During the middle of March my internet stopped working. One minute I was surfing the web and the next I was filled with fear as the google chrome dinosaur told me he couldn’t display the page.
The whole family couldn’t connect to the internet either so we did the whole trouble shooting thing; unplugging leads, checking phone connections were OK, blowing dust off of things…alas the internet still wouldn’t work.
At this point I was a little nervous. I need the internet.
The next day, with the internet still not working, dad took one for the team and spent an age on the phone to someone in America who was following a script and was about as much help as a chocolate tea pot. She told him to plug different things in and take other things out and she ran some tests which all came back as ‘inconclusive’. Hurrah. Then she dropped the bombshell…an engineer couldn’t come out and fix it until the FIRST OF APRIL. TWO WHOLE WEEKS AWAY.
Like, fo real?
To cut a long story short, we switched broadband providers but still had to wait over two weeks until the swapping was complete.
So, my friends, what would you do if you didn’t have internet for two weeks?
Yeah, I nearly did. See, the internet is my life. The first thing I do when I wake up is check social media, the last thing I do before I go to bed is check social media. I talk to friends on social media. I catch up with TV online. I order the weekly food shopping online. I download books online. I use the online library. MY WHOLE LIFE REVOLVES AROUND BEING ONLINE.
I felt like I was suddenly disconnected from everything that I needed in my life. I had a small amount of phone data left and so rationed it to be able to check social media a few times a day, because, god forbid, I couldn’t miss out on anything.
But as the days started to move along, I realised that I have a seriously unhealthy relationship with the internet. It’s like my backbone. I would find my hands instinctively reaching for my phone to check Twitter or thinking ‘let me just google that’ and I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything online.
Instead I had to find other ways to fill the never-ending days. It hit home, during those two and a bit weeks, how much of my day I waste online. I suddenly had all of the time in the world and it was a daunting experience.
I started sitting at my desk, listening to the Wicked soundtrack and colouring in a children’s garden colouring book. I started watching TV when it was on, instead of on catch up. I spent time with my parents. I did a lot of gardening. I read. I wrote a lot of my novel. It was actually a very productive time for me and as the days passed, my fear of missing out reduced and I began to find life without the internet was actually pretty cool.
There was no stress and pressure to tweet all day long, there wasn’t the need to keep up with my blogging, I didn’t have to take lots of photos for Instagram. I didn’t care that I was behind on my YouTube subscriptions. I felt so unburdened and SO relaxed. Instead of checking social media when I woke up, I looked out the window instead, I watched my fish swim around their tank, I read a bit of a book.
And I realised that the internet has taken over my life. I am a self-confessed internet addict. If I’m not online I get really intense FOMO, if I’m doing something I have the urge to tweet about it, when I’m thinking about things I write blog posts in my head. My whole world revolves around the internet. And, sadly, I don’t think I’m the only one.
When we got the text to say ‘your internet is working again’ I was excited beyond belief but as we followed the instructions and plugged things in and turned things on, I actually didn’t want to have the internet back. I wanted to prolong my internet free time because it had been such a calming and relaxing experience.
I finally got back online and wasted no time catching up on all the things I’d missed out on. It was an almost euphoric feeling, being able to sit with my laptop and explore the whole of the internet again.
But, like an addict who gets a high, I very quickly came crashing back down to earth and felt suddenly really really really under pressure again. And it was horrible. Suddenly I needed to think of witty tweets again, I needed to update my blog, I had to keep up with everything that was going on and to be brutally honest, I didn’t give a fuck about most of it. Being away from the internet made me realise what is actually important in my life. And social media, blogging and YouTube and all that stuff…well, it isn’t important.
What is important is having ‘you’ time, spending time with family, relaxing, not feeling under pressure to update people constantly on your life. It’s important to spend time not looking at a screen, to actually talk to people in real life, to spend time connecting to the real world around you.
And for a long time I haven’t been doing enough of that.
But I hope that will change. I am going to start spending less time on the internet, less time blogging less time trying to perfectly craft a tweet. Less time caring what people on social media think of me, less time watching videos of people that present unrealistic versions of real life.
I’m going to focus on real things that make me happy. Like my writing and reading and spending time with people I love and doing yoga and colouring in and just being more in the moment. Rather than wasting hours sitting on the internet wondering why I feel so depressed.
Are you willing to take the challenge? Could you last two weeks without the internet? Do you think you’d find it as hard as I did?
For me it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me a much needed reality check and I can’t tell you how much I wish everyone could go through it too. I want everyone to reassess their relationship with the internet and realise that it’s not the be all and end all.
Go on. Switch it off. I dare you...