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.There 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…
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.