"Woah! we're half way there / Woah! livin' on a prayer / Take my hand and we'll make it, I swear!"
— Livin' on a Prayer, Bon Jovi
From day one, I knew this challenge was going to be a challenge. The smartphone has been put away, freeing up a lot of much needed time to spend with my wife and daughter; the television now just another fixture as useless as a paperweight, giving the chance to read books again; and the internet only used for certain activities (see below), providing a whole renewed perspective on what it means to be "off the grid." Although frustrating and actually depressing at times, I realized I desperately needed to manage my time better and even learned a few things about myself and others even though I've only hit the halfway mark.
Have you ever lost your shiny little metal friend after another drunken romp through a pub crawl, and now you’re all alone, terrified in a wilderness of solitude because you cannot get in touch with anyone you know? Maybe that was a little dramatic, but not far off-kilter to how I felt when beginning this challenge. The common misconception seems to be that I no longer exist even though I still have a prepaid cell phone without all the bells, whistles, and Candy Crush** on which you can leave a message and I will call back using Google Voice. I guess that information should have been provided earlier to everyone to prevent friends from becoming frustrated, angry, or perplexed when they are unable to reach me, and it would have definitely prevented my mom from wondering about my well-being.
**Note: The massive reduction in Candy Crush skills will be the worst of all; I'm used to playing so much that dreams about strategic candy position are quite common. I will be writing a series about Apps You're Taking For Granted similar to Internet Luxuries You're Taking for Granted.
Being the only person in the room without a smartphone feels like being the only sober person at the party, you’re definitely missing out on a great fucking time. So to fill the time, I made social observations about some real abuses of wireless technology being perpetrated all around us. First of all, it’s really odd to stand in line and watch all twelve people ahead staring wide-eyed at their phones like it's a gateway into Heaven. Some, not all, refused to take their eyes off their screen while placing a food order, and when a few sat down together, they barely acknowledged each other with a face-to-face conversation.
Second, is how hard it's been attempting to make plans with those who do not otherwise make plans, or stick to them. In the past, before cell phones, you would collectively determine and agree to the exact times and meeting places for appointments, get-togethers, and meetings when you have plans to meet friends, family, or coworkers. Years ago the group was practically be FORCED to keep plans and meet at that exact location at that exact time; there was no texting each other 10 times after the fact for a change in venue or to push back the meeting time like there is now.
When people complain about not being able to unplug, here is an easy solution: Turn off your phone — there’s a button on the top. If you need more motivation, since you can access the internet go ahead and Google “cell phones” and “brain tumors” and prepare to piss your pants.
Overall, I have not regretted giving up TV except for missing out on current events, which also goes hand-in-hand with the internet. You can turn on your TV and scroll through the guide. Right now, at this very moment, there is probably one channel playing six episodes of "Friends" back-to-back. Another channel has four episodes of "Sex in the City". You can't find an episode of "Seinfeld" airing alone any more than you can buy a single roll of toilet paper at Sam's Club.
But eventually, you find that without it you miss out on a lot of social interactions, especially at work. Recently, I've had a lot of moments that went something like this:
Co-worker: "Hey! Did you see 'The Walking Dead' last night?"
Don: "No, I cancelled cable and don't watch TV."
Co-worker: "Um... so... yeah..."
Don: "Good talk."
Reading more has been a definite plus since I used to detest sitting down to read a book; a huge contridiction for someone who has sat down to write a book. Reading is just more enjoyable now when not having to worry about missing out on new episodes of television. On a few occasions, I have even regained interest in picking up the guitar and aimlessly strumming chord progressions over and over until something melodically appeases my ears.
This has been the hardest of the three elements that were eliminated for the month. The internet is an amazing tool, one that has changed our lives mostly for the better... mostly. But there are a ton of more meaningful activities than spending time on the internet — like writing, exercising, contributing to society, connecting with new people, and strengthening existing relationships. And then on the other hand, I haven't see Facebook's news feed in 15 days! Look what I could be missing:
The biggest criticism from friends was, "You run a website, how could you possibly go without the internet?!" That's a valid point, but take a look at the rules established in the beginning (the bold is where I've added clarification for this post): "Internet will only be used for business purposes at work (no personal use), updating and promoting my blog (I'm allowed to log into the site to publish posts and go on Facebook/Twitter to send the link, but nothing more), and checking email ONCE per day (Just like checking the mailbox outside, I typically do this in the morning). Also updating my fantasy football teams, 'cause come on, let's not be savages."
From the beginning, I stacked the deck in my favor to allow the growth of DonDoes30.com while still repudiating essential parts of the internet, such as reading the news, getting directions, and paying bills (yes, I will be finishing that series soon). The posts are typically written in Microsoft Word, copied and pasted once finished for publishing, then images are added at that point so you're not reading plain text. Typical time spent on the internet: less that 20 minutes a day (including reading/responding to emails). Trust me, it isn't easy when the internet is built into every electronic device since the modern toaster.