections literally saved lives.

—Deborah LeRose

My advice is for people who aren’t sure how to engage beyond email. Start a social media account like Twitter, Facebook or a blog, and just do it. You don’t need to use your real name as long as you use your authentic voice. Update details later as you start to feel more comfortable with the medium. Allow the Internet to change your life and help change the lives of others. The rewards outweigh the risks.

—Deborah LeRose

I was born for the Internet! First of all, I hate shopping but I love owning stuff. Doing my shopping from the comfort of my home is my idea of heaven. And then there is the matter of my curiosity and general nosiness. I am an information-gatherer, so I love to google to answer any questions I may have, and to get the lowdown on people I may be interested in. It’s not an accident that my daughter is an expert on the subject of the Internet– it’s in the genes!

—Deborah Hobson

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – that’s good – but what happen’s online stays online, and that’s not always good. Post responsibly.

—Joel Guralnick

Discover Internet radio, which will rekindle your love of music, expand your horizons and make you feel like you have the best music collection in the world. Start with kexp.org and take full advantage of their archived shows, allowing you to listen Ð on demand Ð to magical mixes by the likes of John Richards and DJ Riz. Donate when you can, see some live shows of bands you’ve discovered, and buy the T-shirt.

—Rob Klovance

The level of consciousness of the user determines the outcome. If you bring vulnerability, authenticity and your own unique perspective on life to social media, and seek to build a community grounded in those same values, it can be a very nourishing and beautiful mode of relationship.

—Laura Mogus

Never underestimate the power of the niche. I found my first online communities were micro-communities, people I had a hard time finding in real life: lovers of German art song; third-wave feminists (I was living in Prince George at the time); gay opera lovers who would review performances at Carnegie Hall based on what their favourite divas were wearing; and typography geeks. I still feel powerfully connected to these people, despite never having met them, because of our weird little common interests. To this day, the places I find the most vibrant online communities are often wildly, wonderfully specialized, and that celebration of humans’ quirks is the thing I love best about the big old WWW.

—Lauren Bacon

Losing retention? Decide how far you want to adopt Alfred Einstein’s law of memory. When asked why he went to the phone book to get his number he replied that he only memorizes things he can’t look up. There is a lot to remember these days. Between the dawn of civilization and 2003 there were 5 exabytes of data collected (an exabyte equals 1 quintillion bytes). Today 5 exabytes of data gets collected every two days! Soon there will be 5 exabytes every few minutes. Humans have a finite memory capacity. Can you develop criteria for which will be inboard and outboard?

—Don Tapscott

If you have under 5 minutes to spare, spend it paying attention to where you are. If Smart Phones start taking up all those small moments of reflection, we lose ourselves. It does take discipline, but it’s worth it.

—Leda Dederich

Shared ICAL feeds (especially with TripIt). Lauren talks about it being a pivotal movement in our relationship.Sharing (a) our calendars with one another has been a godsend as we can now generally see if someone is free without emailing and asking when we are trying to figure out plans. Great for one someone asks if you can come over for dinner.Even more important (b) given how much I travel. It allows Lauren to see when I am and am not going to be in town, crazy important as I used to just give a spiel of my upcoming travel, but of course she could never remember it all.Finally (c) giving the other write access so they can insert things into your calendar. Priceless.

—David Eaves

It’s a big world out there, stay off the computer as much as possible. Go play outside.

—Troy Angrignon

You don’t have to read everything. Once I realized that, once I realized that I should set by triage systems up, not so that I didn’t miss anything, but so that I caught the things that were most important to me everything changed. Going through the web didn’t seem such the chore and instead I could roll around in what I love most: the ability to trip through links and find something utterly unexpected.

—Marnie Webb

Use del.icio.us! Especially now that they’ve been resurrected! Yay for Avos. Use the Bookmarks Toolbar for quicklinks to your very most frequented sites. For anything else, tag baby tag.

—Leda Dederich

What I did online over the past year, as I’ve got much more active on Twitter and in blogging, was to decide who I wanted to be Ð and didn’t want to be Ð online. I think you need to decide who you are, what you stand for and how much of that you want to show, and ensure that’s reflected both online and off. When I first started participating on Twitter and blogging, I felt acutely exposed and didn’t want people to necessarily know who I truly was (my personal views, my politics, too much detail about my family and friends), and I’m still somewhat cautious about that. But over time, I’ve been able to develop a persona online that’s authentic and says something about who I am, without giving away the farm. It’s a constant process of adjustment and experimentation, but I’m getting better at it every day.

—Lesli Boldt

Hitting refresh more than 10 times in 15 minutes will have the opposite effect. (subtext: if you’re that anxious for new content, you are in dire need of a personal creative act. Go do it.)

—Maria Lantin

We have become such experts at being always in touch, informed, connected. Now must relearn how to be silent, disconnected, alone. — Alain de Botton

—Beth Kanter

If you want new media to realize its potential to strengthen local democracy, organize with your fellow citizens to assess the media ecology that serves your village, town, city, etc., and use that assessment to create a strategic plan for mobilizing local resources to accomplish more and better accountability journalism.

—Peter Shane

You don’t know need to know everything or be an expert on everything. Identify those people are immersed in a topic or subject matter area and follow them.

—Beth Kanter

Only “friend” somebody on Facebook who I would say hello to at the supermarket.

—Phineas Baxandall

Stay true to who you are and stick to your strengths! Technically, it is easy to blog, podcast, tweet, etc online. However, find the channels that best match your natural skills and use them well. It is NOT required to be a jack or jane-of-all-channels. Find your voice and use the channel(s) that will best communicate that to anyone willing to listen. The biggest challenge: finding your true voice and putting it out there! It will make you feel just a bit uncomfortable and vulnerable, but it’s what’s required to genuinely connect with others. We can all sniff out a “facade” – Stay true to who you are and communicate it through those channels where your voice can truly soar!

—Rochelle Grayson

This new online mode can augment and enrich existing relationships but can also create new, liminal forms of relating that are definitely powerful and real despite much of the simplistic dismissal of such. Those who dismiss the potential beauty of social media relationships may not have experienced a truly living community of authenticity online, and perhaps are not willing or capable of identifying within themselves and their daily experiences the nodes of aliveness that are worth sharing.

—Laura Mogus

Use “online” for what it is – a communication medium – to enable real world offline connection and activity with the people you love.

—Troy Angrignon

Online friends are not necessarily imaginary friends. Never underestimate the power of the Internet to connect and bond people around a common interest.

—Scholle McFarland

Have one day a week where you do not check email — in our family, this is Saturday.

—Leda Dederich

Surely, one of the keys to internet happiness must be found in boolean search techniques. I like to turn to Boolean or “power search” methods when I want to get something specific out of my search or refine a set of results. Incorporating even a few simple basics into your day to day search routines will most definitely lead to happiness. Just search “Boolean Search techniques” (quotes included) in Google, or click on the oft-ignored advanced search link on your favorite browser.

—Sandra Dametto

I thought for a long time that my facebooking was NOT useful for work, and a procrastination tool, but I have in fact found it very useful in my work, tracking down alums, creating our own writing page so we can keep our alums and current students informed about what is going on.

—Alexandra Soiseth

Incessant online “checking” is basically feeding an addiction; see it, learn from it, intercept it, stop it. Move on.

—Troy Angrignon

If you are not leaving time to process information because you’re onto the next link or click, then slow down. Pick something to focus on and go deep. It’s better to get it right than go too fast.

—Beth Kanter

To truly experience this new mode of human relationship, I think you have to be generous. Generous enough to give of yourself at least somewhat fearlessly, and generous to your audience in cultivating discriminating wisdom as to what seeks to be placed in the center of our collective circle. Bring something really good to show and tell.

—Laura Mogus

Thanks to everyone who shared their wisdom about online living in these tips, and to those who offer their thoughts in comments below. And my thanks too to everyone who’s offered their advice and ideas over the past 40 days… as well as the past 40 years, online and offline.

First posted on May 5,2011
  • http://twitter.com/hummingbird604 Raul Pacheco

    Love it. Like David Eaves, I let JT access my Google Calendar, but he can’t write in it. And that’s not because I don’t want to let him. That’s because JT uses Me.com and iCal, and I use Google Calendar, and they don’t talk to each other very well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=637035468 Lauren Bacon

    I love this post, and not just because I’m in it. What a great collection of wisdom. Thanks, Alex & friends.

  • Jodie Tonita

    If you find yourself typing, “I’m sorry”, pick up the phone.

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