9.07.2010

Unplugged

I pulled up in front of Starbucks the other night and parked next to a woman sitting in her truck, her face illuminated by the electric light from her laptop. I opened up my own laptop, logged on to Starbucks' free wi-fi and, bathed in my own electric light, found myself on a new fringe of society. I am now a technomad in search of wi-fi hotspots. For the first time in nearly 15 years, I do not have round the clock access to the web at home, and I have to say - I love it.

I'll admit, it was hard the first few days after I pulled the plug on the modem. There were tears and tantrums (not mine) and symptoms associated with cold turkey withdrawal - shaky hands, restlessness, nausea (all mine). Every five minutes I'd think, I need to check my email, but I couldn't - and I really didn't need to.

Being part of Habit last month helped me realize my own bad habit. I've spent way too much time on the internet these past few years. Finding the wonderful world of blogs and creating my own blog was like discovering a magical land - a land where time went by a lot faster than it seemed. I'd sit down to check my email, thinking it would just take me a few minutes, but responding to a few emails and checking a few blogs, I'd easily lose a half hour - or more. Writing a post could sometimes take hours. Because I was spending time online, my kids were spending time online. I found it hard to limit their internet time without being a hypocrite.

When I called the phone company to cancel our internet service, the operator was taken aback.

"I don't get many calls like this," she said, offering alternatives such as parental controls.

"It's not just the kids who have a problem," I said, thinking about alternate meanings of the phrase "parental controls".

As a parent, I took control. I pulled the plug, not just for my kids, but for myself. I took back the clock in the magical land I loved even before I discovered the land of blogs - home. Without wi-fi, time at home has slowed down. We're creating time instead of losing it. I'm more present in each moment, I'm more connected without internet connection.

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This is not to say I'm leaving this space. I'm unplugged, but not disconnected. I'll continue to blog and post pictures to flickr, read and send emails, visit the spaces of virtual friends, just not as often, and not while sitting on the couch or laying in bed. I have a feeling the kids and I will be making more frequent trips to the library with our laptops and iPods tucked in our book totes. I'll escape early mornings or late evenings to Starbucks, where I won't spend a dime, but I'll get more than my money's worth eavesdropping on college students while I tap into free wi-fi.

Who knows, perhaps being a technomad will give me even more to write about, and more time to write.

34 comments:

  1. what courage you have!
    your independence and confidence make me want to stiffen up my spine and be better, not only for my family but myself.
    I'll look forward to you writing when inspired.
    blessings to you.

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  2. After spending several weeks this summer without access and realizing how much time I waste on the computer I was wanting to do this, but I don't have the courage. It is an addiction, isn't it?

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  3. You are a total inspiration, and I am inspired! I know we spend way too much time on the computer here at home. My partner and I are both self employed, running businesses online, but still....

    I feel crazy busy all the time these days, and I sometimes wonder if part of that overwhelming busy feeling is due to all the real time lost online?

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  4. technomad--I love that term.
    wow, Molly, you are so....radical ;)
    I can't imagine, as our internet access is our main form of entertainment (netflix, hulu). Hmn. But then again, I took a bit of a computer break the last half of the summer and it felt...liberating. We really did find so much time. Kudos to you and your big leap. Looking forward to hearing more about this.

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  5. technomad - brilliant

    I love what people do with their lives to make them better - I really love that spirit about you. Good stuff Miss Foothill Home Companion. Good stuff. I will look forward to hearing more.

    It's nice to see the progression - and your post about how life continues even when you don't post about it - and then the internet unplugging. Unplugging is such a thrill but so hard. Love to hear you love it.

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  6. I salute you! I have imposed a weekend unplugged on myself and it's a wonder!

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  7. oh, wow. i have thought of imposing limited 'hours of use', but unplugging is so huge. it also seems like it helps you 'plug-in' - to getting out, which would be a good task for me too!

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  8. You are so, so right. When I moved I got rid of the TV and downgraded the internet significantly. With my old (slow) computer and slow internet I find myself not wanting to spend too much time here...which has allowed me to spend time on the boat, knit, read, and walk the summer away.

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  9. you already know that I love your for this. Been thinking about you lots. Thanks for being an inspiration.

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  10. typing this message from the library :)
    very excited to see how your experiment goes.

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  11. Fantastic! I made the mistake of bringing my laptop with me for the first time this summer on my annual two month long away-from-home and I really noticed the difference in how I spent my time. I think this year was a one and only...I enjoy the unplugged summers so much more. I applaud you! BTW, your header photo is A.MAZ.ING!

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  12. Nice. It is amazing how much time is sucked in by blogging. I stepped away for awhile too, but haven't unplugged. Best of luck to you.. Great post.

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  13. Hooray! I've have some outages in the past few years. In one I learned to play mandolin. Each lent I give up going online while my girl is awake (not catholic anymore but it is one habit from childhood that took hold and I really like the idea of) and we spend the evenings playing board games of reading to each other. There are so many things these days that are online only, like communications from school, so I can't go offline completely. But it's good to set limits.

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  14. Wow, I am so impressed! I don't think I'd have the guts to do it:) Maybe we'll try some internet free weekends first. . .

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  15. Smart and courageous as always!
    While we definitely remain "plugged in" at our house, my own computer time has dwindled to a mere fraction of what it used to be and I must say that I am so much happier and loads more productive than ever...much love to you and your sweet family. Enjoy the peacefulness of your home time!!

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  16. Hmmm... very tempting... you're making me think.

    Enjoy your "real" time.

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  17. Wishing you a lovely peace while your unplugged :)

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  18. inspiring! and i'm feeling a challenge to do so as well. (not challenged by you, but by myself!)

    wonder what you'll see out there in the unplugged world.

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  19. agreed. too much time spent on internet and blogging. been trying to cut it back myself. not necessary. too much "real" time lost.

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  20. you are a strong women! :-)
    enjoy your family time. you won't regret it, i'm sure!

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  21. good for you!!! you are so brave. ;) i remember the reaction i got (and still do sometimes) when we got rid of our tv. this takes it to a whole new level. one i should consider, honestly. i have the same issue with e-mail and blog time. i think i can set boundaries for myself, but once i turn it on, i find myself going there throughout the day. can't wait to hear more about how this goes for you!

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  22. I really love that you posted this. I chuckled to myself while reading the part about your bad internet habit, because you could have been describing me. I often feel this pressure (self-created, of course, but nonetheless) to "keep up" with other bloggers, and post as often as others do, rather than whatever pace is naturally most comfortable to me. And, when I have a lapse in regularity (which is often), I feel lame and bad about it. It's stupid, really, and this post helped me see that! Time away from the computer is time spent elsewhere, after all. So thank you, Molly. And I'm really happy for you for doing this. I might join you one day!

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  23. I must not be as addicted as I thought because I can go for days without touching the computer or accessing the Internet. When I need it the most is when I'm up in the middle of the night unable to sleep because of hormonal issues or whatever. Then I can quietly crawl to my laptop and see what everyone else is doing. Good for you, though -- your family will appreciate the sacrifice!

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  24. Kudos to you! I don't have the guts to do that quit cold turkey. But I have had the same problem with too much blog. I have been thinking turning off my blog for a while or taking a slight pause because I'm finding I'm not taking the time to sit and write in my journals. My book reading has dwindled some. This past week I decided to reach for the book not the blog.

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  25. What a great thing to do.
    I think I should do it too, your words encourage me, thanks for sharing.

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  26. As a college student, we were required to read "the plug in drug". As a single mom of 3 little kids, I didn't have the TV on much and we enjoyed each other. Now with mostly olders in my house. (6 of us, youngest in 7th grade) I find the elimination would be impossible. I need to go back to my timer. It helps. Set it for 15 or 30 minutes and then make yourself go DO something.

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  27. Hmmm. unplugged. Could I? Should I? My life is home. Home with the kids. Homeschool. The computer, my portal to the outside world. I like the idea of saving money. I even like the term technomad...very clever. I shall ponder this while I am unplugged on vacation.

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  28. bravo! been doing the same myself *ahem* as you may have noticed. i think i realized that it was adversely affecting my relationships around here in real life. hard to step away though with that constant feeling of "missing out on something". but the truth is i was missing out on a lot of things around here.

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  29. If a person lives close enough to go to the connection (like a Starbucks) that's a nice option I suppose. Some of us do not have that option, so we have to impose our own limits.

    TV - We haven't watched network tv in long time. Even when we did it was only one tv show here or there. We aren't reality show addicts, but then again, we aren't the target demographic either.

    We watch movies of our choosing, but there are those nights when the tv doesn't even get switched on.

    We read a lot, but not by Kindle. We read the old fashioned way.

    As for the internet, of the people I know who connect via laptop, they seem to spend just as much time (if not more) online, but they do it everywhere they go. Whip out the laptop, there you are.

    I personally find that like the need to have a cell phone attached to ones ear continually. It's a habit. We don't need to be connected to the outside world on a continual basis. We need to be connected to those around us (family, friends, even that clerk at the supermarket).

    Good luck to you, and I hope you do indeed find the time to enjoy life. :-)

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  30. I love boldness in a staid world.

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  31. I am signing off now... Love this!

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email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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