Diamond-Cut Life

More Joy, Less Stuff

Diamond-Cut Life random header image

Free of Internet Service

January 12th, 2009 by Alison · 1 Comment · community, sustainability

How free are you from HAVING to use the Internet? What’s the longest you’ve gone in the last year without using the Internet? What do you find yourself doing when you’ve got no access to email or the web?

Thor and I just returned from a tiny, beautiful town on the Oregon coast (possibly the only one with no gift shops) where we spent the weekend in a house with a sweeping view of sea and sky but no Internet service. That’s why I haven’t posted in three days. We were doing our annual January retreat where we look at what Stephen Covey calls our deep inner lives, and together plan our course as a couple for the year. (I’ll report our big project for 2009 later this month; it’s a fun one).

We found life became juicier when we didn’t have the option of the Internet for 48 hours. We could not check email, nor peck out “just a quick response” that turns into a half-hour ordeal. No newspaper headlines to scan. No jonesing for hits, i.e. checking my blog stats to see if readership is up or down. The no’s go on and on — but the yesses are the juicy part, so here they are:

My husband and I paid attention to each other, rather than our laptop screens. We also paid rapt attention to the sunset on Friday evening, and the constantly changing skyscape throughout the weekend. We had plenty of time to cook, with no bickering over who had to leave their laptop to do it, and to make love, and go running and walking on the beach.

The biggest shift into freedom, though, was in where our minds traveled in the absence of the Internet’s guiding them. Without knowing I would do it, I dived deep into planning my 50th birthday celebration of community, which at 22 months away is a classic example of what Stephen Covey calls “important but not urgent”. I became clear that planning the celebration with my friends over the next two years will, itself,  be a way of strengthening the friendship community that is precious to me. The teamwork, the creation and rehearsal of the song and dance presentations will be much more the point than the big night itself. I had flights of ideas which I captured in writing, and I found I needed little sleep.

Abstinence from the Internet made me a generator of ideas and information rather than a consumer of them. Sad to say, if the house we rented for our retreat had had Internet service, I could not have managed to abstain on my own. The Internet is addictive.

I realize that I’m writing about luxuries here, and that most people on the planet don’t get to rent beach houses or plan big birthday parties. It’s just the ‘developed’ portion of the world with those privileges, and with Internet access. But the luxury/privilege aspect is part of my point: how addicted do we want to be? The electricity grid and the Internet could go down, temporarily or not so temporarily, due to calamitous weather, terrorist attacks or technology problems. How equipped are we to function without the Internet? To be unequipped is to be weak and vulnerable.

When I mail the check today to  Sue, the owner of the house we rented, I’ll enclose a note stating I hope she continues to keep the lovely place free of Internet service. My experience is that some abstinence helps to build our skills of being fully present to a place, other people, and the resources of our own minds.

Related Posts:


Tags: ·······

One Comment so far ↓

  • Rob B.

    If I’m home in Portland, I can go a week easily without the internet, however, email comes to my phone but I do not use my phone to respond. While on the road; I’m usually in an area where I can’t get my internet fix due to the lack of technology.

    I doesn’t really make much sense, I can go anywhere in Portland and hop on a wifi network but never actually do it. When I leave town I feel the itch, or maybe addiction would be better put.

    In Portland I’ve got too much that I love to keep me away; trails, people, random rides on the Max, parks. In Minnesota (MSP Metro,) I’ve got even more expensive coffee, grumpy people, snow, snow, snow, ice, and friends too focused on work than on life.

Leave a Comment