Disconnecting from Constant Connectivity

It’s something of a joke, the amount of time I am on the internet. At my day job, much of my legitimate work requires me to be connected to the ethernet–and a great deal of my screwing-around time does, too. Then I come home, and…play on the internet some more. Or maybe I watch Netflix, through my internet connection. Or check the weather on my smart phone.

I’ve become one of those people.

In fact, three years ago, before this day job, before the smart phone, before Netflix, I had already identified myself as having an affinity for the online. It was part of what inspired me to write “Alt.World.”  I took the idea to some extremes in that book, and the three weeks I was completely cut off from the internet after a hurricane informed the story quite a bit. (What do you do when you can’t get the service to which you are addicted? Where literally your whole world exists? What do you do with yourself after that?)

That’s why I found this article, “I’m Still Here: Back Online After a Year Without the Internet,” so interesting.

The author, a guy about my age and with a similar background, decided he was too addicted to the internet, and decided to challenge himself by…not being addicted to the internet anymore. By quitting cold-turkey.

He was hoping for enlightenment, but didn’t find any. Or rather, he found some: he found out a lot of his problems didn’t exist because he was distracted by the internet–the way, I think, he was secretly hoping.

Things would certainly be harder without the internet. So much happens there, that one person opting out means they are opting out of a whole lot more than an information source. They’re opting out of casual friendships. Of contact with people from far away. Of easy-to-access navigation and dinner ideas and dating services.

I take internet sabbaticals. When I go on vacation, I don’t plan on taking my computer with me. I write things down in a paper-and-pen notebook, so I can remember the experience later. I don’t “check in” anywhere with any apps. I try to soak in the experience.

And I think those kinds of breaks are useful, and good. But I also spend at least an hour online, catching up, as soon as I get back in town.

Do you need the internet? Could you go without? What do you think would happen if, for some reason, society suddenly lost the internet?

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