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3 Ways to Disconnect from the Internet and Engage the ‘Lovely, Conflicted, Eternal Present’

Geez Spring 20091. Write a letter: Writer Jonathan Hiskes wrote one letter a day for each of the 40 days of Lent. “I sent letters in the real mail,” he writes in the Spring 2009 issue of Geez (article not available online), “because there’s just nothing exceptional about email.” He wrote old roommates, old teachers, and an ex-girlfriend. He wrote to his family too. “I tried to find a nugget worth sharing with someone every day,” he writes. His hope was that the letters “would both solicit responses and prod me to pay more attention to the world around me.” He was successful on both fronts.

2. One month off: “I turn my computer on too often. For work, for pleasure, just because,” writes Geez editor Will Braun, also in the Spring 2009 issue. “I check my email too often. Even though I am generally disappointed both if there is new mail (more shit to do) or not (need to go back to what I was trying to distract myself from).” Braun hatched a plan: he'd go one month without using the computer at all on Sundays and Tuesdays; he wouldn’t use the internet when he wasn’t at work; he would not visit any news sites; and he would not use Google: “that almighty gateway to info-overload.” He fell off the wagon straight away, but he hopped right back on. Ultimately, the experiment was a success. “It was a good month,” he writes. “I was more present to my son, my wife, my work and the world … I spent a bit more time in the lovely, conflicted, eternal present.”

3. Forced deprivation: “I bet I am not alone in my near frantic desire to be released—for very brief periods, always with an escape hatch—from the tyranny of my own wandering attention,” writes Rebecca Traister in Salon. “I may not have known it, but for some time, I have wanted something forceful, computerized and beyond the realms of my own self-determination to come and muffle the beeping, buzzing, ringing, flashing distractions of our technological age so I can get some goddamn work done.” Her solution? She downloaded Freedom. This is not some abstract notion, it’s a program. “Freedom will disable the networking, only on a Mac computer, for periods of anywhere from one minute to eight hours. No Web sites, no e-mail, no instant messaging, no online shopping, no Facebook, no Twitter, no iTunes store, no streaming anything. Once it is turned on, as it hilariously claims, ‘Freedom enforces freedom.’”

Sources: GeezSalon 

melissa _1
4/27/2009 5:04:57 PM

Thank you, Jeff, for the timely and relevant article. I was just discussing this...addiction, really. I loved Rebecca Traister's description of the "tyranny of my own wandering attention". That is brilliant! and too true... It does become an addiction - an easy escape of whatever is here for us in the present, tasks we're not too excited about, feelings that are difficult, loneliness or boredom or our restless, seeking mind...and so, we go in that virtual world online -which, just like Snackwell's diet cookies, leaves us unsatisfied and wanting more... I am inspired to implement the above suggestions - write letters, impose some internet free days and check into the Freedom program for my mac at home... wish me luck. so - again, thanks for writing this. I love hearing something new! sincerely, Melissa


hitesh mahant
4/24/2009 9:31:03 PM

Hello Jeff, You are very much right to most extents. In early days of internet, & i started using it; I was very much enthusiastic about joining groups & mixer portals. but then i started a feeeling that i am always communicating a 'virtual' person; whi exist but donot exist! Life was hectic, receiving mails, reading & deleting them. (yes, in the process I learnt Fast Reading!; that was the gain.) since last 3 months, i have unsubscribed from most 'social/friendly' ones; and my life is now peaceful! thanks for nice post & useful tips. Live With Passion, Hitesh