As is with most things in life, spending time offline just takes getting used to.
I know a thing or two about getting used to; getting used to a new country, a new language, a new city, a new life. People get used to war, peace, high gas prices— it’s all kind of the same, in a way. It’s just easier getting used to when getting used to is the only option, much harder when you have choices.
August 6, I spent a full day offline: no phone, no internet, no TV, nothing. It was #GlobalDayofUnplugging, and much easier this time. I am getting used to being offline. In a way, it has become my normal; I have removed a lot of the choices I used to have. I’m not on social media. I have tricked myself into finding the internet a boring waste of time; an endless noise. Fewer and fewer things truly grab my attention online. It is my last resort of escape. So, I knew the hardest part of spending a while day offline would be facing the rush of emotions that plague a mind so often used to constant, quick escape. That’s what happened around 10:00am.
I started the day how I usually start my day, with a book, a journal, coffee, water; outside. The Dilbert Principle is a laugh-out-loud comedy-horror look at corporate America and its glorious lunacy, a page turner. Usually, I would check texts, email, YouTube subscriptions, and other online content while making coffee or after finishing journaling, but this time, I didn’t have my Net fixes, as Nicholas Carr put in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains: A pacifier for the anxieties of the living. Once I was done with my morning routine, and despite my effort to get on with productive tasks as planned, and also with self-imposed cruelty, because you know I could just go online and distract myself to feel better, I faced my emotions; first, on bed staring at the ceiling , then when that wasn’t dramatic enough, on the floor. Real, raw, genuine, empty, emptying.
It was over soon, and I got myself together and cleaned the bathrooms. What else is there to do? Still, it was only early afternoon by the time I finished most chores. Time feels infinite when you unplug. Kept the music blasting from my trusted iPod Shuffle, and did Suduko puzzles; one puzzle after another, after another, song after song, after song, singing along and checking off each completed puzzle. It was fun. Why not do this more often? I could, it just takes getting used to. It takes getting used to picking up the Suduko puzzle instead of checking my email.
When Suduko got boring, or really I felt ridiculous after doing over 20 puzzles in one sitting, I picked up Lady Oracle: I PLANNED MY DEATH CAREFULLY; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it. I read, undistracted, happily lost in the story of Joan Foster, a woman with numerous identities and a talent for shedding them at will; God, I love Atwood so much. So I read, and read, and read.
But, time was staying put. Time that runs out, runs away, when I am just going to check email quick, just going to Google how to pickle cucumbers, has decided it would slow down, stay put, mock me: What are you going to do now? I did more Suduko puzzles as I contemplated time, boredom, aloneness. I was bored. I felt restless, anxious. Even then, I didn’t find the option to go online enticing. I knew it would disappoint, bore me to self-loathing, despite its sweet escape. So, I contemplated more, and arrived at perhaps the real reason why we don’t radically unplug, despite all the evidence that Silicon Valley is destroying us all; it is too much to face the quietness of the offline world, unless we all unplug together— and we can end world hunger while we are at it too. Wishful thinking, either way.
As time inched on, and I desperately wanted my quick Net fix, the sun finally went down, so I picked up some tomatoes and cucumber, pulled out some weeds, and watered the garden. I did more Suduko puzzles and read Lady Oracle to end the night. It was too hot to go for a walk, to be outside.
I wondered why don’t spend more of my days this way. The answer is it takes getting used to; getting used to the boredom at first, then facing all your emotions, then getting used to the loneliness of not being where everyone is. It gets easier after that. After that, it just takes getting used to picking up a book, instead of opening another tab; leaving the house for a walk, instead of scrolling through apps; paying attention to the real world instead of getting lost in the digital noise. It takes getting used to finding things to do offline, and more importantly, getting used to your thoughts, your self, undistracted.
I sometimes forget about getting used to, and get impatient, bored, restless. I run back to my Net fix for some much needed distraction, to pass the time, numb the mind. Then, I am at the library, picking up and putting down books, until I find it: I PLANNED MY DEATH CAREFULLY; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it. I cannot fathom why I choose the internet- with its boring, sterile, bland, sameness, loathing every moment I spend in its trenches, when I can get lost in the story of Joan Foster. I cannot think of a good reason, except that it takes getting used to, and that is the good news, it’s not easy, but it just takes getting used to.
Until next time,
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