The other day, our Wi-Fi died and we were without Internet or television for 36 hours. Yes, that includes Netflix. I'm at the age where I really cannot see anything up close and only use my phone browser in an absolute pinch. And the kids do not have data plans.
It was like we were in an episode of Survivor, only with a fully stocked kitchen and much better plumbing.
The kids did not know quite what to do. What about Minecraft? What about Pokemon Go? To this generation, Wi-Fi is like oxygen and they cannot imagine a world where it isn't available all the time. Internet is, after all, considered a basic human right.
Once the state of cognitive dissonance passed and the kids realized that there really was no signal, they cast about, looking for things to do. They went outside and played badminton with the net I optimistically strung in the yard at the beginning of the summer. They went for a walk, albeit to see if they could pick up a signal somewhere else.
They played videogames with each other instead of with people online. And when it was time to go to their swimming lessons, there was not a single complaint. I was feeling truly excited until I realized their lack of complaining had less to do with a sea change in attitude and more to do with the fact that the building where the pool is located has free Wi-Fi.
Frankly, I was a little surprised how wired-in we are. We were away for the last week of summer in a place that was almost entirely off-grid. We did not miss the lack of technology then. We brought cards and books and planned lazy days swimming in the sea. Everyone knew there would be no technology so we were prepared. Our low-tech week created some pent-up demand, however, which likely made the outage at home seem even worse.
In spite of my children's views that the Internet outage was bad, I found a lot of benefits:
- Protection from the Constant Stream of Bad News. I find the news upsetting, and it's hard to avoid online. Whether it's ambient awareness from one's Twitter feed or trending items on Facebook, reports of humankind's ill treatment of one another seem impossible to avoid. Unless Wi-Fi is down, of course.
- Increased Productivity. I'm in the middle of writing a novel, which means I've become an expert in the art of procrastination. Without Wi-Fi, I could not click on Stars Without Makeup or Stars With Cellulite or You Won't Believe How These Child Stars Aged! I could not fall down the rabbit hole of reading article after article under the guise of "research for my book."
I had no emails telling me about 30% off sales or free shipping and therefore did not spend time surfing the J. Crew sale pages or Sephora.ca. I could not even look up beach properties to rent next summer, which is how I like to spend at least a third of the average day. Instead, I put my butt on my sofa, fired up Scrivener, and worked.
- No Access to Social Media. While I am drawn to Instagram and Pinterest, I know that they both create wants for things I never knew existed. I know that people who read Facebook a lot are less happy than those who don't, but, like a car accident, it's hard to look away. I could feel my mood improving as I had no access to any of it and realized that reading a constant stream of humblebrags is the fastest way to destroy one's soul.
- More Sleep. Everyone went to bed early because there was nothing better to do. The next morning we were much more cheerful since, apparently, a good night's sleep boosts one's mood.
It was not all gravy. The kids' homework is often assigned from teachers using the Cloud, and our printer uses Wi-Fi to print. When I'm writing, I rely a lot on the Internet to look up things like "How long before rigor mortis sets in" and "What is the average rainfall in Oakville in June." I was not able to do any of that. 36 hours without Internet revealed the huge role it now plays in our lives. I like to consider myself a bit of a Luddite, but I am scarily reliant on technology.
When the guy finally arrived to fix the Wi-Fi, he told me the fibre had been severed by a neighbour's gardening project. This, apparently, is not an easy fix. At first I panicked, but then I realized we would simply have to work like we used to work: in coffee shops and libraries and at school. I thought it might not be a bad thing.
Then, he told me that he was able to find a temporary fix by having us piggyback off our other neighbour's connection and Internet and television was restored, as was Netflix. Part of me wanted to hug him for returning our lives to normal. Part of me wanted to shout at him for taking away a precious gift.
My first impulse was to vow to use the Internet differently from now on and to schedule some time unplugged. I planned for this proverbial beach house to be somewhere off the grid.
Of course, in order to find this sacred place of walks and books and cards and conversation, I'll first need to do some research... on the Internet.
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