For 14 months, I lived without internet and TV at my place.
I was sitting in a big, white work van in the Westmount Mall parking lot with a cool guy I barely knew named Rad some cold February while my buddy Travis grabbed beers.
We got to talking about his collection of mini-LPs.
“Yeah man, I’ve been listening to music more since I got rid of my internet. I just said goodbye to it basically…it definitely grounds me man, it definitely makes things a lot calmer.”
I was baffled. How is that possible? This guy lives without internet? People don’t live without internet.
What do you do during the day that doesn’t require WiFi these days?
Everything involves the internet–if the internet goes down, the house, the business, the ability to communicate is paralyzed.
People who live without internet aren’t making a choice: they live on a couch.
No internet at home…now that’s a far out idea.
So when I moved to my new place in Bonnyville after coming to town just a few months earlier, I decided I was going to test myself.
How long could I last without internet? What would I notice without it?
I didn’t think I could do it.
My phone would ring or a text would arrive if it was really important. Good enough for me.
My naive–bordering on pretentious–reasoning hinged on anxiety: in my job, and my whole life really, I was worried about being addicted to the screen, that I couldn’t detach or getaway from the day of phone calls, emails, videos, and social media.
It’s Sunday, you’re laying on the couch at the end of the day having accomplished the gargantuan task of Nothing, sucked into a-lethargic-energy-zapped-coma, feeling sort of gross from hours of Love is Blind, Instagram, and facetiming.
I know I’ve experienced that.
Am I in control when I pick up the phone or is my phone really programming me? Are we actually tapped in and engaging with the world, our friends, family, and loved ones when we are scrolling through the mini-diaries of everyone’s best faux life?
So I did the whole no internet thing for a little over a year and it was ridiculous.
I would 10/10 not recommend that length of time without a plan and preparation unless you’re willing to get a clear picture of all your habits.
What do you do when you don’t have internet?
Indulge your vices a little more, alcohol, weed, maybe even harder stuff, at least initially.
After a couple of months, the answer is racking up that sweet-sweet cell data for big bills–you’re welcome Bell.
When the experiment began though, I spent an hour reading in the morning, exercised after work, my focus was sharper, and I learned some phone health.
If your phone is the first thing you look at in the morning, like it was mine, you’re already primed for the notifications during the day.
Who’s doing what? Who’s talking to me? Did something serious happen? Did anybody respond to my comment?
I started a rule where my phone wasn’t allowed in my bedroom, so I wouldn’t be using it before bed and it worked pretty well.
However, in the same way it was a good experience, the longer I steered clear of the internet at home, I slid into depression and stewed in it for a couple of months.
I was 20 years old at the time and this was no easy commitment for just some experiment. By doing this radical thing, I felt outside of the Human Circle: I felt more distance from my friends, family, and daily information we see because we’re all online, and worried about missing out on what was going on.
Even though I wasn’t really missing out on anything important.
Fewer distractions at home meant I had to embrace what was truly going on in my life.
And I did embrace the struggles for awhile, and then I didn’t. At times, it felt worse because it wasn’t really about internet, this feeling of being on the outside looking in was always there, below the surface.
Sometimes when you’re tired and you get home, you just want to escape for awhile.
But it was a valuable experience to at least try it–you find out pretty quickly how much of your leisure time relies upon being connected to the internet, or how available at any moment’s notice you “need” to be by email or text.
As I think many people appreciated during the COVID-19 shutdown–there is no substitute for real communication: face to face, authentic conversation.
The best part about the no internet zone was having close friend’s over: vinyl, some government-sponsored substances, and great talk.
But living without the internet is frankly untenable to do for a long time–an extreme version of self-isolation, yet not too much lonelier as the colourful void the phone can walk you down.
The experiment taught me harshly how I was actually spending my time.
There’s no reason to cut your internet connection because striking the right balance, like a diet exercise, or sleep, is what we’re after.
So keep your internet, but watch your habits.