Still Life Without Internet

Man's silhouette while studying

photo by : leo hidalgo

Hello end-of-August, waning summer light, short-cruise to autumnal routine. I love you.

How has your month been? Did you take a break? Did you take it slow and keep your time and maybe your brain empty and welcoming? Did you laze in creative reverie and live on sunshine?

I assure you: I did.

Today I woke up early (for a weekend) and made coffee and watered all the plants in our backyard garden and watched the butterflies float from their leaves in a shower of water droplets and saw the clouds roll over the hills. Later, by accident, I synced my phone and re-added all the social apps I ditched last month. They look out of place, and I haven’t logged in yet. But enough of the highfalutin descriptions and waxing on about the prosaic “no social” month. Let’s talk about what really went on last month, shall we?

Taking a break from the internet is no new thing. People all over the planet are doing this because deep down, we all feel that hamster-wheel effect in our brains and in our lives, and we need a little peace from that sometimes. If you haven’t taken a digital sabbatical yet, I highly encourage it. Focus on something else. Make your own ideas. Stop being torn apart mentally by “which way should I go” syndrome.

What did I do this month?

★ Read a few books:

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

Revolution, by Russell Brand

You Say More Than You Think, by Janine Driver

Unlimited by Jillian Michaels (meh)

Mind Over Medicine, by Lissa Rankin

The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

★ Ran ★ Hiked ★ Ate breakfast on the beach ★ Went to a baseball game ★ Spent a week checking out native Montana flora and fauna ★ Slept long and deeply, with vivid, mountainous dreams. (My internal cry for more outside time, please!) ★ Cleared out some clothes and books and things ★ Finished a project, 3 years in the making ★ Dug into a morning routine ★ Watched my plants throw new leaves ★ Spent several hours doing nothing in particular

Really, there was nothing miraculous about my month except for the way I felt. Externally, nothing really happened.

Internally, I feel like I started living my own life again.

I don’t get hooked on a lot of things. I stopped eating meat years ago, and sugar soon after. I drink coffee, but not a lot, I don’t exercise or gamble or shop in crazy amounts. I don’t hoard things up and I don’t fanatically abstain. What gets me, though, is stories. Information. Knowledge. For those things, I am insatiable. I want to be like Sherlock, Cal Lightman, or Anthony Hopkins in The Edge. I crave the knowledge that can be used as a tool to solve problems.

It seems like I never know enough. I want to be a Swiss Army knife of knowledge. (Even now, as I check to see if army in Swiss Army knife is capitalized, I get sucked into a Wikipedia article and have to cut myself off…) Knowledge itself is good. But when it's all knowledge acquisition and never knowledge execution, the knowledge is useless. I know this, but I get stuck in that habitual loop anyway. I read and read and read, and I want to keep reading because there’s more (there’s always more), and what if I missed something (of course I’ve missed something).

Taking a month away from information firehoses like Twitter has let me reflect on my own tendencies. I still read a lot, as evidenced by the reading list above, but instead of hopping from short article to short article without reflecting on each individually, I spent hours immersed with a subject and came away with a lot more. With the time to think about the way I interact with social channels, I’ve decided to institute a few changes in my life to ensure that I can still connect with people over social channels without bogging my mind down in information quicksand.

Changes for the better:

From here on out, I’ll be:

★ Abiding by a cutoff time for internet things. 8 PM. Done.

★ Reading one thing at a time—no consecutive article or book binges. The point is to reflect on the information.

★ Being intentional about connecting in person.

If you've taken a break—this month or any other—how did it affect you? Are you back at a pace you're not quite comfortable with, or are you rolling with it all?

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