Last week the unthinkable happened. The power cord for our Macbook broke, which meant the computer was out of commission until I could go to the Apple store for a new cord. It took me more than a day to get there, so yes, I went for a day-and-a-half without access to our computer.
Husband and I try to keep our lives as simple as possible – we do not have a TV, but we have a nice monitor through which we can set up our Macbook to play DVDs. We don’t have personal smart phones; he has a Blackberry for work, and I have a basic Nokia that allows me to sms, make phone calls and take photos of Small One. It’s possible that it does more than that, but I would have no idea what that “more” would be be. All of our household administration, creative work and the general “brain” of our family is located in our Macbook.
After Small One went down for his nap, I tried desperately to make the cord work, I prayed over the lap top (seriously), and nothing worked. I couldn’t do any of my pressing tasks – monitoring our budget, design work, emailing, the Internet, working with photos – nothing. I sat in our living room and wondered what to do next.
And do you know what happened? My soul sighed a little when it realized that I could do something for myself. I read a book. Then I picked up another book and skimmed it. And before I knew it, I was going through my day feeling rested, energized, healthy and whole.
I wrote at the beginning of the year about my love-hate relationship with our resident screen as well as my decision to use the computer only in the morning. Oh how I wish I had re-visted that post a few months ago because I have been wasting so much time passively sitting in front of this screen, clicking on pretty things, following the lives of other people and letting that all turn into a mental game of sorts that has only brought me down.
My computer use generally fell into a few categories – household administration (using our budgeting software to track our monthly expenses, typing in Excel or Word for schedules and lists), design, photography and the Internet. Obviously the bulk of my computer time was spent online, and of that time, I would say a big chunk of time went to email, Facebook and Skype and the second big chunk of time went to reading blogs and articles online, getting creative ideas for home decor, cooking and baby-related things.
Let me be a bit more specific. There is obviously nothing inherently wrong about a computer or the Internet. It is one part library, one part creative commons, one part innovation and so many other parts that I don’t have the time to list here, but it’s problem lies in the speed and availability of it all. If I spent the afternoon in a library, it means that I am only inhabiting the walls, the physical space of the library. I will read whatever I can pick up, if it doesn’t interest me, I can get something else, but that’s it. My mind engages with the material I give it in those walls for those hours. My life online is a different story. I have access to the world, an unending stream of ideas, analysis and opinions, I have the ability to connect with meaningful relationships from the past and to create and deepen new friendships.
Living in the 24-hour, seven days a week world means living within limitations because this is part of what it means to be human. Nurturing a life on the Internet makes us feel limitless – it makes us feel like we can know everything, make everything, be friends with everyone and be engaged in the details of other people’s “real” lives. This is a false reality that sets in the moment the Macbook is snapped shut, and that’s when – for me – the comparison, bar-reaching and self-loathing begins.
Simply put, using the computer – the Internet specifically – fills me with ideas that are impossible to fulfill and expectations that cannot be met. It feeds my hunger for more – to have more, be more, do more, make more, but I am still a few online tutorials short on how this provides a way to have that “more” in my 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week life.
This isn’t a rant against the Internet, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest tools I have in making my life easier than it should be (hello Google Translate and Google Maps), but I am tired of the way it invades all parts of my emotional and spiritual life.
The day-and-a-half I spent without a computer was one of the most peaceful days I’ve had in weeks. I got things done, I picked up an art project I haven’t looked at in over a year and now I have an idea of how to finish it, I was able to think through some things that we need in the next few months and develop a plan for how to get there. But most importantly, at the end of all of this time, I was rested in a body, soul and spirit kind of way. All that without the help of my computer.
I don’t have a real conclusion for this. One would think that after this kind of experience I would be off the computer again this week. One would be wrong. I’ve still been at it, but I am processing my computer-less experience and thinking through what it would look like to be more computer free. One thing I know, I need to be less connected to this box of silver metal. When I’m engaged with the life around me, I am happier, slower, kinder and more whole.
What are we losing every time we open our computers and go online?
This thing that’s supposed to give us more time, drains our time. It promises ideas to get our creative juices flowing, but we’re really using other people’s ideas, photographs and words and are emptied of our own creativity. It gives relationships via Instagram, likes and wall posts and keeps us from our neighbors.
Is it worth it?