THE BLOG
07/05/2012 01:13 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2012

Using the Summer as a Break From the Internet

There's always something broken in my house. Granted, the important things always work; we always have heat and lighting and power. It's more like my house could end up being the setting for a sitcom, like the apartment building in The Big Bang Theory with the perpetually broken elevator.

For instance, my sister's ceiling fan doesn't work, and hasn't for, like, months. Then there was that time earlier this school year when I took the train home to catch my younger sister's Confirmation before returning to school later that night. I woke up the next morning with texts informing me that the basement had randomly received water overnight, causing all sorts of minor inconveniences. So of course I came home from college and learned that my house's Wi-Fi had been down for two weeks. When my mom innocuously informed me of this development, I specifically remember my head hitting the kitchen table in a perhaps too dramatic "of course it's down/this stupid house" motion.

Most of these inconveniences I just rattled off were just that, minor pains. The lack of Wi-Fi was the same, but it also had some unexpected pros to offset the cons it produced. I commute to work three days a week, so it was a definite annoyance to grab my laptop as soon as I got home and take off to try to make it to the library to mooch off their free Wi-Fi before closing time. But because that was such an annoying trek (and yes, I know, #firstworldproblems), I only made it once a day, just so I could check Facebook notifications and e-mails and other important stuff. As a result, I spent most of the last two weeks without Internet access. AND IT WAS GREAT.

Comedian Patton Oswalt ends each chapter of his book Zombie Spaceship Wasteland with a list of things he did while writing that chapter, perhaps to prove a point about what a crazy, schizoid, constantly multitasking world we find ourselves in these days. Well, here's a list of things I did without Wi-Fi:

  • Read On the Road and Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, re-read the aforementioned Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, and started the first 200 pages of Game of Thrones.
  • Watched each game of the NBA Finals with my dad.
  • Watched all of Season One of the BBC's Sherlock, and showed the first episode to my mom.
  • Started work on articles, short stories, and a literary e-mail exchange with a friend.
  • Went for some daily runs (aka "hey, my lifestyle isn't THAT sedentary" aka Phase One of "Operation: Lose the Freshman Fifteen" is now complete).

Check that out! Three and a half books read and one (admittedly short) TV season watched (read: my culture knowledge increased by like a billion, especially since Kavalier and Clay is one of the greatest and richest books I've read in a while, and the literary version of A Song of Ice and Fire is a lot more thought-provoking than its TV show counterpart. Plus, quality time with my parents! It was good, relaxing times all around, except for the part where the Miami Heat won the championship.

And now for something completely different: here's what I've done in the last two days, since my house's Wi-Fi was fixed late Monday night:

  • Nothing

Well, I should say, "nothing of consequence," or perhaps "nothing that helped me grow as a human being." Because I did do SOME things. It's just that those things were mostly listening to podcast interviews with Louis CK and Lena Dunham (both of whom are comedy auteurs with TV shows I've never watched), and reading coverage of Wimbledon despite the fact that I don't know or care a lick about tennis. If I don't know these subjects and thus have no reason to read about them, why did I? It's a good question with a dumb answer: because they were there.

That technology usually ends up being counterintuitive probably isn't much of a revelation, considering the amount of times that journalists have undertaken "experiments" where they go a week without texting, and we've all heard grandparents reminisce about the glory days when getting to school demanded they walk four miles uphill in the snow... and without a GPS-equipped smartphone!

But it's been on my mind for a few months. As my freshman year of college wore on, I noticed that most of my time was spent in my dorm room on my computer, writing essays for class, writing articles for student publications, or (most importantly) checking my friends' Facebook photo albums, updated on almost a weekly basis. I wasn't alone, either; most everyone I knew required the help of Self-Control (a Mac application that prevents you going on certain websites for a determined amount of time) to study for their finals.

Unfortunately, that addiction hasn't necessarily eased up with the end of school. One of my friends recently confessed to me that she needed Self-Control just to get all her internship work done in a timely fashion! I thought getting Wi-Fi back would take me back to the informed journalism student I always like to pretend I am, but while I've read every Tweet from my friends about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Obamacare, I have yet to read The New York Times article on it.

God, sometimes the Internet really sucks. Sometimes you need to unplug. Thankfully, I was given an unintentional respite from it for a few weeks. But now, especially in these dog days of summer, when the temptation to laze about and read meaningless NBA Draft coverage is even more intense, it may be time for an intentional sabbatical as well. I'll have to remember this next year, too.

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