Taking a break from (most of) the Internet

Several months ago, I wrote that I needed to take a break from the internet. And I did, for a day or two. But then I needed to look something up. And then one thing led to another and suddenly, not using the internet in moderation anymore. According to Rescue Time, I spent 3-4 hours a day on very distracting online activities! This includes social media, videos, news sites, and shopping.

Surfer riding through a sea of older computers with icons on them.

Digital pause-trying again

I just read Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism. I found it to be a great read, and it really spoke to me. My main takeaways:

  • The Internet is a hard habit to break because it is designed to be a hard habit to break.
  • A good experiment to try to change how you use the internet is to have a full fast of all time suck parts of the internet for 30 days, and then add back what you want, with rules in place.
  • Conversation is more important to our wellbeing than connection, but social media prioritizes connection through likes and shares.
  • Solitude is an important state of being and we can benefit from adding some into our lives.
  • Walking is a good exercise, clears the mind, promotes deep thought and conversation.
  • It is important to replace internet surfing with satisfying leisure activities. Otherwise, the internet is used to fill voids of time.
  • Technology is neutral, not good or bad. But it is up to us to use it in a way that supports our goals and values.
Mother and son holding albums for Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers in a record store
Technology brought us Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers album art cover. Technology is not bad.

I am going to start the fast on Monday

  • I will not check Facebook or Messenger for the month
  • No Reddit or Instagram
  • I am backing way off of news. I am usually a news fiend. But for the next month, I will avoid online news whenever I can (I am realistic that some might seep in). News apps and aggregators are off my phones. There are a few news podcasts I like to listen to on my commute. I will continue that, and will go to the library to read the newspaper during lunch
  • I also removed all video and social media apps from my phone.
  • Deep breath on this one: no Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, or Youtube! If one of the boys want me to join them in watching something, I will. Otherwise, no.
  • Cutting way back on podcasts. I haven’t defined this exactly yet.
  • I have removed these sites from my home pages as well. If needed, I will use active blocking software.

How will I fill my time?

This is a tough one for me because I don’t like a lot of typical hobbies. I am not very coordinated and lack a certain level of fine motor skills, so a lot of crafts are out. Since we are committed to paying off debt, I don’t want to spend much money on activities. So, this part is not completely figure out.

However, I have reading I want to do. Ever since the last stages of my dissertation, I have found it incredibly difficult to start and finish a book. I know that I need to break the habit of too many tabs and distractions and just sit with a book, not allowing myself to jump online any time I want to look up something I am reading about.

Exercise has been a super low priority that needs to move up the list. I hope to reach out to friends more in a more meaningful way: writing longer emails, talking on the phone, seeing people in person. This one is hard for the introvert part of me, but I will try. I am in Toastmasters and want to work on some of my speeches.

Michael Scott pointing and saying "Power Point" over and over

I will also spend more time with my very cute dog and get some housecleaning and decluttering done. Even though I have given up my streaming services, I will still use Kanopy through the library to occasionally screen documentaries or some of the Great Courses. That will be a maximum of twice a week.

Can I use a computer while fasting?

Newport doesn’t say we must become Luddites for 30 days, only drop the distractions. Therefore, I will still be creating blog posts and will spend some of my newfound time learning SEO techniques and other blog-related education.

Finally, I will try to find activities and community building events that happen outside my home, and go to them and attempt interaction!

And most importantly, I will come up with my rules that ensure that when I return to the full internet, I am able to use it in ways that align with my goals and values.

Sunrise over Mount Rainier, from the window of an airplane with a wing in view.

Leave a Reply