Got carried away by the web? – Now, take back your life!

Web was and is one of the best things to happen to all of us. However, there is a danger in getting carried away. If you are one of those who have already been carried away, here’s your chance to take back your life!

A couple of disclaimers to start with:

1. This is going to be a long post. It is the collection of many of my thoughts over a few months.

2. Not everyone will agree with everything that is written here. This is one perspective and I am sure there are others equally valid.

I was born and brought up in India. I remember my younger days clearly – playing cricket on the streets, breaking glass windows of neighbours (accidentally, of course) and generally having fun. Parents never used to bother much as they knew that if the kids were not in their home, they will be in one of the neighbours’ homes. It was taken for granted. From there to now, I have seen a lot of change. The world, of course, has changed and my feeling is the web has played a significant part in the way we conduct our lives in the future.

Let me explain.

* Today, we want to go somewhere, rarely do we have to talk to a travel agent, we can get everything done online.

* Today, we want to buy something, rarely do we have to ask our trusted friends, we can get that done online. We can read reviews, compare products and order online.

* Today, we want to be connected with someone, it’s easy – remember: “you have an always on connection” right. This gets even better – buy a blackberry and you can be connected even during your vacation. Want something more – we have connexion service in most of the flights now – so even when you are flying – you are always connected. (Bonus: you don’t even have to talk to the person in your next seat)

* Today, we want entertainment, you can have it in all kinds on the web. I won’t go into the details but you can choose the level and intensity of entertainment and depending on your budget – you have it on the web.

* Today, we want to get the latest news – you can have it in all flavors – from the press or from the bloggers and bystanders (citizen journalism.) You can also have it in multiple formats.

* Today, you want to learn something – you have a choice not to go to school – whatever they are teaching in those business schools, you can learn online (may be??)

All these conveniences seem great, so what is the problem then?  Here are a few to start with:

1. Web is helping people to get (more) isolated:

You can have it all on the web and be disconnected from people. Earlier days, it was easy – if you don’t know something, you would ask someone. This would lead to a conversation with a friend. If that friend was not looking all that great, you would ask “What happened?” and then he or she would tell his story and you would see if you could do something to help him or her. The first reason for the meeting would become immaterial. Every such conversation would just get you both more connected. With the web, you get answers but there is no emotional connection with anyone. There is no side conversation. While you are looking for a DVD player, you can’t suddenly ask “By the way, how was the party last night?”

It is so unfortunate that we get what we want from the web but miss what we might have got!

That’s the price of convenience.

2. Web is accelerating the choice overload problem:

You have choice on the web. In fact, you have so much of choice in everything. You want to buy something or you want a date. You get to choose. You have more choice than you need and process. Here is the danger: you get someone that you should be so thankful for – you have a choice of going online and comparing and feeling bad that you could also have GOT someone EVEN better – same story with things, same story with people.

Web is crushing people with the choice overload.

3. Web is making us stretch beyond our means:

You want to buy something – web will show you more than what you want. A small upgrade here, a small upgrade there (they call it cross-sell and up-sell) and web will make you think that you NEED a lot more than you really want. Of course, there is always the option of looking at “people who bought this also bought” list. If you are normal like them, you would want to buy some more things from the list, right?

If you can’t afford something, there is a quick link to apply for a new credit card or a loan or just simply – opt for the “pay later” plans.

4. Web makes it easy to multi-task even when that is not the right thing:

Look at the convenience factor – you can chat with your friend, eat your breakfast, watch your favorite TV program, help your kids with their homework and glance through the newspapers or magazines – all at the same time. Amazing effectiveness or so you think. You are connected with your friend but you also finished your pending tasks. When I talk about this, one of my friend said that he was just using more of his brain and there is nothing wrong with it. Imagine, doing this kind of multi-tasking when you are meeting with a friend “in-person.” I am sure it would look a bit odd. The web will allow you to multi-task when you shouldn’t. Especially when you are connecting with people.

How can you emotionally connect with a friend or a family member without giving them the full emotional attention that they need?

5. Web is taking you places (even when you don’t ahve time)

It’s the power of the hyperlink. You click, click, click and you keep going to places and it’s easy to get fascinated and lost. Even when you don’t have time, you can continue to click and continue to get fascinated and continue to get lost 🙁

If the above arguments make sense, here are a few of things that you can do to take back your life:

1. Start connecting with people “in-person”

Yes, I know that you don’t have time. But long and deep relationships are HARD to build ONLY through the web. People NEED emotional support and you NEED it too.

2. Watch when you multi-task

There are a ton of things where multi-tasking is great but not when you are playing with your children or when you are having an important conversation with your friend. Blackberry and other cool devices are great but if you are not careful, the question will be “Who is the real master and who is the slave?”

When you are walking in the park with your young one and he or she is explaining something that happened in school and you are listening to the kid while checking your emails on your blackberry, your kid is paying for the convenience – not you.

3. Remember the 3T rule

Things take time (3T). You have to be fast but not at the cost of your life!

4. Keyword: Leverage

Because you can do it should not be the answer for you to DO it. Are you configuring all your resources (including money) to ensure that you have the highest leverage? If not, think long hard – sometimes it may be best to pay money and get things done.

Let me give an example. You need a list of all the universities in the United States that have 10,000 or more students. You know that you can get that information. You have the skills and knowledge and you know the tools through which you can get this information. It might take you about 8 hours to get all the information in order. Now, consider an alternate scenario Where you post a request in a service like Google Answers – offer about $50 to get this information. A researcher over there may know exactly where to find the information and it may probably take him 10 minutes to do so. He is happy to provide that service for $50. If you see, he got paid $300 per hour. You should be happy as you saved about 7 hours of your time. Everyone wins!

5. Remember that long-term relationships are everything

Ultimately however powerful the web is – we still need relationships and they are built online and offline with investment from both parties. Are you doing your part of the investment?

6. Discipline: Make the best of both worlds

Web has a lot of potential and I have no doubt that we should make the most out of it. But, we can all make a decision to do that and also be connected with people. Just requires more discipline, that’s all!

Congratulations and thank you for reading through the whole list. I told you – it was going to be long 🙂