What I Have Learned from a Forced Absence from the Internet
Why it's best to take a break sometimes.
The internet had been getting to me. Constantly checking social media, watching snippets of videos and obsessively following the news channels; it was time to take a break and I was ready to do it.
Having moved to a new house in a location that was just out of reach of the internet, it was the perfect time to wallow in a period of detachment. It would be a technological detox. I could take a step back from the web and reconnect with my real life.
In a sense, I was forced offline. The only access I had was through a data box that was painfully slow and frustrating to use that I opted to avoid internet access most of the time. Prior to this, the only time in recent years that I’d taken a break from the web was when I travelled on a cruise ship and it wasn’t available as a service.
My enforced internet abstinence
During this enforced abstinence, I made several discoveries including:
- Things have generally stayed the same. I’ve realised that there is no need to keep checking the internet for changes. For example, in the world of SEO everything has stayed practically the same as before my enforced abstinence. Tracking changes daily is completely unnecessary. In truth, my FOMO was also entirely unwarranted.
- My friends and family have no idea what I do. Everybody is under the impression that I’ve just been fiddling around and wasting time by being online for all these years. I don’t have a ‘real job’ and the fact that I’ve not been online more recently has been noted by them.The people who I know who also make a living online wondered where I had gone to and were under the impression that I’d be signing on for an unemployment payout contribution. They are unaware that my sites continue to bring in income even without me continually being at the helm. Of course, I would make more being online, but not being online doesn’t completely cut the flow. They just don’t understand that.
- Getting my life in balance is still challenging. I’ve always found this to be the case. Either I’ve been too devoted to work, or I have spent too much time watching television. During the weeks offline, I’ve had all the time I’ve required to do practically nothing. I’ve missed using the internet and feel like I’m in retirement. However, it’s given me a good practice for when it comes time for me to go into semi-retirement. It’s slowed down my mind a little and I’ve had time to spend doing puzzle books, jigsaw puzzles and baking bread.
- I got a lot more done. I didn’t have a phone to check, no iPad to keep clicking into Facebook and Instagram from. In fact, I had far more time on my hands and I could do some of the jobs that I’d been meaning to do for the longest time. I made a cake for my neighbour, I wrote up some articles that I’d wanted to get ready for my website and I even started to read some books that I’d been holding onto for the right moment.
- I had more ‘social moments’. Having far more time on my hands made me more relaxed and less conscious of time overall. I could enjoy my trips to the local town and had mini conversations with people as opposed to rushing into shops to buy what I needed as I had to get back to the internet. These social moments were quite magical, and I felt so much more part of the community for partaking in them.
- My life should not be run inside of 140 characters. My brain was so twittered out that I had previously lived it through one or two liners that I wanted to post onto Twitter to update my followers. Even without access to the internet, my brain still wanted to operate in tweet mode and I realised that it was just not right. In fact, it was some form of mind dysfunction that I needed to lose. My mind was seeking validation from others through social media.
- It’s not always me that people ‘like’. All that validation from others on social media. It’s not healthy to be continually seeking it. Most of the time it’s not real. For example, if I post up a picture of a doughnut, I’m going to get a lot of likes. It’s not me that those clickers are liking, it’s that doughnut. However, to the social media addict, their brain is being fed with what they were seeking. Validation. Not all likes or lack of likes should be or could be taken personally.
- The present moment is special. Time moves slower when you’re not engulfed by staring at your phone or iPad all day long. You can hear the birds sing. You can pick up a piece of junk mail and read it. You can take a walk and spend time looking at butterflies and flowers. You don’t need to share what you’ve seen with anybody. You can just enjoy the moment for yourself and soak it in.
- I rediscovered the feeling of being alone. No more messaging with mother about what my plans for the day were. No more sending updates to friends about my thoughts and activities. I didn’t have those tools there to bolster my protection against loneliness. I was alone. I was not communicating with people and I even questioned how alive my relationships were.
- I could see how addicted others are. I wasn’t the only one who was addicted to the internet. Other people were on their phones all the time. Checking messages, going into Facebook to find out what other people were doing. It’s madness. People from all over the world from different cultures, all with their phone in their hand looking at a screen. Time spent with friends was always only partially spent with them as they were distracted by their phones. They couldn’t fully focus on what I said as they wanted to get back to their screen.
In summary, technology should be used as the tool that it is, not something to be addicted to. Of course, the internet is amazing and offers endless benefits in all facets of our lives. But it’s very easy to just get sucked into it and forget about the rest of life. The internet should be used in smaller doses, not completely allowed to take over our lives. I hope this inspires you to consider how you use it and to even consider taking a detox break.