Our society has become quite accustomed to being connected. I definitely speak for myself when it comes to this. I can remember a life without internet, where you had to use landlines to call friends (that’s what I did in high school, gasp), where cell phones were so big you could barely carry them with you anywhere. My university experience included a cell phone free life. Eventually I got one towards the end but only to use in emergencies, I just kept it in my car. I didn’t want one. I was probably one of the last people to get a mobile phone. I hated the idea of always being available to people, to always be at the beck and call of someone or something. Of course, I didn’t consider the notion you don’t have to answer your phone.
Funny how I was so against buying into the cell phone and yet I feel like as soon as the internet was available to me (and I was aware of it) I was obsessed. I loved that I could communicate with friends while doing other things via AOL and then AIM. I could be in my room painting or watching a movie and chat with friends at the same time. Multiple friends, even! This novelty of connection with friends was refreshing. I moved a bit growing up so I had friends and family in multiple states in the US. This afforded me the connection to maintain those friendships and continue to develop them if I wanted. Why didn’t I see the cell phone in the same light? I don’t know. But I can tell you I love my phone now. But not for its calling capability, for its internet connectivity!
There is so much power at our fingertips now I think we already take it for granted. I have. And I know it because I have been without any kind of internet connection since October. I had no clue how much it had become an easy everyday tool of my life. And yet I did know, I just didn’t realize how much I would miss it. The internet has made living life so easy, especially when living in a new place, be it a new neighborhood, new town, or new country. All of a sudden there are maps where we can readily find everything we want. There are websites dedicated to learning about new doctors, new schools, new clubs to help us join and adjust in a new place. There are tools like Facetime or Skype that let us maintain face to face connection with loved ones all over the place. I could keep going. I know I find living outside of my home country much easier because of these things. The world truly is smaller in scale. I interview people in the UK and Australia while sitting in a coffee shop in Muscat, Oman. How cool is that?! But it also makes me wonder, could we survive without the internet?
Daily I want to access the internet for random things. How to convert milk to buttermilk as a substitute (try finding buttermilk in Oman), recipes for dinner, where to find an art supply store, yoga class times, etc. And of course, without any form of internet in my home, that is not happening. I never thought I would wish for a time where I could have the Yellow Pages back! But of course, I have no phone book either. I’m relying on friends and neighbors, as well as my own physical wanderings, to discover my resources and opportunities here. (Woe is me).
It has me also acutely aware of how much the internet has become an important creative resource. I easily look up free images for image references. I read other blogs or jump on Pinterest to find artwork or ideas that inspire me. And I share ideas and connect with people via Twitter. All of this has occurred in an organic way, as I needed resources or had some time to kill, I could pop online and discover these things. And while it was an organic introduction and integration into my life, I’m realizing what kind of time I have been dedicating to the internet. I think about my classroom and the days I didn’t have internet, for whatever reason (wireless not working, etc.). And it was a slower, calmer, more productive day. How can something be slower and more productive? Easy. When you don’t have a thousand emails binging away, waiting for your attention, or the easy distraction of Facebook or the New York Times, you are more present in your immediate space. And I’m finding that to be true in my home. I think I’ve cultivated a better environment and its more complete because I don’t have internet yet. It’s also made me more focused when writing my 1500 words. No internet distractions because I can’t connect! And then, when I do have internet, I’m more mindful of my time on it and my goals while being on it. (Isn’t mindfulness a focus of mine this year?!)
So, despite my large desire to stamp my feet, scream, and throw a tantrum like a small child, I’m continuing to convince myself of the benefits of being without internet. And while I yearn for the day internet is restored to my daily life, I hope I can bring some new practices to my daily habits, with or without the internet.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Are you mindful of your internet time? Does it reinforce creative goals or take time from them?! How do you navigate (ha, ha) the benefits and pitfalls of easy internet connectivity?