Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What I discovered after spending 24 hours offline

I thought I would rush back here to report what my 24 hours offline were like.
I thought being offline 24 hours would steer me away from this plan.

But I did not. And it did not

Instead, sharpened or dulled by a few days of perspective, here's what I have concluded after my test run of life offline.

1. Before anything, I guess I should start with a disclosure: I was forced to check professional email three times. If not, it would have messed up other people's days. I got a call in the morning from an editor asking if I'd gotten her email. She doesn't know about my plan-- nor do any of my work related contacts. (Not yet, at least.) And I didn't want to ruin her work flow or burn that bridge. So for a total of 10 minutes, spread across the day, I read and replied to her emails.

2. That's the only contact I had with the online world.

3. This experience was harder than I thought. I figured I could just pull the plug and succeed. Arrogant fool!

4. I've decided, based on my reactions throughout the day, that I can't quit cold turkey. I need to ease out of it. Delight at the thought of being able to log back in soon is what stopped me from giving up immediately. So I need to accustom myself to not being so delighted. And that will be a gradual process.

5. By about 6 p.m. I couldn't believe how much more time I had left to be offline and how slowly the day had gone by.

6. To make it go faster, I enlisted the help of a friend and the excellent margaritas of Ponce's. By the end of the night I forgot what time it was, what we talked about at the beginning of the night -- but not that I was supposed to be offline.

7. After that great evening I resolved that if I overcome internet addiction I should at least become an alcoholic.

8. Earlier, I called 411 twice, once to get the number of an editor I work with and then for Travelocity. I hadn't called 411 in at least three years, and I'm very happy that service still exists.

9. The hardest point in the day came when I wanted to book a plane ticket. I had decided to attend a journalism conference in New Haven and stick around the East Coast for a few days. I called Travelocity just to get an idea about the prices, and the guy told me there was a good fare with one seat left at $300. I almost almost caved and looked online to make sure that was the best deal. Instead, I ended up RESISTING and CONTROLLING THE URGE and I bought the ticket blind.

Later, when I looked up fares online, I saw the cheapest tix would have been $50 less.

I also had to pay the damn $25 telephone booking fee.

So if that's not dedication, I don't know what is.

10. Oh wait, that would be stupidity.

11. Because quitting the internet when it helps you save time and money is stupid.

12. But if what you gain offsets those losses, quitting the internet is not that stupid.

13. My day offline was oddly relaxing, come to think of it. I could see myself really relishing in the freedom, over time. After the jitters and the withdrawal, I suspect I would coast. Let my mind wander and start achieving something pretty decent things.

14. The high point was at about 4 p.m., when I stopped obsessing over being offline and I started writing, really writing, without interruptions or distractions, for a few good hours. I rarely get that sort of momentum, and it's my own fault.

15. In fact, I observed the most interesting effect the day after. All the automatic behaviors -- checking email frequently, going on every few hours -- seemed ridiculous, superfluous. And I realized that the internet is just like the trail of ants that was running around in my kitchen all summer: mesmerizing, infuriating, persistent until the day it's gone, and then you don't have to think about it unless you want to.

Next post: my journal from that day. Complete with time stamps. And expletives.


  1. I know what you mean when you talk about time going slowly without the Internet. I've tried to give up net use for a year, several times. My most successful attempt lasted about a month, for most of April earlier this year.

    I found your blog with a Google search for "year without internet." It's funny that when I looked up the phrase just six months ago, there wasn't all that much to be found, but now I find three blogs mentioning the idea and two of them based around it. Maybe I'll end up giving it a try again.

  2. I google searched this phrase and found you. Love your insights and your humor.