AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Help Me, Rhonda

Lost Time

I recently moved and went from living with roommates to having my own place. I was so excited to finally have some more privacy and time to do things on my own. I expected that living alone would motivate me to cross some things off my to-do list, now that I am free of distractions and able to
set my own priorities and schedule. Wrong! Instead of reading, hiking, dusting off an old instrument and applying for a new job, I spend my free time binge-watching TV series on hulu and stalking people on Facebook. Now that no one is there in my house to judge me, it turns out I have developed a serious Internet and instant-streaming-video addiction. I have some major life goals that I would like to work towards and also a need for rest and exercise, but I feel like the Internet is going to ruin my life. I have tried various ways to control my behavior, but nothing seems to work. I install software to block websites but uninstall it. I put up motivational quotes on my fridge, only to ignore them out of guilt. I turn off my WiFi at my new apartment but then just turn it back on or use my smartphone. Can you suggest some solutions? 

Internet Addict

IA, you raise issues so near and dear to my heart that I wonder if I wrote this letter to myself in a twilight state or whether you’re parodying the recurrent theme of e-dependence that’s arisen so many times in this column. Either way (or maybe you’re real and sincere), the issues you raise are so important and so common that I’m delighted to respond.

Now that you’ve acknowledged the terrible power the Internet has over your time, you can start to manage it. I’ve had the most success by combining some tricks I play on myself with techniques that make the Internet electronically or physically unavailable. Here’s what I suggest:

• Start your day without the Internet. The urge to jump online and check your email first thing in the a.m. is pretty powerful, but once you get online, it’s hard to get back off. Abstain from your phone and computer for one full hour, beginning as soon as you wake up. Don’t charge your phone near your bed; if it’s across the room, you won’t grab it in your sleepy morning state.  

• Think about what you want to accomplish, and set three measurable goals: Read three books, apply to one job, find one new hiking trail. Write those goals down down. Then…

• Get a timer. It can be your microwave timer, an egg timer or the timer on your 

phone. If your goal is to apply to one job, set the timer for an amount of time you can stand and work on your resume or cover letter for that time period. No Internet, phone or other activities allowed. (That, incidentally, is how this column gets written.) Start with just five minutes if you need to. The goal is to be able to do this day after day, so don’t make it unmanageable and dreadful. 

• During the “timer time,” try to avoid having any access to the Internet. I like Freedom (inexpensive software that blocks all Internet access) for this purpose, but if you keep uninstalling it, try putting your computer and phone on the highest shelf in your house—a shelf that you need a chair or ladder to access. 

• It’s often easier to make a blanket prohibition on online activities than to try to pick and choose “worthy” ones. Try a three-day (or one-week, or whatever) sabbatical during which you don’t use the Internet at all outside of work. No exceptions. Things can wait to be done or be done in a way that doesn’t require the Internet. Sometimes, I compose emails in Word, then copy and paste them into a message, so I’m not sidetracked by everything else in my inbox before I even start writing.

Suggestions for the advanced user:

• Cancel your Internet service at home. If you have access to it eight hours a day at work, it’s not critical that you have it at home. If you need to get online after work hours, you can go to a coffee shop or the public library and use the Internet there. The travel time and effort are usually effective deterrents to overusing the Internet. Bonus: You save yourself $44.95 a month.

• Uninstall the email app on your phone. Have you ever received an email that you needed to receive that second? Probably not; people know to call or text when their message is super time-sensitive.

• Change your Facebook password to a random string of numbers and letters that you haven’t memorized. Write the new password down and store it on that same high shelf. For the bravest, delete your Facebook account. 



Tipping Point

Rhonda, can you help me with a modern etiquette question? I consider myself a generous tipper, always adding 20 percent or more to my restaurant tabs. I know that servers are paid dismally and that my tip will help them at least reach minimum wage. But what about more casual restaurants where you pay at the counter first, and the server basically just calls out your name when your
order is up or brings your food to the table? (I’m not just talking coffee shops here, but restaurants like Tazikis, Ike and Jane or Big City Bread Café, to name just a few.) I am noticing more and more of these types of places printing receipts with a space for gratuity. I often feel pressure to
tip—especially since I am signing the receipt right in front of the person who might be its recipient—but am confused how socially and economically obligatory this is. Are servers at these types of restaurants paid at least the minimum wage? Are tips shared among all staff? What’s
going on here, and what is a generous but frugal gal to do?

Big Spender


I’ve had the same question. I also like 20 percent as a general rule for table service, but it does seem reasonable that there should be a different standard for counter service. My understanding of the federal minimum wage is this: Any tipped employee may have an hourly wage less than the federally mandated minimum wage. If, however, that employee doesn’t earn enough in tips to make up the difference between his wage and the minimum, the employer is responsible for the difference. How this is enacted and enforced, I would guess, varies.

The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour, which no one is getting rich from. Keeping that in mind, I don’t think you can go wrong erring on the side of generosity. I suggest adopting a 10-percent minimum tip for counter service. 

Servers—both table and counter—what do you think is appropriate for counter service? 


A few weeks ago, I was searching for a word that describes the particular type of friendship that tends to form with an ex. You said:

• “I’ve never seen a couple remain friends long-term after the breakup.”

• “There may be a period of exnertia caused by extalgia, but eventually one of them will remember why they’re exes and move on.”

• “A friend with whom one was previously involved: preevy. Plural: preevies, as in, ‘My ex-SO and I are still preevies.’”



Confidential to Students: Welcome back. Now that the excitement of settling in, getting back to class and seeing old friends is slowing down, you may find you hit some bumps in the road. I’m here to offer advice on whatever vexes you: roommates, classes, professors, family, work, food, fun or your future. Submit a question through the completely confidential form on Flagpole’s website or email questions to… Rhonda