5 Days Without The Internet
Lessons from moving offline.
5 days ago I left the internet to test what it is to truly live without it. I am happy to report that life moves on and you don’t miss it much. To experience the real world without the embeddedness we have grown used to is to accept that there is richness beyond the screen. I have grown up attached to internet culture and enjoy its benefits. However, since switching to a more basic experience with dumbphones, my brain has often wondered what the next step is. These last five days have shown me where I am headed: offline.
As I entered the dirt roads toward the retreat center where I lodged for the past three days, trees, small critters, and snow greeted me with refreshing joy. I’ve seen the postcards of Colorado in the past. Experiencing the beauty firsthand without any screens to stare at produced in me new visions of what’s possible when we leave excess aside. I enjoy my daily walks with my dog in the Denver area, yet disconnecting and traveling to bask in the benefits of nature is not something I am used to. As the days progressed in the mountain, my levels of stress significantly decreased without any connection to the digital world. No pings, alarms, or anxiety-inducing sounds perturbed my sleep. Instead, I have been able to enjoy the cold weather and walk while being relatively carefree.
Another benefit from my forage into the offline world has been the return of boredom. As increasingly connected creatures, we default to pacifying our boredom with videos, blogs, and pictures. We think that we gain perspective by acquiring new information. However, the internet’s environment for depth is rather insignificant when put into perspective. Reading books online or in a stressful setting surrounded by the lures of internet-connected devices diminishes our ability to learn. By stepping out of our everyday comfort zone, we can deepen our learning experiences and associate newfound knowledge with fresh air.
The Internet is helpful (not essential)
The second, and most important, lesson during my five-day period is that the internet is helpful, but there are ways around most of its conveniences. From QR codes at the airport to purchasing tickets for the bus, access to the internet makes life extremely convenient. Convenience, however, can be another word for lack of planning. On day 1 of my experiment, I found myself in need to purchase a bus ticket. Without cash at hand, I couldn’t go on the bus to work, so I pulled my bike from the garage and pedaled to the office. While not convenient, I arrived safely at my location and prepared ahead of time to deal with this “nuisance” the next day.
By planning ahead, we can circumvent most of the internet-related tasks that companies try to sell us as essential. In need of delivery services? Calling the restaurant ahead will do. Renting out a car and selecting it via QR codes? The counter is still available and a nice human can give you an upgrade. WhatsApp or other communication networks necessary for work? Choose to interact face-to-face with your co-workers and family (wherever possible) and you’ll get more done and relate more to them.
The internet can be a helpful tool, but it is not essential to live. By choosing to reject convenience, you may find more benefits in your personal and professional interactions. 120 hours have passed since I last went on the web. My co-workers have noticed my demeanor change and my wife seems to be encouraged by the time we have spent together. Life is more than just convenience if you want to live it intentionally.
The parts of the internet I missed
Not much haha. Besides entertainment or documentaries, I did not find myself lacking anything from my offline experience. I may have encountered a hiccup by not being able to use my public transport app, but it was not a deal breaker. The internet I am returning to after this experiment will be way more limited than I expected. These mere five days have reminded me of my digital minimalism goals and bolstered my confidence to continue exploring areas where I am excessively using the web. I am happy to disentangle from its traps and embrace those parts that are truly helpful.
This little experiment will be repeated. During the Superbowl weekend, I’ll be disconnecting once again and embracing the offline world. I found that one day is good, but not enough to enjoy the sustained benefits of the deep life. 5-10 days I think is ideal as it allows you to settle into a new mindset and create new patterns of behavior. I hope that you enjoyed my report and get some time to watch my vlogs for extra context on each day.
Thanks for reading as always and I hope you find the courage to disconnect this year :)
Moving Offline is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I have to use the internet for my job, which I don't mind, but I want to get to the point where it's (or at least the user-generated internet) is exclusively in the realm of work time and I spend my life off of the computer when I'm not working. Love your work, Jose!
Great series, Jose. Glad that you had the cajones to take this experiment on and give us a synopsis of how better it made your life in a lot of ways.