On Sunday June 3rd, Drew D’Agostino unplugged the router and cable modem in our apartment and put them in the closet. Since then, we’ve been living without Internet at home, and surprisingly, it is fantastic. Here is the story.
My hands were literally shaking. I clenched my fist and wanted to slam the table. I was bored. There seemed to be no distraction, no comfort. I just sat there, helplessly, unaware of what to do.
This was the feeling (and my real reaction) during the first few hours of unplugging the Internet. While it looks pathetic, it is the result of a society and generation that is constantly plugged in. We cannot go for too long without checking Facebook, tweeting/sharing something, opening an app or reading an article. The Internet is an incredible tool and the defining aspect of our generation’s technical comfort. It gives us unparalleled access to information, makes it effortless to communicate and can provide endless entertainment.
But it also has a dark side: it allows us to get really comfortable wasting a lot of time. We flock to our screens to “browse” the web… that’s a fancy way of saying “do nothing.” Hours can pass by that might feel like we are doing something but in reality we didn’t think, didn’t produce… we just sat there staring at people’s LinkedIn profiles. Additionally, consider how much the Internet can distract us from projects. Whether I am writing or coding, the lure to click a link or check Facebook is powerful. Truth be told, I might stop every few minutes to be distracted by something in my web browser. That’s why tools like SelfControl for Mac were created – to literally block people from accessing sites like Facebook when they are trying to study for finals.
Not having the Internet at home has forced me to discover other things to do. I socialize, ride my bike, write and think more. I don’t aimlessly check my email because I now understand that it is irrelevant whether I respond now or in a few hours for non-business messages. When I am at the office and have Internet access, I spend much less aimless time on social networking sites because I value my time with the Internet more to get stuff done.
Put simply, not having the Internet is allowing Drew and I to break a very bad habit. It brought us to the realization that the constant plugged in nature of our generation is causing some serious issues. In many ways, it is making us less productive and less smart.
What if we really need to get online?
First off, we can use our phones. But using your phone for the Internet is a pain – it is slower and the screen is small. Because it is less pleasant, it discourages us from using it unless we really need it. We spend less time watching silly YouTube videos, but we can still check an email or look something up if we need to. If we urgently need to connect on our laptops, we can go outside to a local store with wi-fi. Again, this is an inconvenience, so it discourages us from plugging in until we legitimately must.
We are happier. We exercise more and spend more time outside. We don’t feel guilty about wasting away a day staring at nonsense. We don’t overwork ourselves, yet we get much more done when working because we are less tempted by online distractions.
What can do you do?
Well for one thing, you can try to disconnect a bit. Don’t text constantly or open an app every time you need something to “do.” More so, you can consider embarking on the same journey as Drew and I did and cut the cords to your Internet. It’ll be hard and painful, but it might be one of the best things for you.