I have gone without internet before. For the first half of my life I did not have internet. When it arrived, it was slow—often taking a minute or two to load a small photo. The photo at the top of this post would have taken several minutes to load on dial up. Since then, internet speeds have improved dramatically. As I write this, I have a 55 megabytes per a second internet connection with Wave (the faster speed was exponentially more expensive for some unknown reason). However, for a solid week in December I had no internet connection whatsoever because of simultaneous Comcast and T-Mobile fuckups.
When my friend, whom I stay with in Seattle, moved, he needed to set up internet at his new place. I said I would do it for him and went online and ordered service with Comcast—a far more convoluted process than you might imagine. Nothing about it was easy. They even force you into a conversation with a representative, which sort of defeats the purpose of doing it online in the first place. Of course, the internet would not be set up for nearly a week because, well… they are Comcast. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. When the activation day finally came no one showed up. Now, this is not unusual for Comcast. They have a reputation for being shitty and are considered one of America’s worst companies. In this case it turns out they don’t service our area, but they never bothered to let us know. No one called or emailed or anything. You might imagine that during the sign up process they would catch this little yet important fact, but no. After three phone calls, fighting with phone representatives, being hung up on, and then eventually getting a supervisor, I was finally told that they don’t service this one block. They told me to contact Wave. That meant waiting another week for an internet connection.
During this time T-Mobile decided I had reached my data cap and they simply cut service. Two problems with this. Reaching my limit meant I burned through 2 gigabytes of data in a few days—almost impossible, but especially since I hardly use my phone for anything anymore. Even if that did happen, they did not downgrade me to a slower speed like a normal company would, they simply killed the service altogether. Since I don’t have a contract with them (contracts are not cost-effective), I decided it wasn’t worth it to upgrade the service since the cost would be ridiculous and I don’t use data on it normally anyway. Besides, this is not the first time this has happened. There are huge discrepancies about what T-Mobile says I use in data what my phone says I use. Surfing the news simply doesn’t burn through that much data. Regardless, because of T-Mobile I had no data.
What this combination of events meant was that I had absolutely no internet connection whatsoever for a full week. None. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. I could have gone to a nearby coffee shop, or even back to the old apartment to use the internet there. Instead, I thought I would just embrace the situation and find out what would happen.
The first thing I noticed was that it did not have the huge impact that I thought it would. Probably because I cut back the data usage on my phone a long time ago. I have only few apps installed and just do some web surfing every now and then. Even at home my focus during the day tends to be on writing, studying my Spanish, and a few other things. I did not miss the internet nearly as much as I thought I would.
The other major thing I noticed was without the distraction of the internet—that is, the distraction of pulling up websites, dings sounding on apps, and so on—I became remarkably productive. I was getting everything completed on my daily to do list in a fraction of the time it normally took me. I was fully focused on my tasks. Everything was done ahead of time and was done well.
During this time I had no idea what was going on in the world. I had no news. I have worked hard to limit my news consumption because I think it doesn’t really make me feel any better, but I still read it occasionally throughout the week because I want to be informed. I don’t get the newspaper in physical form anymore nor do I get magazines mailed to me. All of this is consumed online, so without internet I had no way to keep up with current events. You know what? It was no big deal. In fact, it was great. I was not irritated by what I read and I didn’t waste time getting stuck in that spiral of reading article after article. At a recent party I was not fully informed about the issue with North Korea and Sony, but instead of my normal tendency to jump into the fray with my opinion, I sat back and listened. I liked that.
While all of this was great, there were some drawbacks. I communicate with most of my friends using iMessage or Line. I had to send regular text messages to people in the U.S. which on an iPhone is remarkably difficult with iMessage. Apple just assumes you have internet and will send as an iMessage no matter what. I finally got my iPhone to send regular text messages, but even after forcing it to send regular text messages it would throw a shit-ton of errors because it secretly wanted to try to send an iMessage in the background. A text message would go through but the iPhone would say that it hadn’t. That was just an annoyance mostly, but a glaring one.
I write a lot and without the internet I expected there to be some issues. Research or a word would be difficult to look up. I mean, who has a set of encyclopedias and a dictionary anymore? Actually, that was not a problem at all. My writing improved dramatically without the distraction the internet can bring. The issue was needing to look something up unrelated to my writing, or ordering food if I didn’t want to cook, or pulling up a recipe, or access my files in the cloud, and so on. There was no updating my websites. And of course, no email. That was a pain. I had a lot of unanswered email.
The biggest annoyance of not having internet was related to my Apple products. I have a MacBook Air, iPhone 5, and an iPad Mini 2. I am not an Apple fanboy by any stretch of the imagination, but the convenience of having everything work together smoothly is nice (even though they rarely work that smoothly together). The problem was that my iDevices, and especially my Mac, throw remarkable fits when they are not connected to the internet. Programs don’t work well, processes that want to connect to the internet but can’t spin out of control and overheat the computer (poor programming by Apple), and so on. That was a real pain.
Overall, the experience has not been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. If anything, it was rather refreshing and improved my productivity and focus. I am fairly well restrained and can control my behavior, but the internet is such a part of everyday life that I don’t think I fully realized how much I used it without thinking about it. Moving forward, I am going to just turn the wifi off when I go to bed and not use it until the afternoon the following day. The router has the ability to block my computer for a set time. That features works great for keeping me off the internet for the first half of the day. I have no need for it in the morning when I meditate, stretch and write. After that I can flip it back on and read some news if I want or take care of anything that needs to be done online. The productivity gains have been tremendous and I feel a lot more present.