The Internet is a wonderful and important tool, but more of us need to learn how to use it as such.
In 2012, Christina Crook realized she needed a break from the Internet. For 31 days, the Canadian freelance writer and mom-of-three disabled the data on her smartphone, logged out of her email, and closed the browser on her laptop. For every day of her fast she wrote a letter on a typewriter and snail-mailed it to a friend, who uploaded it onto a blog. The project, called “Letters from a Luddite,” received international attention.
Crook has just published a new book called “The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World” (New Society Publishers, 2015), which explores in greater depth the questions and issues raised by her original Internet fast. Written as a sort of meditative guidebook, complete with ‘Chapter Challenge’ questions at the end of each section designed to encourage self-examination and critical thought, “The Joy of Missing Out” is chock-full of interesting (and alarming) research, critiques of digital assumptions, revealing insights, and inspiring quotes.
The title reveals Crook’s stance – that the Internet, while being a powerful and wonderful tool for many reasons, fails to provide us with truly meaningful relationships, space for creative imaginings and thoughts, and the relaxation that so many of us crave. Choosing deliberately to “miss out,” whether in the form of a drastic multi-week fast or simply by setting stricter parameters for personal time spent online, can be a rewarding and worthwhile experience.
Each chapter explores a different way in which we use technology – and it, in turn, uses us. From the need to regain lost time in our overscheduled lives and the necessity of quitting the comparison game triggered by Facebook, to the innate human desire for companionship and intimacy, “The Joy of Missing Out” encourages readers to let go of digital addictions and learn to balance what’s necessary with what’s important.
"The best learning happens in the wide open spaces: physically, spiritually, mentally and relationally; disciplining ourselves to carve out these spaces may be the most valuable lesson we can learn."
The most moving chapter for me was the section on childhood, and the disturbing reminder that we, parents of the next generation, are the custodians of a pre-smartphone past. Our children will never know a world without the Internet in everyone’s pocket, which makes it all the more important to establish and maintain healthy screen habits.
While Crook did return to the Internet once her fast was over, she did so with a clearer perspective on what it means to be connected. Readers can gain similar clarity by reading this book. I was so inspired by it that I convinced my husband to try a weekly 24-hour period that’s completely screen-free. We did it for the first time this past Sunday and the result was deeply satisfying: I read 250 pages of my novel; we hiked and played outside in the snow with our kids; and played two board games with them. When I logged into Facebook on Monday morning, I wasn’t surprised to discover I’d missed nothing.
You can buy “The Joy of Missing Out” online at jomobook.com.