This writer finds it necessary to take small steps away from the Internet in order to maintain perspective and fuel creativity.
The hours of my day are increasingly occupied by the Internet. It didn’t start out this way. I used to blog daily, spending minimal time writing and often sketching out my ideas by hand before approaching the laptop. Then a dream came true and I got hired as an online writer. Suddenly I became accountable to an editor, a group of fellow writers, and a company that sends me a paycheck.
Now the Internet is my job, and the amount of time I spend staring at the computer screen has increased along with the number of weekly posts I’m required to write. There is reading, research, writing, linking, and editing to be done, as well as post promotion and follow-ups. Add the endless barrage of emails, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts, and all of a sudden there are days when it feels like the Internet has taken over my life.
I absolutely love my job, but I don’t like that feeling described above, which is why I’m trying to implement what I call “acts of screen resistance” into my life. They are meant to counteract the Internet’s dominance of my time in simple, small ways, and to remind me to prioritize people over screens. They force me to pull back, to think again, and to divert my attention elsewhere. These include:
Stepping outside to check the temperature. It’s embarrassingly easy to open The Weather Network app first thing in the morning. Opening the door to greet the day has positive connotations. Sometimes I wave at a neighbour, notice a thirsty plant that needs watering, or remember it’s recycling day. Most importantly, I exercise my own senses in determining how to dress my kids that day, and that feels good.
Avoiding Google as the all-knowing fount of wisdom. Google is glorious for many things, and I do rely on it heavily, but it’s easy to forget that people are incredibly knowledgeable. If I know someone who is an expert in a particular field, I try to call or email them, instead of searching online. Human knowledge, when pooled among a circle of acquaintances, can be surprisingly vast and deep, and much more interesting than a page of Google search results.
Putting limits on my phone use. My goal is to ignore my phone completely from the hours of 7 p.m. and bedtime. That is precious time to be spent alone, usually reading, or hanging out with my husband. The ‘silent’ button is one that I’ve started using more frequently, in an effort to assert my authority over technology. Now it has to wait for me to check it, not vice versa. I’ve even returned to using an old-fashioned alarm clock so that I can leave my phone downstairs at night.
Raising my comfort level with not knowing everything. This one is tough, as an online writer, since the quest for new and relevant stories is never-ending. Although my zest for seeking them has not decreased, I’ve realized it’s impossible to be omniscient. I’d prefer to read and learn about a given topic in greater depth than to skim dozens of articles and come up with little information; hence the need for my above-mentioned quiet evenings of reading books.
Refusing to have wireless Internet at home. I know, this sounds positively archaic, and it usually comes as a shock to overnight guests, but the Internet connection at my house comes through a single DSL line. For me, this turns using the Internet into a conscious act. I must walk into the room, sit down at my computer, and make sure it’s connected before doing anything. Likewise, it prevents me from going online anytime, anywhere, and from allowing work to follow me around the house.
I don’t expect these small acts of screen resistance to work for everyone, but they’re helpful for me to achieve that much-needed balance between the Internet universe and the real world. I think, too, that they make me a better writer for the perspective granted and the space allowed for creative thinking.