Okay, I know. It’s like arranging a bouquet of roses while declaiming hothouse flowers. It’s like manning a bulldozer while belting out the Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” It’s like…well, it’s like most hypocrisy in the motley and subtle ways we allow into the quotidian by blandly calling it “irony.” But yes, I’m still going to write an ode to less internet by, of all things, blogging.
Here’s the story: we’ve been shamelessly picking up wifi from our neighbors for several years. Granted, sometimes I had to perch on the sofa in funky ways to stream Netflix; sometimes an egregious storm would block our signal for days. But overall it was a satisfying setup, and thankfully our neighbors knew and didn’t care. Then they up and decide to move! Honestly. How could they?
So instead of rushing out and signing up right away for (what turns out to be rather complicated and quite pricey) internet service, my husband and I decided to see what it might be like to go internetless in our home.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about this. I work part-time teaching at a local liberal arts college but I spend the bulk of each day at home with my toddler, our two dachshund-poodles and an assortment of petering indoor plants (my husband has a worm farm in the basement but I gladly bear no responsibility for the little fellers who consume our compost). I have two office hours a week that are usually filled with frantic copying and student consultations. That to say, without the internet at home, I’m a bit stranded; it means going internetless almost entirely. Dare I call this ‘virtual internetlessness’? My husband is able to access the internet all day at work, and he runs a computer program that allows him to download email so he’s able to read and compose replies at home even without access. He would certainly suffer, but I, well, I would suffer more. (A bit of unsolicited marital advice: as long as it’s corporately acknowledged, this is not a bad place to be. There’s all sorts of leverage therein.)
And I am suffering. Almost immediately, my email correspondence lagged by days; I can’t look up recipes or store hours or movie trailers; I can’t as quickly pay bills online; I have to listen to the radio for the weather. I miss Craig’s List. I ache for a Google query box.
And then, like any waning addict, I began to adjust. I’ve begun, even, to like it. I find I’m picking up books and journals to actually read. I listen to more actual CDs. I call people on the actual phone. Slowly, I start new pieces of writing and revise old ones. I spend more time in prayer. I don’t come upon my husband in the same spot in the living room doing various, miscellaneous, eternal “internet stuff”—following blogs and twitters and getting news from websites and tracking various work-related items and issues online. We both seem a little more interactive, less distracted, with our son, with each other. We do—absolutely—get bored. And most of the time we can see how silly that is, that we were bored even with the endless, entertaining possibilities of the world wide web. In the evenings we try to read aloud or grade or do projects around the house. On weekends, we rent a movie or two from Redbox.
And boy-oh-boy, what a feeling of moral superiority when I tell people we’re trying out a season without the internet at home.
“Really?” They say, “Why?” and look at me as if I’ve just bloomed a third nostril and suggested they stick their finger up it.
“So I can feel morally superior,” I answer.
“Let me guess,” some will follow-up, “you don’t watch TV either, do you? Or eat dessert?”
The truth is, though, we know this internetlessness is for a time. We’re not doing it long-term. And perhaps when—because it is doubtless I will—waste (yet) an(other) evening wandering around on Facebook or obsessively searching Ebay for my favorite cloth diapers or responding to emails that could most certainly wait, I’ll look back at this season and wonder why I didn’t learn my lesson.
So right now, while I’m in it, I need to articulate for myself why having so much internet access so much of the time was not always a good thing, what I can do to inject a little discipline (that dirty word!) into my internet use. I need to ask my husband the same things. We need to be honest and vulnerable about how AT&T’s fiberoptic monthly plan will, once again, change our domestic landscape—emotionally, intellectually, artistically, relationally.
…but while I’m on the internet, I might as well check and see which local orchards are still open for U-pick. Maybe we can make applesauce this weekend with all our gaping wifi-free hours….
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Jessica Yuan's poem "Fluorescent" appears in Issue No. 46: A Way Through.
It took years to arrive and your eyes
became accustomed to light at all hours,
At the moment, the assumption to question is that we humans have a right to be on earth and that it will indefinitely support us. When the very ground is taken from beneath our feet, where can we stand? What is left to us, when the familiar forms of our physical existence are taken away? Nothing, perhaps—yet I wonder.