Monday, March 7, 2011

Unintentional Week of Unplugging

Just recently, I had no internet or home phone for a week. My internet disappeared on March 4, which just so happened to be the National Day of Unplugging (in the US). Ironically, I didn’t actually find out that it was the National Day of Unplugging until a week later, because the email that told me this wasn’t received until after my internet connection was gone. I had an Unintentional Week of Unplugging instead.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t annoying. For one, I work from home. And I need my internet to work. No internet means no work. No work means no pay. So there was a financial loss involved. Plus I just received my mobile phone bill and that’s way higher than usual because I had to ring lots of people to get the thing fixed and I couldn’t use my landline.

Also, I study through distance education. I had a big list of things I wanted to do for my studies that I couldn’t do because I needed the internet for them. I had to send a letter to my son’s teacher letting him know we had internet difficulties and that this could create problems in completing homework on time. And there was about three times a day when I would say, I’ll just check that on the internet - only to realise I had no internet. I didn’t know I’d become so reliant on Google for finding out stuff. Plus, I think I suffered Facebook withdrawals.

So that’s all the bad news. Now for the good news. I don’t think I’ve been that relaxed in ages. Even with the stress and the financial worries and the inconvenience, there was something very relaxing in NOT BEING ABLE to go online. I had to slow down because I had no choice. And that was a good thing. It brought with it a certain peace that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

Considering how much I rely on the internet, I’m hardly about to advocate ‘unplugging’ completely. But I do wonder what effect this continuous ‘plugged-in’ state is having on us. Maybe we could all do with a little ‘unplugging’ from time to time.

I believe there are things that nourish our souls. These don’t have to be overtly religious things. They can be going for a bushwalk or cuddling a child or laughing with friends. I don’t think being on the internet nourishes our souls at all. Much as it is helpful and fun and convenient - and it can lead to things that do nourish the soul, it’s not really a soul-nourisher in and of itself. In fact, it can take us away from those things that do nourish the soul.

When my internet was off, I remember thinking to myself that when the internet was back on, I would have to set aside time for when I deliberately switch it off. I’ve tried, but I haven’t been particularly successful with it. When the internet is there, I want it on. I want to be able to check it whenever I want. I don’t want to wait to start my computer up or connect to the internet. I guess that makes me part of the ‘instant gratification’ generation. When I want the internet, I want it now.

But it’s that easy accessibility that makes me keep returning to my computer. It's that easy accessibility that takes away my peace. It’s that easy accessibility that stops me feeling completely relaxed. It’s that easy accessibility that keeps me away from those things that do nourish my soul.

The internet is a tool. And I’d be the first to say it’s a fabulous tool. It gives me information when I want it. keeps me up-to-date on the topics that interest me. It connects me to friends. It provides a way for me to study from home. It lets me earn money without having to leave my house. There is so much I like about the internet.

But in the end, it is just a tool. And is a tool really that useful when it’s no longer you that is controlling the tool but rather the tool that is controlling you?  

For more information about the National Day of Unplugging or the Sabbath Manifesto, go here.


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