We didn’t have internet in our house until I was in high school.
I have no idea how we learned stuff, or where our music came from, or how we knew how to cook vegan butternut squash soup. Paper, I guess. Paper and cassette tapes and then later CD’s, though my mom once told me that this newfangled technology would never replace cassettes and I shouldn’t waste my money trying to hop on that train.
It was a simpler time. I was happier then. I wish I could go back to those simple, unanxious, before-internet days.
Hahahaha that’s not true. It was a simpler time, but it wasn’t exactly a happier time because I was riddled with religious guilt and shame and anxiety and had very little sense of myself and was quite often very lonely which is a topic for another time.
But we lived. I mean, we bought stuff. We ate stuff. We went places. All without the internet.
I was wondering today what would happen if we just stopped having internet in our house, if I unplugged the router one day and just time-travelled back 20 years to an era before nonstop connection.
Maybe not forever, but for a month. What would change?
With YouTube gone we could stop arguing with our kids about whether or not they’ve had too much screen time. Social media use would drop to almost nothing, and along with it the constant hum of low-level anger at the state of the world and nagging shame about my own meaningless place in the world (“Look at all these people on the internet doing stuff! making stuff! being stuff! I contribute nothing…”) I’d probably get more writing done, because I wouldn’t open up my laptop and reflexively open tabs on CNN, BuzzFeed, Twitter, Reddit, my bank account, and movie trivia websites. In the evening I’d be forced to read a book or a magazine (which honestly I love to do) instead of falling down a rabbit hole of longform journalism and emerging hours later with fascinating but absolutely useless knowledge about drug mules and photography scandals and lying politicians. My laundry would get folded and put away instead of left in the drying for a week at a time.
It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
But also: It would be difficult to manage our schedule of four kids at two different schools. I wouldn’t know if there’s any money left in our bank account. It would be impossible to plan trips, buy plane tickets, book hotels. I guess I could go to a coffee shop and do that. It would force us to be intentional about when and how we use the internet. Like the old-timers who had to hitch up the wagon and go into town once a week for errands, we’d have to pack up our laptops and go to a coffee shop and accomplish all our scheduling and planning and buying and shit-posting and hate-reading all at once.
I don’t think that unplugging the internet is a good solution for our family at this moment. Maybe, but I’m going to think about it a bit.
What I DO know is that the level of connection that the internet offers us is not good for my mind or my soul.
I know this because when I think of the happiest times in the past year, they were in the woods or at the beach when my laptop and phone were turned off for days at a time and for days at a time I stopped worrying about what other people were doing or thinking. (Obviously the beach/woods thing was a factor too.)
I have quit, cut back on, blocked, and otherwise regulated my social media use many times in the past few years. These days, I don’t do a lot of commenting on Facebook and only a bit of shit-posting on Twitter, but I am afraid to neglect those areas all together. After all, that’s where people are and I do love people.
Mostly, I have believed that being involved on social media is necessary if I want to be a writer whose words get read in the year of our Lord 2019. The necessary evil of having a “platform” and all that. And to a degree, this is true.
If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that the time-suck of the internet is the main thing that keeps me from writing. It’s the reason I don’t post new words here twice a week even though I intend to. It’s the reason I don’t have a published book yet.
Here’s the quotable sentence of this blog post:
I would rather have written many good things with no platform to share them, than have a robust platform but no good writing to share.
This is the paradox of being on the internet:
I am always connected, but feel disconnected far too often from my own thoughts, my own heart, my own life.
This is an occupational hazard of being an internet worker these days.
This is an environmental hazard of living in a place and time when every goddamn item that exists comes with built-in wifi and bluetooth.
In the interest of pursuing the connections that matter, I decided to get rid of large chunks of internet connection today.
I used freedom.to (that’s an affiliate link, yo) to block all the social media from my phone except for instagram (which I’ve done before), but I went further and blocked all the news and content sites that so often become onramps to meaningless distraction. Then I set up the same thing on my laptop, blocking social media and news and basically all the interesting parts of the internet every day from noon to midnight. If I want to dick around on Facebook or shit-post on Twitter, it will have to be before lunchtime.
I don’t know what this will accomplish, if anything. I intend to find out.
For one thing, it means that nobody will know this post has been published until tomorrow morning when the social media unblocks (except for the people who mashed that “subscribe” button. I love you!) But that’s ok, because it also means that I won’t be wondering if anybody commented, or retweeted. I also won’t know the latest details in the Virginia governors’ (yes, plural) shitheadery. I won’t see any more of those spicy new Nancy Pelosi memes from last night. And if a Florida man decides to take his pet snake for a motorcycle ride and drives through the front door of a Wal-Mart, I won’t know about it till tomorrow.
Insert conclusion paragraph here.
published February 6, 2019
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