In September 2018 we ended our internet contract at home. It's been five months and we still don't have internet connection at home. And we LOVE it.
There are a lot of opinions floating around these days about the value/dangers/delights/tragedies of the internet and the new American way of life of constant connection. Some people believe it damages relationships because people aren't forming connections in person, but only online. Others tout the benefits of global interaction and finding support from others online. We can debate this all day, but I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the in-betweens.
We didn't have any big philosophical reasons for this experiment. We just felt like we were living in a constant state of mild distraction and wanted to try a different way of life for a while. I was, of course, more than a little nervous about the experiment because there were a lot of reasons why we should not have gotten rid of the internet.
We own a business that requires a lot of emails and coordinating people and projects.
I work 20 hours a week remotely doing research and writing. It's a very internet-heavy job.
I really like to watch TV/movies in the background while I work around the house, etc.
How will I know the answers to any question at any moment without the internet?!?!
But we did it anyway. And I LOVE it.
Honestly, I could not be more surprised. I thought I would get through this experiment and it would be fine. I didn't expect that it would so drastically impact my life.
Before we decided to take the plunge, I read a bunch of articles about other people who gave up the internet. Most people were doing internet fasts and loved it at first, but then felt alienated from the world and slightly bored. That didn't sound like what we were going for. We didn't want to give up the internet altogether...we just wanted to give up the internet at home. We still use the internet regularly on our phones, particularly to check email. Our data usage costs definitely increased, but not as much as I expected. And Alex uses the internet at work all day every day. I go to our office downtown or the library for a few hours most days to complete my research reports. I still watch TV and movies (I just check them out from the library instead). I catch up on Top Chef and The Voice during the week when I'm at our office. I look up recipes on my phone while I'm cooking. I post on social media for the business at all hours. Alex reads the BBC news in the morning on his phone. We still use the internet a lot. Just not at home.
How Not Having the Internet at Home has Made my Life Better
I am more relaxed. My brain feels calmer. Removing the constant distraction helped me to get back in tune with myself. I re-learned to love quiet. I am slowly re-learning how to single task. I feel like I can breathe.
I am more focused. I can definitely procrastinate with the best of them (my hours of computer solitaire playing drastically increased since we got rid of the internet), but an internet-less computer is kind of boring and in my boredom I've started working more effectively. I am also developing stronger attention muscles and focusing more intently and authentically on those around me. I'm still not great at it, but clearing out brain space has helped.
I get out more. My natural state is to live in my head and sit on the couch, and being forced to walk downtown every day has been a positive change. I am more physically active and generally feel better than I did when I was sitting on the couch all day.
I read more. I have more free time now (see #5) and it's allowed me a little bit of space to figure out what fills me up and makes me whole. I realized reading is an essential component of my wellness, and I have re-embraced this hobby with a vengeance.
I work less. I have to use the internet to do my job, but I also don't want to sit at the library or an office for 8 hours a day. So when I have access to the internet I have to be more efficient. I work quickly through my online tasks and then identify what I can do offline (read articles, write analyses, format templates, etc.). This has greatly increased both my efficiency and my focus with work. But even more importantly, when I am home in the evenings I no longer feel pressure to work. I can't check my work email on my phone and I can't get on the internet. My constant internal monologue that says I need to work harder and work more has been muzzled. If I have a couple free hours in the evening my thoughts no longer go to answering emails or doing one more bit of research. Instead I do a project around the house, read, or knit. This is indescribably restful and has been utterly transformative. Every fiber in my being has taken a huge sigh of relief. Phew!
Our no-internet experiment is not about being obsessive or depriving ourselves of anything. We just took a minute to re-evaluate our values and wondered if maybe the internet is not part of our home value system at the moment. It's nice to save a little money every month, but this decision was much more about questioning our own personal status quo and seeing if there wasn't a better version of our life out there for us.
Do I think other people should get rid of their internet connection? Maybe, but probably not. Do I think we'll get internet again sometime? Most likely. Do I think we should all ask ourselves why we make the choices we do? Absolutely!!