seven lessons learned from being without broadband

Throughout December we had extremely patchy Broadband in our house. This was due to our phone line being cut off when parts of our village were flooded. Sadly, the floods caused far worse damage to other people’s property than mere mangled communication methods, so we largely felt lucky… but I can’t deny it was frustrating to be mostly wifi-less. Then on New Year’s Eve we were reconnected to someone else’s landline entirely (!) which meant we had no broadband at all.social media buttonsThere followed two weeks in which the only way of accessing the internet was by S-L-O-W mobile signals (there’s no 3G or anything around these parts). I was able to post the odd tweet and write a few blogposts as Word documents, hopping onto the internet just to copy, paste and hit the publish button, but that was pretty much it. By the time we were reconnected two weeks into the new year I had made some discoveries about my relationship with the internet. I thought I’d share them as I’m willing to bet I’m not alone!

1. I’m dependent on the internet in more ways than I realised…

Twitter and Facebook are tricky without broadband, and image-based Instagram is almost impossible. Blogging is difficult on a mobile signal and you can forget internet shopping (not ideal in December!) These things I realised immediately, but other things took longer to recognise – I was brought up short when attempting to find some Christmas music to listen to with the realisation that NO BROADBAND MEANS NO SPOTIFY! We do have CDs but I use Spotify and You-tube a lot to listen to an assortment of music. I really missed this. The same thing is true of iPlayer – no catch up telly for us. And of course, no Netflix or Amazon Prime video. It was like 2005 or something.

2. … FAR more ways than I realised.

Ah well, Never mind the reduced telly options, I love reading so I’ll just find some new books to read on my kindle!

– Oh no you won’t without wifi to download them.

But hey, I have time now to do some research on that new project idea I’ve had for this year

– Great plan Einstein – remember there’s no internet! Not sure how you even go about researching things these days without going online.

Ok but look, there’s this video I’m supposed to be watching for work, I could just…

– Oh no you couldn’t.

I’ll just download this school newsletter…

– Nope

Upload this…

– Can’t.

Well then, I’ll just sit down and read the Newspaper…

– If you mean the iPad version of the Guardian that you usually read, think again. You’ll actually have to go to a shop and buy a real life paper!

Argh, the frustration! I’ll vent via FB messenger to my husband.

– Or not. Haha.

And on and on it went, honestly you don’t notice how often you use the internet to look up phone numbers, decide where to go for a meal, see what films are on at the cinema, find a plumber when your boiler’s broken three days before Christmas (true story) etc. until you can’t.

BUT I also discovered:

3. There were advantages to doing things ‘the old fashioned way’.

Without iPlayer or Netflix we went and rented some actual real live DVDs! In doing so, we supported our local video shop (yep, we have one of those – how quaint!) which is always a good thing to do.

Without the ability to shop online we bought more Christmas presents in local shops. I always make a point of doing a decent chunk of shopping this way anyway (as an ex-shop owner I understand the importance) but there’s nothing that’ll kick you out into the cold and down to the high street quite so effectively as the knowledge you CAN’T buy online.

I dug out old Christmas CDs to replace Spotify – ah, nostalgia :)

I read an actual book – one made of paper! I do like real books I just read faster on the kindle so that’s always my preference these days. But it was nice to have a bit of a retro, page-turning experience and proper books do look nicer on a bedside table.

4. Life with a reduced access to social media is more peaceful, relaxed and (I suspect) psychologically healthier.

At first I missed social media – I missed posting status updates and catching up with everything other people were doing. I felt slightly cut off – I’m just so used to that constant stream of chatter in my brain.

But then something changed. I realised that it was actually a bit of a relief not to get that glimpse into people’s lives. You know the phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ (which lots of you quoted in the comments to my post a few weeks ago and I was in total agreement with)? Well social media is just a hotbed of comparison. We project snapshots of our own lives and see snapshots of others and I think a lot of the time it doesn’t do us much good. Social media isn’t ALL bad  of course but I can say now that I think my relationship with Facebook was unhealthy. Taking a forced step back was, once the initial frustration waned, like taking a deep breath of mountain air. Good for mind, body and soul.

5. Without the distractions of the internet you have more time – you really do!

The time I waste on the internet is pretty staggering. I realised this as soon as we got our Broadband back and I accidentally wasted half a hour reading about Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and her latest relationship collapse. Urgh. Celebrity gossip is a bit of a drug to me.

While we had no Broadband though, I was devoid of the usual distractions and I focused. I wrote a whole new picture book. Having no Broadband was like getting a Christmas gift of time.

6. Having no broadband for a bit can kickstart new habits without you even trying.

I can’t deny I was thrilled (like, REALLY thrilled) to get the internet back, but I’ve noticed a change in my attitude since. Part of it may be my plan to hide my smart phone between 3 and 7pm in order to be a more attentive parent, but I also think there’s a lot that’s about habits too. Checking FB constantly was a habit that I had really fallen into. Then I was forced not to check it and now, that feels habitual instead. I can’t really be bothered with it the way I could a month ago. I don’t care what I miss. My closest friends all have alternative methods of contacting me anyway (even if it’s in FB groups which are different to reading my main feed – they just are, ok? ;) ). I’m going to try and harness these new habits.

7. The internet is awesome in many ways, but I need to set boundaries.

I love being back online. Everything is so much easier. I’ve managed some of that research I mentioned, watched that work video I needed to, downloaded a new book to my kindle, read the sunday papers on my iPad and had a joyful reunion with Spotify (which has channelled a lot of Bowie this week). But I can’t go back to having it constantly in my pocket flashing its little lights and buzzing its notifications in a constant attention-seeking dance. Just no.

I’ve realised I need to be my own internet parent. A firm but fair one who allows some metaphorical chocolate and ice cream but insists I eat my broccoli and be in bed by 7pm. So I’m going to be spending less time on social media from now on and I’ll try to limit my celebrity gawping and mindless BuzzFeed reading too (although who doesn’t love the odd BuzzFeed list?). I’m about to be even more pushed for time this year (with that new project I keep hinting at) so I need to focus. If I can do that and harness the extra time and mental space then everything can start moving in the right direction.

On that note, I’m logging off.

Writing Bubble

21 thoughts on “seven lessons learned from being without broadband

  1. Emily Organ

    Although a tricky few weeks, it sounds like it was quite refreshing too! We are too reliant on connectivity aren’t we? The biggest problem for me would be loss of Spotify I think. I kept away from social media during my Christmas break as it’s nice to break from it now and again. I went back on in January and felt… oddly depressed. I can’t put my finger on why, maybe it was the comparison thing as you say although I wouldn’t have myself down as comparer. Although broadband / wifi is useful for lots of things I think we’re also in the habit of using for not such productive stuff. Hooray for being back online now though!
    Emily Organ recently posted…So you want to write a book?My Profile

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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think the thing about social media (especially FB) is even if you’re not a comparer you’re almost forced to be, because it’s so in your face what everyone else is doing. I think it plays on tiny insecurities in a way that real life doesn’t. So I can understand the oddly depressed feeling. It is good to be back online but I’m trying to be more sensible about it. xx
      Maddy recently posted…my big, new, (not so) secret projectMy Profile

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  2. Julie Jo Severson

    Ooooh, hiding you smartphone from 3-7 is a brilliant idea. I’m going to have to give that habit some serious consideration. I’m over the moon about finding your link-up today via Dana Schwartz. I’m looking forward to checking out all the other posts. Thank you for hosting. Fun discovery for my day.

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  3. Sophie Lovett

    So many points I agree with here… My parents have absolutely awful internet at their place, so whenever we stay with them I get a taste of being without it. Normally it’s just for a few days so I don’t get far beyond the frustration, but maybe I should be considering a longer visit for a wifi detox! I have really noticed recently that I’m wasting waaaay too much time online. I’m hoping the next stage might be to actually do something about it!! Xx
    Sophie Lovett recently posted…Bringing order to the chaosMy Profile

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    1. Maddy Post author

      Oh that’s so true about the attention span thing! And we don’t sit with our thoughts like we used to. Remember when you would go for a meal/drink with a friend and when they popped to the loo you would look out of a window? Now we just grab our phones like we have to have constant input! Thanks for commenting, Vai.x
      Maddy recently posted…my big, new, (not so) secret projectMy Profile

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  4. Tracy

    Interesting that I should read this today because I was reading (actual book) about technical overload yesterday and how it can actually makes us sick. So I left my gadgets downstairs and went to bed with a book. I still woke up at 3am having a panic attack but that was due to a blood sugar dip lol. I have made a decision to start limiting myself, especially with the laptop which is running all the time. So I am giving myself a set amount of time in the morning to do my stuff, then I will shut it down. I’m shaking just thinking about it ha ha. Good post!

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    1. Maddy Post author

      That book sounds interesting. i do have a rule that I leave my phone (and other gadgets) downstairs at night. Otherwise it’s the first thing I reach for in the morning which isn’t good for me! Thanks for commenting Tracy, good luck with setting yourself limits. x
      Maddy recently posted…the things they say #6My Profile

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  5. Susie Fiddes

    Sounds fabulous to have had a break and I bet you do feel refreshed. I tried to pair down a bit over the last few weeks myself due to various reasons but it’s so hard for all the reasons you state. I even record breastfeeding on my phone as my memory is now so reliant on Pages lists!! Great post and makes me want to try a full on power down at some point!
    Susie Fiddes recently posted…MontaukMy Profile

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  6. Nicola Young

    It is weird how much we rely on the Internet and equally how difficult it is when we haven’t got it. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago on holiday and at the time, I had become obsessed with Twitter. The Internet-free week managed to break my habit and I haven’t treated Twitter in the same way since. I think sometimes social media can become all consuming and it dies you good to lay off it now and then.
    Nicola Young recently posted…Golf lessons for children – finding confidence and making sporting achievementsMy Profile

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  7. Rachael

    It’s amazing how much we rely on the internet isn’t it? As for Facebook… I use it for work but tend to log in as my business page unless I am specifically going on for personal reasons (and you’ll notice I barely post on my personal page these days). I actually think Facebook is the worst for comparison/FOMO. So many people (clients and friends) tell me how much happier they are without it! As for going to a video shop… Sounds lovely! Takes me right back and I miss those evenings spent actually browsing shelves instead of flicking through Netflix!

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    1. Maddy Post author

      Yes I think FB is the worst for comparison too. Something about the combination of images and words and also its slower pace. I mind of miss those old video shop days too… but when you have films at the end of a remote control it seems pointless. xx
      Maddy recently posted…my big, new, (not so) secret projectMy Profile

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  8. Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

    You don’t realize until it’s gone! Several years ago we upgraded to FIOS – the guy came and disconnected our Internet, went outside, and came in 2 minutes later to tell us the ground was too frozen to dig the necessary wires. “Well, can we get our old Internet back?” “Nope,” he said, “You’ll have to go through the process as if you were a new customer setting up an account for the first time.” Which meant it was about 4 days until we got the Internet back. I was sobbing in the corner by Day Three. Everything I do is online: talking to my family, freelancing, paying our bills, keeping in touch with the kids’ schools…

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