Adventure 4: Turn Off the Internet (recap)

Well, we made it. Of all the adventures on my list, this was one of the biggies. The Internet has become such a major part of my everyday life that I assumed giving up my home access to it for a week would be torture.

But it wasn’t.

I had a few mild twinges Sunday night and Monday, to be sure — itchy fingers and a sudden frantic desire to check Facebook or look up a YouTube video — but they generally passed quickly and got less and less noticeable as the week went on. Granted, I have Internet access at work, so I was able to do all the “checking” and “looking up” I needed to during my breaks there. I knew I wouldn’t be missing anything important online.

However, it was what I had been missing but wasn’t missing any longer that astounded me. On Tuesday or so, as we were both sitting on the couch in the evening — he was reading a book; I was in the mood to talk — I mentioned to Ken that I thought turning off the Internet was making me a better parent. I didn’t get the impression that he was terribly interested, but I explained anyway:

“For one thing, I pay attention to the children more now. I don’t feel like I’m always trying to deal with them over the top of a computer screen. For another, I treasure and enjoy the time I have with them in a different way now. I’m not always trying to get through the chore of child-rearing as quickly as possible so that I can tuck them into bed and get back to ‘Rachel’s Fun Time’ on the computer. They are my fun time.”

As I recall, he “um-hmm”ed politely and went back to his book.

By Wednesday, the week was going so well that I was starting to say to myself (and to Ken), “Maybe we could just, you know, cancel our Internet service for keeps. Life is just so much more peaceful without it. And if we got rid of Internet, cable, Vonage, and Netflix, we’d save nearly a hundred dollars a month!”

He kept mostly silent at these ruminations, hoping, I think, that if he ignored them, they’d just go away.

By Thursday, I was asking the kids what they thought about life without the Internet — and about the possibility of making it a more permanent kind of existence. In brief, this was their response: they love that Mama and Daddy have time and attention to spend with them without the ever-present laptops, but they definitely aren’t too excited about the thought of permanently giving up their own chance to play games on the computer.

By the time Sunday came round, I had pretty much given up on the idea of cancelling our Internet subscription entirely, but I was more and more convinced that I would be using my own home modem as little as possible in the future.

Here’s why: without the Internet, I got SO. MUCH. DONE.

To prove it, here are a few high points from this past week:

  • Ken and I each went walking (him) or running (me) four times.
  • We had the kitchen and living area of our house tidy every night before bed.
  • Every floor in our house (excluding the unfinished basement) has been swept and mopped or vacuumed at least once during the week. Several windows have been washed and more than a few surfaces dusted.
  • Ken has finished one book and is half-way into another.
  • I am nearly caught up on laundry. (I’m very careful never to catch up on laundry all the way, because Murphy’s Law has proven to me in practical terms more than once that if I ever do completely finish the laundry, someone will get the stomach flu or wet the bed — or both — within 24 hours. )
  • Ken and I spent one whole evening just talking, laughing, and playing board games.
  • We finally got our bedroom spotless enough to rearrange the furniture (something we’ve been planning to do for months).
  • We managed to clear off three of our most troubling clutter hotspots — including one pernicious counter in the hallway whose bare surface I haven’t glimpsed in well over a year.
  • I made applesauce. And waffles. And sushi.
  • We spent Saturday afternoon with the kids at two different local parks.
  • With the exception of Friday and Saturday, we were in bed and on our way to dreamland by 11:00 p.m. every night. (I haven’t been so consistently well-rested in ages.)

In short, I had time, energy, and motivation to do the things I always think I ought to be doing with my days — rest, work, play, exercise, create — but somehow generally don’t manage to make room for in the general chaos of my life.

I didn’t realize that I was wasting so much of my life on the computer, but the evidence seems pretty conclusive after this week. I’ve been more peaceful and more productive. Life has been more manageable and more orderly.

So, now what? No, we’re not cancelling our Internet access. Not yet, at any rate. Family opposition is still a little too strong. But I am going to be much more conscientious in the future about whether and for how long I use the computer when I’m at home. It’s not that it’s evil; it’s just that I have so many better things to do with my time. I know that now for certain, and I’m very glad to know it.

And as soon as this post is live, I’ll be turning off my wireless modem once again, shutting down my computer, tidying up the living room, putting in one more load of laundry, brushing my teeth, and heading off to my clean, newly reorganized bedroom to read (a book, not a blog) for a few minutes before falling asleep at the end of a wonderful, active week.

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4 thoughts on “Adventure 4: Turn Off the Internet (recap)

  1. “I don’t feel like I’m always trying to deal with them over the top of a computer screen.” So true! Sometimes I feel so EXASPERATED that they just won’t leave me alone to… well… what? Watch a monkey singing bannaphone? OK, not really, but close enough.

    I don’t think I’d be tempted to cancel outright, though. Netflix and Hulu Plus are our only access to the joys of Fringe and Phineas and Ferb. Skype is our best connection to family in Michigan. Now that Torin is in 2nd grade, he has to spend time on math and spelling sites as homework. My jobs are more flexible, so I have to be able to write a press release or a grant at home in order to reduce my time away from it.

    I think the internet is a wonderful useful thing, but it’s also a demon to productivity and even just time well-spent. I’ve often thought about setting scripts to scream “You’ve been on for an hour, dimwit, hope you accomplished something!!!” or “It’s been two hours!!! Seriously??? You know how clean your patio would be by now!!!” Wish I could find a happy balance. 🙂 I hope you tame the byted beast and pass your secrets onto the rest of us!

    • Dimwit . . . Ha! I love that word. And thanks for your encouragement. Here’s to all of us discovering a bit of balance!
      P.S. Not looking forward to trick-or-treating tonight without you guys. It just won’t be the same! 😦

  2. Pingback: Adventure 4: Turn Off the Internet | Life, Old Fashioned

  3. Pingback: Adventure 7: Early to Bed (recap) | Life, Old Fashioned

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