Go On An Internet Drought If You Want To Grow
the lessons instigated accidentally by my Internet Provider
It’s been chaos these past few weeks. I moved house. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I took on more coding and writing projects for clients.
Amidst all this, I started a community coding challenge.
Then I just disappeared.
Not through my own choice but one forced by a miscommunication with my Internet provider. The unthinkable happened — the new house didn’t have a drop of interconnectedness with the rest of the world.
And at that moment, on that Tuesday afternoon, my partner, toddler and I stood around the modem in silence, staring at the blinking red light like cavemen wondering how we’d hunt for our food and entertain ourselves without our trusty connection.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had my mobile data but at $20 per 800mb, the Internet suddenly became a preciously scarce thing.
In theory, I could have walked on down to my sort of mother-in-law’s house and used her Internet. But I’ve become accustomed to the lack of physical movement after years of sitting in my comfy computer chair.
There is also the option of working at the library, where I had a solid free 1GB fo the day.
My partner got the better deal from the mobile phone provider (1GB for $0.50), but that didn’t matter.
What mattered was that I was forced to go mostly offline for a few days and go on a digital diet.
The mindless things we do
When you move from unlimited access to limited Internet, you become acutely aware of your own habits and tendencies. When there’s no visual meter to let you know how much you’ve used, you’re also navigating the day like a blind person.
Your Internet could be cut at any moment — and without warning.
Perhaps I was just being overly pessimistic. Mobile sites are optimized for lower data usage but for the normal, browser-based Internet with music streaming in the background, this is not always the case.
In my pessimism, I found myself acutely aware of the ghost feeling of not having a phone constantly in my hand. My thumb went through an empty thumb syndrome as I suddenly cut down on the amount of general scrolling.
On the rare chance that I did find myself connected, I started to notice a trend. There were essentially three kinds of stories in all my feeds — famous people doing normal human things, people faking humble brags with ‘I made xxx amount last month’ kind of headlines, and recycled headlines about productivity.
When you have unlimited data, it’s easy to just scroll past them in hope of an actual gem. But I didn’t have the capacity for such actions during my Internet drought.
Work was the priority when it came to Internet access and I had to find other ways to entertain myself offline.
Oh, how flabby we’ve become…
A decade or two ago, not having Internet was not considered the end of the world. But nowadays, we shake our heads the same way we would if we went without electricity.
The Internet drought made me mindfully aware of the mindless habits I’ve redeveloped over the past few months. They dimple my day with pockets of time sinks and turned my ability to control myself flabby.
When you spend a moment here and there scrolling through various feeds, sites and YouTube, the physical world around you piles up like dirty laundry.
We are creatures of habits and our habits are the patterns that make us who we are. It also constructs our reality based on the things we do and choose to do.
Reading about productivity may give you ideas about how to do things, but the habit of successfully implementing and performing what we read on a consistent basis is what sets us apart from our voyeuristic binging patterns.
Not having unlimited access to the Internet made me aware of my own lurking patterns and tendencies. It lifted my head up from the screen and forced me to address the empty timeslots that used to be taken up by my mobile phone and laptop.
What exactly did I learn?
The Internet is a modern-day cornerstone. When you become accustomed to it, you forget how to properly function in a disconnected state. We forget how to become creative. We lose our ability to notice novelty and revel in them. We find ourselves addicted to the endless stream of potential content and its entertainment value.
This is because the Internet is constant.
Our decisions and thoughts become interconnected by design. We become part of the mob and lose our ability to truly think and decide for ourselves. We lose or underdevelop our sense of objectivity. This can often lead us down the rabbit hole of wanting what everyone else seems to want.
To create personal change, one needs to address the over connectedness that is exclusively attached to existing in modern society.
Experiencing the Internet drought has taught me a valuable lesson — in order to find oneself, you need to learn how to be properly alone with yourself. When you are constantly propped up by a magical glowing portal in your hands, you are always somewhere else.
This makes being present an acutely impossible task. You may be present physically but your mind is off in the wonderland of other people’s lives.
My Internet is back. It’s not quite fiber levels again just yet but I’ve got the Internet.
As I catch up on client work and all the related life things like paying the bills online, I’m starting to find myself slowly migrating back to my old habits.
The thing about my Internet drought is that it helped me realized how digitally cluttered I am with my feeds and social channels. The Internet drought gave me a taste of what digital minimalism could be for me.
What I’ve learned is that digital minimalism is not about having very little. Rather, it’s about recognizing the things that are important. Decluttering the mind is a process of getting rid of the unnecessary in order to give ourselves the ability to experience meaningful experiences.