All right, then… it’s been almost 6 months since we moved into this house & lost the luxury of a home Internet connection. Now we finally have it again & I can actually refer to an Internet connection at home as a luxury, rather than a necessity.
Ok… maybe I really don’t believe that. I NEED the Internet. I absolutely need an endless supply of baby animal videos & 10 different columns of nonstop gibberish on Twitter. I require endless stream of commentary on current events to keep me up-to-date & a steady torrent of jingoist YouTube videos on my Facebook news feed to remind me to be patriotic. I MUST have IMDB handy every time I’m watching a movie & can’t remember where I’ve seen that actor’s face before. I fucking NEED Wikipedia to be there every time I have the slightest question about every trivial event or mysterious fruit I happen upon in the produce section.
These things are IMPORTANT.
Well, until you go for several months without them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do have a need for the Internet… I’ve been in France for almost 6 years & while it feels like home, I still have another home on another continent. I miss friends & relatives who I communicate with regularly online. I have to be online to blog, to work with my writing workshop via email & to work with online literary magazines so I can add to my ever-growing pile of rejections.
I do have a legitimate need, but after 6 months of disconnection, I have a better view of how much of the Internet is a fucking waste of time. I can look back at how unhealthy information overload really is. Yeah, the ‘net is a tool, but it’s also a luxury & a bunch of bullshit.
So… what did I do with all of that free time?
Books. I read books. Well, I read books before… but I started knocking down my “to-read” pile a little faster than normal while also re-reading a few non-fiction books just to get my nerd on.
I got a sewing machine. No, I didn’t know how to sew or anything & at first, I realized that I couldn’t YouTube any instructional videos, so I had to employ a primitive method of reading the instruction manual from beginning to end, then just figuring the rest out for myself. Get this: it worked. No, no… seriously. It did. I put things in it, sewed them together & made new things. I shit you not.
The Wire. I finally got around to watching all 5 seasons. To be honest, by the time I finished the first season, the strange twitch I had developed as a result of Internet withdrawal subsided. You know why? Omar Fucking Little, that’s why.
I worked in the garden. I picked cherries from our cherry tree in the summer & raked up the leaves from underneath it in the fall. I put my cat on her leash & sat in my backyard eating strawberries from our garden while doing nothing except for watching the birds & listening to the wind in the trees. What I’m saying is… I went outside. For no reason other than to be outside.
Ok… so it felt strange, but I did it.
I cleaned the house a lot more than I normally would. I polished all of the brass. I bought some old objects from nearby brocantes (kind of like a flea market) & cleaned them up. I baked bread & a cake… just for the hell of it. (This is relevant because I’m not one for baking. Cooking, yes. Baking, no.)
Even though we only had 6 channels until about a month ago, I decided to give French TV a try since I never really watch it & it’s a good way to hone a second language. While I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of shitty courtroom TV & talk shows, I was disappointed to see how much French daytime TV is really just lame American TV dubbed in French. Trust me, those trite Lifetime movies & TV shows from the 70’s don’t get any better with French dubbing. Then again… they can’t really get worse, either.
Oh, yeah… & I wrote some stuff. But, something strange happened there. My internal motor that normally produces flash fiction began to sputter & lag. Each time I sat down with pen & paper to write a small piece of flash, I ended up with 5 or 6 pages. Is this what happens to people who live offline all the time? Are their attention spans longer? Are they actually able to focus on a single task for more than 90 seconds ALL THE TIME?
After all of this – & more that I haven’t even bothered to mention – I realized that a part of me sort of liked not having the Internet.
After a few months, I dusted off my unused cell phone & handed it over to my husband, who in return handed me a smartphone. With our phones, we had a minimum… a very slow, very weak 3G connection. Just enough to keep in touch with people online & to occasionally refer to Wikipedia in an effort to win an argument.
Occasionally, I would think to myself, “Damn… this real-life, going outside & spending time more constructively thing is incredible. Who needs the Internet?”
Well… I do, for one. The problem with the Internet, is once you have that much information & convenience at your fingertips, you can’t go back. Not really. If you had bothered to read Flowers for Algernon instead of posting your planking pics on Facebook, you would have already learned this lesson. (Another upside of being offline: I just learned about the planking fad a few days ago.)
But, now… we’re connected. My ass is once again parked in front of my 15″ monitor. I’ve got a high speed connection, several tabs & applications open & a super fast WiFi connection all through the house. Now, we’ll see if my expanded attention span will stick, or if like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon, I regress back to my previous state.
Fuck it. It’s too much to think about. I’m going outside.