The Case for an Internet-Free Home

I’ve spent the last 7 weeks living without internet at home, and it’s opened me up to a world of deliberate intent and distraction-free creativity.  When I initially told people about the choice, I got a lot of raised eyebrows and pats on the back. I didn’t think it was so revolutionary, but I’ve gotten enough questions about this quirkly lifestyle choice that I’m writing about it here. 

Why I did it

Frankly, the idea didn’t start with deliberate intent. I spent the first 2 weeks back and forth with AT&T, who massively fudged up multiple appointments and calls. By that point, I actually enjoyed the solitude my lack of internet provided me that I dropped the effort. If it became unbearable, I could always flip the switch, right?

What I now have the space to do 

Suddenly I have time for unplugged interests: reading voraciously and writing frequently. Building meaningful relationships without electronic intrusions. Building a bike from scratch (in process).

Instead of being passively sucked into watching music videos of twerkin’ in San Francisco (don’t get me wrong, that stuff is hilarious), I now make deliberate choices about how I spend my free time — this includes internet usage.

If I want to go online on weekends, I make the time and intent to go to a coffee shop. Deliberately pointing yourself in a direction and committing to it is an enormously valuable skill in life. It enforces daily rigor and discipline. This point may not appeal to everyone, but I enjoy planning out my day and compartmentalizing when I’m in work mode and when I’m in play mode.

Letting the buzz of the internet melt away has also given me an environment to be more creative about my business. I don’t simply hop online and Quora my startup questions. I don’t try to find “best practices” from my favorite blogs (at least, not in the initial phases of thinking through a problem).

Instead I’m forced to be deeply introspective and root around for an answer that I internally populate. I’ve given myself license to create my own answers and thus be more creative.

Note: I do have a smartphone connected to 3G for playing music, looking up map directions, and answering urgent work emails. I limit my time on it anyways since I don’t have unlimited internet access. 

How to unplug

This can be as extreme as literally unplugging your wireless router (which could get your housemates pretty pissed). Otherwise, here are some tips to moderate your slavish urges to obey the internet gods:

  • Leave your computer at work or in the car. Creating physical space from your hardware also gives you the mental space and makes the act of retrieving it an effort.
  • Turn off push/fetch notifications on your phone. This is one of the single most distracting ways to puncture focus.
  • Set up internet “buzz-free hours” at home, when no laptop surfing is allowed. Spend that time getting a real buzz out at a bar with friends or indoors with wine and an awesome book.

Tweet me your best #liveunplugged tips. I may not respond immediately, but I know you and I have some offline things that are higher priority 😉

*This post was drafted in an internet-free environment with Pilot G-2 gel pen and paper