Unplug: Why You Should Take an Internet Intermission

I love the internet.  I wouldn't have this blog without it.  We wouldn't connect via Facebook, Instagram, or email without the internet.  The internet makes extensive research easier and opens up tons of news and entertainment options.

But we need to get away from the internet sometimes.  It's open 24/7/365, and we're not.  We can't be.  It's too much.  We need to take breaks from our phones and computers so we can enjoy real life.

And when we get back to our phones and computers, they need to be tools we control, not addictions that control us.

Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity, has made it a goal to unplug one day a week.  That's 52 days a year.  52 days a year "to trade what's online for what's right in front of us."  She suggests the following strategies to reduce internet dependence.

5 steps to an internet intermission

1.  Schedule it.
Pick a 24-hour block that works well for you.  It might be a certain day (like Sunday), or it might straddle two days (like Friday after work until Saturday evening).

2.  Prepare for it.
Tell friends and family when you'll be offline.  If you usually take notes on your phone, keep a small notebook or some Post-Its handy.  If your phone is your alarm clock, consider using a regular alarm clock.

3.  Rethink excuses.
If you're thinking "It's just not possible" or "That's easier said than done," keep thinking.  Challenge yourself.  Maybe 24 hours seems like a long time, but you won't know unless you try.  

4.  Evaluate your experience.
Were there certain times you particularly missed the internet?  Why was that?  Did you get bored?  Did you pay more attention to the people around you?  Did you use your senses more, or have more creative ideas?  Whatever your experience, think about it and then make a decision about what works best for you.

5.  Plan future breaks.
Even if you decide 24 hours is really too long, you can still practice regular, shorter internet breaks.  Commit to no internet before a certain time each morning or after a certain time in the evening.  Alternatively, give yourself an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to be on the internet, and take the rest of the day off. 

Exchange Wi-Fi for fresh air, news for laughter, Google for observing, and texts for hugs and hand-holding.

Make unplugging work for you.

On regular days, days you're online, consider how you're using this wonderful tool.  Is it helping you learn more, get more done, and meet the needs of friends and clients?  Or is it a time suck that induces gossip, comparisons, discontent, and other bad feelings?  Does the way you use it make it a blessing or a curse?

On social media, consider "friending" only those who are actually your friends.  Use it as a means to connect with them, not as a way to reach a certain number that makes you feel popular or to achieve a certain rating.  While you're at it, limit groups and people you follow to what truly adds value to your life.

Beware digital clutter.

Be careful about how you use your devices to reduce physical clutter.  We're often urged to digitize photos, music, movies, books, even receipts and important papers like insurance documents to reduce clutter.  But even digital space can be cluttered if you can't find a file or an app because of other stuff that obscures it.

Just as you never want to waste time searching for your keys, the scissors, or your favorite earrings among piles of clutter and excess, neither do you want to waste time searching for digital content you need.  Be sure to delete what you no longer use, and sort everything else into folders with descriptive titles.  Make it a habit to organize new acquisitions.

Just because you can remove shelves full of books, movies, or CDs by using a digital device doesn't mean you should continue to acquire everything that catches your eye.  Impulse purchasing is still a budget-buster, even if the purchase doesn't take physical space.  And controlling that impulse is a key to becoming intentional about your life.

Minimalism is about removing things that crowd out what's really important to you, not just about making those things smaller or more portable.

Just as owning ten of anything doesn't make you ten times happier, having fewer possessions, physical or digital, doesn't make you less happy.  Regina Wong, author of Make Space: A Minimalist's Guide to the Good and the Extraordinary, says that "having less, but having the right stuff, can deliver more fulfillment."

Less, but better.  It's a good mantra for everything, including all things digital.

Updated February 2023


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