I’ve done what I previously found unthinkable - I’ve lived without internet at my house for almost a month. At the end of June I moved to Southern Missouri, or Alton, the county seat of Oregon County, to be exact. The house I moved into had no internet service set up, although from what I understand it is able to be connected. I was looking into the process of getting Wi-Fi in my home earlier in the month when it occurred to me: “Why not just try to go without it?”. I had thought about doing that for a while, but always assumed that it was a choice I would make further in the future in a house I owned.
Presented with the opportunity to experiment, I took it. I’ll only be here until December, and I can also access the internet at the public library and the food co-op that I’m interning at. Both are about a five minute walk from my front door, so it’s not as if I’m actually living without internet.
What it does mean is that my time at home is spent a lot differently than it used to be. While I do enjoy the occasional exploration of the many annals of YouTube or Tumblr, I’ve found that living in the world of the concrete and physical for a higher percentage of time is also enjoyable. Rather than sitting and staring, I’m spending a lot more time cooking, reading, writing, thinking, singing, cleaning, biking, running, and doing other physical, tangible activities. I’ve also found that my attention span has been greatly enhanced by my decreased time online. No longer constantly flitting from tab to tab or multitasking between windows, but instead focusing on a single task in front of me, I have found that my focus has been greatly enhanced. Reading is suddenly so much easier! I find myself charging through books like nothing.
What I do miss about the internet - tools of communication, information readily available, and visual inspiration - I can get when I go into town. But often my brain fills the void for me. The other day, a friend and I were talking and wondering how dingoes had come to live in Australia. We realized we had no way of looking it up, so we made up our own theory. While definitely not the most informed or factual way to go through life, it is certainly more entertaining and much more encouraging for one’s creative juices.
I also appreciate the room that it makes for conversation, both with myself and with others. Technology, I feel, constantly intrudes on valuable opportunities to converse with yourself or socialize with others. Last year I went on a backpacking trip, which of course meant that there was no internet access for anyone on the trip. Within a matter of days, I had become good friends with the thirteen other people who were on the trip, and part of that was because we had nothing keeping us from talking to each other! I am enjoying my reprieve from the internet by listening more deeply (with my improved attention span!) to others, but also by tuning into my inner monologue and learning a little more about myself.
Ultimately, this internet hiatus has allowed me to see more clearly the role I want it to play in my life. I want the internet, and computers in general, to be a tool that I know when to pick up and when to put down in favor of other things or activities in my life. I believe that too often it is easy to let technology and the internet intrude too deeply into our everyday lives, until it is part of many of the things we do, and constantly distracting us in a way that is unhelpful to our being. They say “Everything in moderation”, and that applies here very well.
If you find it ironic that I would write a post about not having internet and then publish it on my blog on the internet, I can understand your amusement. However, since I’m advocating that the internet be used as a tool, I’m suggesting moderation of usage, not abstinence. The internet is still a wonderful tool and something that I do use now - just not very often. I think the most internet connectivity I’ve had recently was 2 hours in one day, and that felt like a lot. Since going without it at home, I’ve been quite fruitful in other, more creative pursuits, and I’m happy about that. These next few months without it promise to be productive ones.
One last parting thought - while this is an experiment for me, this is a way of life for many people. A lot of people, for one reason or another, live in conditions that don't permit them comforts like internet access. Here in Alton, it's poverty and economic circumstances that seem to bar people from that access, and through no fault of our own. I recognize that it is my privilege to willingly forgo internet, while other people have no choice because of systemic inequality, and I ask others to remember this as well.
What do you think about not having internet in your home? Would you ever try it? Have you? Let me know your thoughts :)