Self-Sociological Experiment

A month ago today I started living without internet on purpose. And it’s been interesting. The impetus for this stemmed from a few desires of mine. One, I like putting myself in awkward, uncomfortable situations. Well, that’s not true; I don’t like it, but somehow I inevitably end up doing it, perhaps because I know it will end up stretching me. I like to construct environments that are more countercultural, I guess, and then see how I handle it. I do that because with experiments like this, I have a sort of hypothesis in my head I want to toy with, and with this test it was the following: having internet access available twenty-four/seven really isn’t that important . . . or necessary.

My second desire was less ambiguous and more direct: I wanted to see myself become less attached to the internet. With Facebook and news feeds and blogs and whatever else you can think of, it’s easy to stop living life—the actual cardiopulmonary stuff of our existence. It’s very easy to begin living vicariously through the web, and I will freely admit that I’d been doing such a thing for probably the last year or so. And upon starting a new chapter of life here in Nashville, I didn’t want to see that continue.

The third desire was purely financial: I wanted to save money. Being unemployed, it couldn’t hurt to have one less bill to pay, right? I think so, too.

The first two weeks were pretty rough, but I’m not so sure that can be attributed to the internet. The move from Arkansas to Nashville was stressful, so I’m assuming most of the angst came from that. But if I needed to get online, I would simply travel to a wi-fi hotspot and get done what I needed to. I think the having-to-travel-places-to-get-internet-access seemed like a bigger deal or burden than it actually was because compounded on top of such a task was the stress-inducing factor of not actually knowing where anything is around here. But after two weeks of trial-by-fire driving in Nashville, you figure out where stuff is, and taking a quick trip over to McDonalds or a coffee shop really isn’t that big of a deal once you know where you’re going. Sure, sometimes you walk into a McDonalds only to find it is one of the few in the nation still not offering wi-fi, but upon such an annoying occurrence, you commit that restaurant’s location to memory and won’t make the same error twice.

With any experiment like this there are downsides. For one, I was very behind on the news (or, “very” in terms of today’s standards). I didn’t hear about the Israel/Palestine flotilla fiasco until the evening of the day it occurred. I don’t really like that. Granted, I’ll be the first to offer my firm belief that twenty-four-hour news has become full of pulp, the majority of what they report not actually meriting broadcast time, so all in all I haven’t missed hearing the latest news. But still, when significant events actually do happen, I don’t really appreciate being really far behind.

The second downside was my decision to start this experiment in tandem with job searching. The internet is pretty useful for that nowadays, so hopefully the timing of my little self research hasn’t simultaneously shot my job opportunities in the foot. I guess we’ll see.

And third, I don’t have GPS, so looking up directions is difficult. But I eventually just bought a from-a-bygone-era Mapsco and have used that to find out where places are. In other words, it’s like I’m ten years old again, and I now have relearned how to use a map. I can’t really say I’m sorry about creating the chance for myself to do that.

So, downsides mentioned, my conclusion on my initial hypothesis: true, twenty-four/seven access to internet is not really that necessary. Now, I can acknowledge that an experiment really isn’t needed to confirm such a thing, and any one of us could probably note off the top of our heads how it’s not that much of a necessity. But when it comes to something as central as internet—a device upon which most of the modern world now operates—saying is probably going to be easier than doing. And realizing I am so very much more capable of just saying it than actually performing such a task, I found a perfect vehicle for an uncomfortable test.

But I would say it’s been worth it. I found it forced me to use my internet time in a wiser and more worthwhile manner. It’s easy to just sit in front of the computer for hours looking for the next new cool site, but when internet is a once-a-day event, you plan ahead before using it, which is actually probably better. I write down on a Word document the things I need to do with the internet so I don’t forget, but also to help me realize that when I’m done, I’m done. There’s no need to keep dawdling around on the web; get off and go on living life because it’s not there in your computer screen.

Keep in mind, again, this experiment took place while unemployed. I’m assuming (perhaps erroneously) the job I end up getting will afford me the opportunity to use internet during the day while at work, then making the lack of internet at home even less of a “burden.” But even with not having a job, the need or pull to the internet became less and less, a weaning off of an addiction, in a way. It gave me more opportunities to look for jobs, hang out with friends, and read real books, which has been so great.

Now initially, I felt very alone. I think that was the preliminary days of being worked off the drug internet can be. It was a big jolt to go from “connected whenever you want” to “once a day.” There was definitely a feeling of isolation, probably because of not having any idea as to what was going on with the outside world. But the desire for people has become stronger, which, in my mind, makes this experiment a success.

And so, I think this will now become a part of life for as long as I feel like it’s necessary. If I suddenly become thrown into some responsibility or career that dictates the need for internet on a more regular basis, then I suppose I’ll set up such a convenience. But if I do that, I’ll at least now be well aware of how this is not something that needs hours upon hours devoted to it. And quite honestly, it probably never should get to such a point. Once you’re aware of the potency of an object, you’re more wary of it next time around; therefore, I’d like to believe I wouldn’t become so enraptured by the web again, but if I do for some reason, I’ll know the quickest and most effective answer (á la this experiment) is to simply pull the plug for a month to realign the focus.

Much love.

  1. Hey, guy. Did not know you were in Nashville now. Drop me a line, let us do a thing.

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