When I first conceived of the life experiment, I knew my relationship with the internet and e-mail was one of the things I was going to have to address. I love the internet, it is a thing of magical brilliance and extraordinary potential, but the way I use it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a habit, something I turn to reflexively in quiet moments or when I have an idea or a thought for which I need instant clarification. I buy things without thinking and regret it when the thing turns up a few days later. It’s making me impulsive. No, correct that, I’m impulsive and the internet just facilitates me.
I’ve tried to limit my online use by abandoning social media and taking days off, specifically ‘no internet Tuesday’ where I temporarily regress to an analogue lifestyle. I’ve found those days to be a relief, a little oasis of expanded time in which I could think and reflect and do some different things, but I’m not very disciplined and recently I’ve been sneaking back into my old habits. Meanwhile I don’t have time to do the things I want to do, largely because I’ve had a thought like “what makes a nut a nut” and then spent half the evening reading very interesting articles and opinions on the subject. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but when I’m complaining I have no time I can’t help but recognise the disingenuousness of my pleas.
E-mail too is a challenge for me. I check my e-mail multiple times a day, often to find nothing there that demanded my attention. Meanwhile my physical post can languish unopened for an entire week or longer. I’m not sure why it is that I check my e-mail so compulsively, but I’m pretty sure it’s not healthy and the danger, I find, with responding quickly to e-mail is that people expect you to respond ever-more quickly and this creates a cycle of pressure that rapidly spirals out of control. I’ve also noticed that a lot of my e-mail is spam or advertising and I’m not sure that my attention is best spent filtering these things out. Rather I could be reading, or making pickles, or knitting, or chatting with my family. All of these things demand my immediate attention in a way that an e-mail about fungal nail infections simply don’t. It’s a matter of priority. Mine are somewhat skewy.
So for my first life experiment I’m going to try living without personal internet and e-mail for a week. I can’t give internet and e-mail up entirely, I think my work colleagues might find my sudden absence both mystifying and annoying, but I can limit my personal usage. So, the challenge is this:
- I will live without personal e-mail and personal internet for a week.
- The week will begin on 6pm Sunday and end at 6pm the following Sunday.
- I can use internet and e-mail for work, but for work purposes only. No sneaking in random searches during work hours.
- I will not count as ‘internet’ any television streaming that we watch as a family. However, I will not stream anything for my use only.
- ‘Internet’ includes any streamed content e.g. podcasts and music. Any content which is already downloaded, however, can be used.*
- BUT, I can’t resolve the problem of not having internet for a week by downloading masses of content that I can just work my way through at my leisure.
A week shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?
* I thought a lot about downloaded content and decided that it would be okay to use content that was already available to me, just as I would have had access to recorded music, video tape or DVD and books in the pre-internet world. Though it still feels a little bit ‘cheaty’.