You have probably been in that place that so many of us know, that desert of post-Internet remorse. Maybe you had just planned on quickly checking your Facebook, or e-mail, or looking up a tiny bit of information to answer a question. But somehow, 3 hours later, you resurfaced, gasping back into reality like a half-drowned rat, wondering where the time went, marveling at the novel-length browser history you had just accumulated, and feeling a deep sense of frustration, wasted time, and guilt.
Before I got married, I spent many nights this way, suddenly slamming shut my laptop, rubbing my exhausted eyes, and dropping into bed at some ungodly hour of the night, realizing that I'd wasted time, again, on the Internet. I hated how it made me feel, but I kept doing it. I imagine a lot of us do.
But when Andrew and I got to establish a new home (and when we get our eventual homestead), we decided that the Internet was not going to be a part of it. It could be at the library, or at work, or in a coffee shop, but not in our actual house. Why would we make such a crazy move? Read on for the top 5 reasons why we have jettisoned the Internet from our home, and why we're never looking back.
1. Our time is used differently
It's strange to realize that until something like 20 years ago, most of us had no concept of the Internet as a whole, much less the idea of having it readily accessible in our homes. In just a few short years, it has become a constant presence, always available, always everywhere. So if you want to stalk former classmates on Facebook and feel bad about how accomplished they seemed compared to yourself, you can click to your heart’s discontent. If you want to self-diagnose a weird itch on Web MD and convince yourself that you have every form of cancer and parasite within the hour, you can. If you want to inexplicably binge-watch all the Annoying Orange and Fred videos at 3am, nothing really can stop you.
But if it is not readily accessible at any waking moment, as Andrew and I have found, you can be SO much more productive. We started an art and natural living business and now produce handmade goods for our online store. Without the time-suck of a favorite website, YouTube, or Facebook, you can finally get to that house project, make delicious food, invite people over, paint, draw, craft, build. You could go hiking, gardening, or exploring. Raise chickens. Play with your kids. Start a board-game night. There’s plenty out there to start and do that is so much more worthwhile than trying to fill bored time with click-filler.
You may actually get go to bed feeling tired and accomplished. If you have never really felt that, or if you want to feel it again, believe me—it’s a much better feeling than the post Internet-binge guilt.
2. We use the library
Do you realize how awesome your local library is? We finally get to benefit from our tax dollars (how often can you say that?), and have a huge resource of free documentaries, free books, free magazines, and free Internet access. FOR FREE. I can’t say enough nice things about this.
Furthermore, as a side benefit, library regulars are fascinating to both observe and draw. There is a dedicated set of unique/weird individuals who we look forward to seeing every time. There's the Dude with the Lion Hair, the Old Man who Exclusively Researches Japanese Pop Stars, the Constant Candy Crush Lady, and so on. My personal favorites are a set of adult twins who quietly sit at their computers, sleepily reading aloud the menus of various fast food restaurants. If you are lucky enough to sit next to one, he'll eventually start reading the content of your screen in a soft, dreamy voice. It’s indescribable. Just...just make sure you're not doing anything with your social security number and you should be good to go.
33. Our house feels clean
Anyone who has gone on a mindless click-trail while browsing has eventually found themselves in a place they never intended. You see something that Can’t Be Unseen, you indignantly read through some troll’s hate-filled rant, you accidentally learn about a weird fetish that you couldn’t have come up with in your wildest nightmares…there’s a lot of dark/gross/hateful/weird stuff out there, and it can linger around your thoughts for hours after you’ve finally deleted your browser history with a shudder. Even if you’re not actively seeking it out, you may find that you’re always coming across something that leaves you feeling dirty and believing that the entirety of humanity is an ugly, evil, depraved mess.
We don’t have to deal with that feeling in our house. That gaping window of the Internet, with its boundless information and total lack of boundaries constantly streaming is not open here, and as a result, our house feels clean. My mind feels clean. My spirit feels quiet and content.
4. We can focus on real life
One doesn’t have to look far to start finding disturbing examples of Internet obsession. How many of us know someone or have ourselves been addicted to a MMORPG, forum, or social media site? It can consume your thoughts, keep you separated from reality, and even—as can be seen in documentaries like Life 2.0—ruin the very real life that you do have.
Game and website developers know this. The limitless nature of the Internet allows many of them to tap into that part of the brain that just wants more. (A little research shows that the same parts of the brain that are involved in drug addiction are also activated in individuals who are addicted to the Internet). Do you really want to play into their hand, paying real money and giving real hours of your life for...truly, very little in return? Sure, the game may be fun, or have a rich “community,” but, when all is said and done, what real collateral is taking the toll?
Sometimes there are things in life that you need to directly confront, battle, and redeem. And sometimes there are things you need to completely sever because there’s no way to redeem them. That’s why for us, we keep our laptop hobbled. When it’s not stored on the shelf, it is mostly just used to format business cards, type up documents, edit images, or watch documentaries. We like it that way.
5. Work stays at work
Having constant Internet access means that, even when you leave work, you can always “reach” it…and it can always reach you. Your e-mail is always there, inbox filling. Maybe your Google Drive, with all those half-finished projects, feels like its hanging over your head because you know it’s only a click away. While I know some people work from home and really enjoy that aspect of accessibility, I have also seen people start falling into what seems like a 24/7-work pattern rather than a 9-5 work pattern.
What if work just stayed at work? I’m fairly confident that none of you signed a contract for indentured servitude when you started to your job. If you are making the switch to getting the Internet out of your house, you may need to tell your boss that won’t be able to respond to e-mails at night and during the weekend. Maybe you won’t get “Employee of the Month” since you finished that report during work hours rather than at 3am the night before, but I bet the extra sleep was worth it.
So many are looking for ways to de-stress and simplify their lives. I guarantee that setting aside times and spaces where you can rest, play, and do non-job-life are more effective than a calming sound machine. To take it to the extreme, think of this—who, at the end of their life, is going to look into the eyes of their children and say, “My one regret is that I didn’t e-mail my boss faster?”
Honestly--without the Internet in my home, we are happier, healthier, more clear-minded, and more productive. Having lived life both with and without Internet access, I can promise I’m not exaggerating. The Internet has shrunk from a life-dominating, inescapable presence to just a very useful tool. I believe we can choose to live differently, so if I have convinced you even a little to try disconnecting your home (even just as an experiment) I heartily encourage you to give it a shot. It's not the Internet that's going to change...it's us.
Of course, if you choose to try out this alternative path, there will be some downsides you may experience in our screen-based culture. You may miss out on a social gathering because you didn’t see the Facebook invitation in time (or maybe because you deleted your Facebook! Also totally worth it, in my opinion). But your friends can eventually figure out that they can still call you on the phone or text you. You may see that your relationships, while maybe fewer in number, become more authentic.
You may not know the latest Internet jokes and memes, and you may not be as good at pop-culture trivia. (You may also find that your mind feels less cluttered with trivial information.)
Even though our society is increasingly conditioned for instant gratification, I don’t think it’s a healthy pattern. If you decide to try this, you may be frustrated since you can’t look up things as instantly as you could before. This may make you a little more creative in finding an answer for your question, however, and open your eyes to more resources than just Wikipedia. Maybe you could turn on the radio, or look it up in a book, or just write down your inquires for when you do get to the library. Having a plan when you go to the Internet is a great strategy for keeping yourself from getting distracted and giving in to clickbait!
If this concept intrigues you, know you’re not alone. For further reading, the fascinating blog the Minimalists talks about their own journey. The website 99u also has a pretty great journal about disconnecting from the Internet in the home.
And, if you are over-the-top serious about being able to finally take control of your Internet use, why not make a Bond-film-esque Internet Kill Switch? Everyone should have at least one moment in their life where they get to hit a Big Red Button.
For full disclosure, we do have Internet access on our phones. As I mentioned, we are the owners of a small handmade goods and art business, and we use this for checking orders and using Square (an awesome card reader for the small business, if you’ve never heard of it before!) However, we’ve made the plan limited so that it really is mostly for business and occasionally checking the weather before a long hike. Besides…those screens are so small, doing much else is rather infuriating.
We are a husband and wife who are trying to live simply. We are learning much as we transition from life in the city to life in the country. Come along with us, and maybe you can also learn a thing or two as well.
We love writing for these fine folks as well!
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Simple Life Homestead