Why I’m Reconnecting To The Internet

For thirty days, I’ve had no home internet connection. I had no internet on my phone, either. I only connected in cafés.

I’ve decided to reconnect. You may be thinking “of course!”, but there were actually quite a few pros to not having a connection. Under different conditions, I would stay without internet.

Why I Disconnected, and Why I Was Wrong This Time

I wrote about my reasons for the no-internet experiment here. But I can sum it up as:

I went to Cuba with no internet for a month, to write. I was much more productive and had more free time as a result.

But, I finished my writing project on that trip. Turned out I was trying to solve last year’s problem, this year.

My writing project required no research. So, any time on the internet was, by definition, time not working. If I were doing that again, I would cut off internet without hesitation.

But right now, more of my work involves the internet. There were more points of friction. There was also a societal effect I didn’t count on.

Society Is Connected, and Expects You To Be

In Cuba, I had set up a situation where I didn’t need the internet at all. It was a slow month in Montreal, so I could afford to be away. I didn’t need the internet for any day to day administration while I was there. And everything is done offline in that Cuba, so I wasn’t breaking any norms.

But back in Canada, there are many little things that require the internet. Paying bills, posting to a timesheet, finding tax guides for my tax return, and a million other little things that you don’t think about until you try doing them without a home connection.

Paul Miller wrote yesterday that he is leaving the internet for a year. He’s doing more than I did – he won’t be using it in cafés or anywhere. I suspect the largest impact for him will be the surprise of all these little points of friction.

It’s getting harder to do things offline. The non-internet infrastructure still exists, but it’s fading.

The Good Parts

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I enjoyed my month of being disconnected at home. I felt different. Meditation became much easier. All the books I have around me starting getting read – I read more in this month than in four months while connected.

Using the internet itself became more interesting. It was quite social being in a cafe whenever I was connected.

I was forced to be more focussed. The amount of tea in my cup provided a natural limit for how long I could use the internet at one time.

And I was able to avoid many of the problems I worried about. Blog post drafts went to Scrivener – I’m actually keeping this system. For random google questions, I just wrote them down on a piece of paper and dealt with them all at once.

What I’m Going To Keep

I realized that I should probably never be on the internet on my iPhone. It’s smaller and slower than my computer. But it’s very easy  to just pick it up and read it, rather than a book.

So I’m going to try and implement a hard rule of going to my laptop if I want to read anything online. When I’m not on the computer and I want to read, it will be a book.

This is much easier to say than to do, but it’s the one change that’s most meaningful to me.

I Am Unfocussed, But So Are Most People

The major point of criticism I got about my last article was: “This just sounds like a lack of will-power.”

That criticism is 100% correct. I lack the will power to use the internet exactly as I would like. But  don’t think I’m more distractable than most people. I’m far from alone in seeing some danger in limitless connection.

Paul Graham has written about the internet as a time-sink. There’s Paul Miller’s experiment above, and this experiment from writer James Sturn.

And I got the idea to cut the connection from a Hacker News Post that appeared a week before mine. A writer went from 2,000 to 10,000 words per day when wrote without the internet.

If you’re a writer, you should seriously consider disconnecting, at least on a trial basis.

The Internet Is Good, But We Have To Think About How To Use It

Since the internet is so new, we haven’t had a chance to think through how to use it. The internet is good. I like the internet, and so do most people. But we shouldn’t just use it unquestioningly. Like any technology, we must think about how to use it.

If that’s not an issue for you, great. You can enjoy the wonders of limitless information without wasting time.

But if you’ve ever felt the same way as me, then take a long, hard look at how you want to use the internet. I don’t think you can get away with not using it, or even not having it at home. But you can surely use it better.

And if you can swing it, a 2-4 week disconnection will act as a good reset. You’ll see which parts you need, and which just waste your time.


I’m Graeme. I’m a self-employed LSAT instructor in Montreal.

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  1. […] May 1st, 2012Uncategorized “I realized that I should probably never be on the internet on my iPhone. It’s smaller and s… […]

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