I shouldn’t be here.
On the internet, I mean. It’s too dangerous. You see, I’m a junkie. It’s not really my fault — I’m a digital native who grew up with the internet, so I didn’t even know I had a problem until recently.
I’ve pretty much never had a question I couldn’t Google right away, and I have a lot of questions. I like reading, and the internet always has material. There are hours of stand-up comedy routines and music videos on YouTube, movies and television shows get beamed right to my computer, and when my eyeballs need a break I pump podcasts into my ears until bedtime. Then there’s just enough time for one more quick Google and three hours down the rabbit hole that is Tumblr before I finally fall asleep and dream about tweeting.
The other day I was sitting at work, creating content for people to absorb and absorbing theirs in turn, when I realized that I couldn’t think of one moment in my entire day that I wasn’t plugged in. If I’m not actively engaging with media, I will be the second my phone dings with a new alert.
I’m re-reading The Artist’s Way because I am also a self-help junkie, and I just got to the chapter on reading deprivation. The first time around, this week was a breeze. Mostly because I downloaded a ton of audio books in advance.
This time I was more into it. I Googled it to find out if anyone has ever died from not reading important things like a sign warning about cliffs ahead, or the label on a container full of arsenic that looks just like a sugar pot. I didn’t find anything on that, but I did find the author’s blog, where she had updated her suggestion. Her new version is media deprivation — no reading; no TV, movies, or videos; no social media, and limited emailing and texting.
Benefits of Media Deprivation
- It clues you into the stuff going on around you. Did you know there’s a whole planet out there? And what a crazy place it is! Yesterday I took a walk and saw a lawn ornament shaped like a half-eaten apple outside a house that had a stained-glass window picturing a dragon. What a world.
- It clues you into the stuff going on inside you. I was kind of worried about this, because the last thing I need is more time to think. But actually, having more time to think has resulted in a few cool ideas. Let’s see… I wrote a few of them down. Here they are:
- It gives you a sense of how much time you fill with this stuff every day. I was checking Twitter in line to get coffee. I was reading Tumblr at breakfast. I was playing podcasts while I showered. And I thought I was getting a lot of stuff done that way, but mostly I was just distracting myself all the way until death.
- It gives you a sense of how much time there is in a day. So much time. So. Much. Time.
I’m two days into a week of media deprivation and it’s difficult. Not, like, Coping Daily with Anxiety difficult, or even Learning Fractions difficult, but embarrassingly difficult nonetheless. I’m not even going all out because I have to work on the internet for a living, and I still feel twitchy. You should have seen me yesterday — I broke out in cold sweats just thinking about Instagram.
I keep slipping up, too. I absentmindedly pick up my phone and open Facebook because it’s there. I don’t realize I’m doing it until I’m liking a post about someone’s cat or commenting on a video about sloths. I don’t even like sloths.
I worked for 12 hours yesterday, mostly because I was scared to stop. The prospect of an entire internet-free, TV-free, book-free evening stretching on and on ahead of me freaked me out. People used to live like this. Color me impressed.
I had to make a list of all the activities I could think of that don’t involve using a screen or reading a book. It should not have been as hard as it was.
Things to Do with Your Nights Now, Stephanie: a Selection
- Wash the windows?
- Figure out how to get the yard ready for spring by guessing, probably, since you can’t Google it.
- Call your grandma. Get scared when she hangs up. What will you do now?!
- Knit, I guess.
- Crocheting is also something.
- Work out. People do that.
- You could work on ANY of the major projects you’ve been putting off! (Just kidding. Media deprivation and ending your procrastination streak? You’re not a superhero.)
- Pet the cats. Why don’t they want to be petted anymore? Come back, cats! It’s only been an hour.
- Learn how to paint or play the guitar. On your own. Without a tutorial. Like some kind of prodigy.
- Drink a lot of tea and revisit your “theropods” idea. Does that mean anything yet? Keep thinking about it until it means something.
Today was easier than yesterday, and I hope that the rest of the week gets easier still. It’s an interesting experiment and I’m glad I’m doing it.
But if anyone would like to give me a call and describe what’s happening on the internet, in detail, second by second, I’m very available.