This undertaking was both an experiment of personality and economics, and a protest against high internet rates. Before December I stated that if everyone stopped paying for internet, the racketeering providers would have no choice but to reduce their fees. A group of just myself carried through with the commitment.
I expected six months without internet would cause me to float ever so slightly above the ground and glow with enlightenment. At the end of it all, the financial savings were the best return on my investment into internetlessness. That, and learning about inhibitory control.
Heading into the experiment, my hypothesis was that I’d uncover another dimension of time, maybe two. I hoped that I’d feel like there was more time because I’d waste less on the internet.
A large part of this all was to establish my home as a sanctuary. No internet or TV helped build the model I imagined. In many ways, I achieved this. The emotional connection I developed with home was rest and leisure; the place I go when I’m done. Unfortunately uncoupling my home brought on other stressors.
Going on without internet, my biggest concern was studying and writing. Once I get home, work’s done. But what if I forgot something? Late night café runs did increase. I spend about five to 10 per cent more per month on cappuccinos because of this — a significant figure. It should be said that I have an adequate data plan. Not enough for browsing, but suitable for emergencies and staying connected with emails.
I really wanted to feel like I had healed myself from some soul-sucking demon. That’s not what happened.
To be completely honest, I don’t really use the internet for recreation. Very little falls outside the realm of reading, researching, or studying. But what I realized was I still spent too much time using it because I had no limits. The problem wasn’t the internet, the problem was my personal boundaries with myself. Prior to internetlessness, I’d read articles deep into the morning, unsure of when I’d saturated my mind.
It became clear that the benefits were not that I stopped wasting time, but that I made better use of it. I was forced to limit myself to a set amount of time I’d spend in the UFV Library research database or Sage Knowledge. If I needed online references, I’d find several, save them as PDFs, and read them at home.
Now with internet, I actually notice I’m less stressed. I like doing certain kinds of work at home. The trick was to find balance. This internet “fast” rewired whatever sense of pleasure or reward I got from unproductive browsing. Now that I’ve got my internet use heavily controlled, it’s strictly a tool. With internet once again, it’s not really something I think about anyhow. Most of the time Wi-Fi is like bacteria. I know it’s all over my house, but I don’t really think about it. Throughout the day I’ll catch myself wondering something (“Do bees really have knees?”) and mourn not knowing. Then I remember I can find my answer online.
The plus side is now that I’ve got a home network, I can stream music to my stereo, not limited to records or radio; I don’t have to drive five to 10 minutes both ways to download or check something that would take two minutes at home.
I’m not sure if living without internet has much, if any, impact on stress or tension. If you’ve got too much to do, you’ve got too much to do whether you have a Wi-Fi-free fortress or not.
In a perfect world I wouldn’t have internet, for the same reason I wouldn’t have a driveway. I wouldn’t need to work for someone else. As a tool, my internet use needs to be sharpened. I expect I’ll take another, albeit shorter term, fast in the future.
Expecting (and hoping) to feel like I’d have more time was still valuable. It made me wonder why I didn’t feel much different without internet. When I became aware that I was the common denominator, I made some changes. Gradually but intentionally, I built a schedule. What that looks like changes, but I try not to enter The Grid (my Wi-Fi) without a plan and goal.
Image: Simer Haer/The Cascade