A few weeks ago we tried to switch internet service providers. The reasons are not important. It was meant to be a routine prisoner transfer and we ended up without an internet connection for almost two weeks. Ten years ago, that would have been ‘enh,’ kind of like if now you had no home phone service or no chequebook for two weeks — most people know how to find you without using the phone or writing a cheque.
Well I have carefully crafted a life where people other than family should *not* phone me or ask me for cheques because I won’t answer/write one. They are trained to e-mail. I love e-mail. Except when I don’t have access to mine.
Without an internet connection, our house has no e-mail, no world wide web, no tv (we are Netflix only) and no music other than the dusty CDs we dig out of the milk crate and play through the DVD player and TV because there’s no such thing as a CD player any more. We listen to internet radio, or we listen to our own music, copies of those CDs ripped and streamed over our server. None of which works without the Internet.
(This is my panic face.)
For the first day without internet access I was OK. Well, first I sulked a lot, and then I was OK. I have books, after all, and amusing children! and a radio. And a car. I took the car to the library and took out five more books and the maximum amount of DVDs, which is ten (10).
The next day I realized I was reading four books at the same time, trying to replicate the internet experience of multi-tasking, like when I go to Twitter and five people have posted interesting links so I open all the links in new tabs and then read the first three sentences of each tab and move on — oh, but don’t close the tab, don’t be silly, I’ll probably go back and read the rest SOMEDAY.
I was doing that with books. Two fiction and two non fiction. Just like the Internet!
I also took my laptop to the library and to Starbucks because there is wi-fi there, so I could log in, collect my e-mail and open up a bunch of tabs with articles to read later when I absolutely needed something to look at while I ate my lunch or after breakfast.
Why is reading a book so much harder? I love books. But sometimes (more often in the past few years) I want something quick. I don’t want to get all involved in some IDEA. I just want a hit, man.
It’s kind of sad and scary, actually. I have methodically destroyed my attention span over the years. I used to have a very good attention span.
But it is possible to recover. It is possible to wean yourself from the constant news / not-news / opinions / etc. cycle and then, when you go back to the playground that is the Internet, just limit yourself to climbing a structure OR sliding down a slide OR doing some monkey bars; not all of them halfway, over and over, like some demented five year old who spent the whole day inside.
While I was internet free, I missed: the BC election, various natural disasters, political scandals breaking, and countless instances of hilarity and poignancy. And, of course, all the bullshit that accompanies politics, natural disasters, political scandals, etc. namely: everyone in the world’s ability to instantly pronounce opinions on same.
But I didn’t really miss it. At first I felt like I was missing something; possibly everything. A limb! Then I realized I was carrying on with my life just fine, that the radio is very informative, that everything else is just noise and without noise, I don’t have to try so hard to filter out the important bits. Result: I was more relaxed. I only had to focus on real noise: the kids, the leaf blower, the telephone, my own inner voice. Other peoples’ issues were no longer relevant or pressing.
Which is how it should be, most of the time.
(And which doesn’t mean I wasn’t glad to see the connection come back.)
(This is my gorging-on-netflix face)