Recently, I have been part of a discussion about potentially quitting the internet for a period to make better use of time and connect with real live people. It feels like a crazy sounding idea. I’ve done the occasional social media fast, and I didn’t even have a smart phone until about two years ago. Ken and I even went through our first year of marriage (2011/12) without internet access at home to save money.
So, why does giving it up seem so crazy? Because [insert rolling eye emoji here] I depend on the internet for most of my daily tasks. Seriously, from the moment I wake up, I consult the internet for any number of things from “what’s the weather like today?” to “what will I cook for dinner?” to “‘what’s new on the mom swap and how do I get to that porch pick up?”
I’m not so young to not remember what life was like without the Internet. We didn’t have it at home until my sophomore year in high school, and the university I went to was “cutting edge” because it had campus wide WiFi. However, I have not lived “adult life” without it and there’s a difference between looking up the right dose of Tylenol for an infant (infant dosages are not on the bottle) and being able to have an AIM conversation with my crush. But for some reason, it does seem daunting and euphoric at the same time. The internet and I are frienemies and I need better boundaries, but maybe an internet fast wouldn’t be a bad idea.
A few things I would miss about the internet (and some I wouldn’t)
I would miss access to reading materials I wouldn’t otherwise have. With the internet, I can read ten New York Times articles a month! I am not high brow enough to have a subscription, nor can I afford it, but the internet makes it possible for me to read something I would not normally encounter. Also, lately, reading paper books has been difficult (two tiny humans have taken the joy out of this pastime for me), but I can get audio books from the library through the internet, and those I can get through because I can listen while I shower, make dinner, breast feed, work out etc.
I would not miss catching myself falling for click-bait and going down internet rabbit holes. I so often waste time reading junk when I could be using this time to read good quality articles of substance or a book. Reading without the internet is more intentional. I also love/hate that all-access to PBS kids and YouTube provides the opportunity for me to turn on Daniel Tiger or Elmo 24/7, instead of forcing my daughter to choose a book instead. The internet is a catalyst to lazy parenting.
I would miss having access to a wide range of recipes right at my fingertips. I can make and try new foods, search for substitutes or variations on one dish, and expand my family’s pallet with just a few clicks. I can also access my recipes at the grocery store if I haven’t made time to make a list–a lifesaver for this forgetful procrastinator.
I would not miss having the only record of my favorite recipes be on my Pinterest board (of course I would have to transcribe my favorites to recipe cards first). When my dad died, he left no record of his best recipes because they were all in his head. I would hate to do that to my family. Though, to be honest, the only recipe anyone really cares about is for my chocolate chip cookies and that is in a cookbook where the pages are falling out. But then again, that’s my point: paper recipes seem less ephemeral than some internet account that may be obsolete in thirty years.
I would miss connecting to my family via Facetime or Skype. I live 2,000 miles away from my mom, my sister, and her family. We visit about once a year and that is becoming more difficult as our family grows. My mom comes here several times a year, but my sister has only visited once in the five years that I’ve been here and her kids have never been. I would have no relationship with my nieces and nephew had we not been able to read books, paint our nails, and build Lego masterpieces virtually. The same goes for my children and their grandmothers, aunt, and cousins.
I would not miss the shallowness of online relationships. I see so little of my friends lives via social media, but somehow feel like I know everything that’s happening. It takes real conversation and face to face time to dig deep and really know people. But the internet is easy and fast and less vulnerable for me. So, I sometimes hide behind the screen and pretend to invest and divulge, but deep down I crave the connection that demands time and in-person conversation.
For me, a year without all of the internet seems unreasonable, but perhaps I could continue to use Facetime, email, and obviously this forum.