Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

October Lifehacking: Internet Detox

Posted by Trixter on September 29, 2012


The month of October marks the 20th anniversary of when I first obtained internet access (thanks Brian!) and started accessing the internet at least once every single day.  Back then it was mostly FTP transfers and Usenet reading; my first email address came a year later, and I didn’t fall into the IRC trap until a year after that (and gave up IRC somewhat for good in 1999, as my IRC addiction was affecting my job).  Despite being connected to the world at 9600 baud back then, I used the ‘net for at least something every single day, and that hasn’t changed in 20 years.

Actually…  I don’t recall using the internet on my wedding day, honeymoon, and during the birth of my children.  But the ‘net and I definitely have a five nines relationship.

A few days ago, I came across a 3-article summary on slashdot on how smartphones have banished boredom, and whether or not that’s a good thing.  It got me thinking about how I spend the majority of my free time — or rather, how I tend to waste most of it — so I decided to try a little experiment:  I will go on an internet sabbatical for one month, specifically the entire month of October. Absolutely no voluntary internet access whatsoever (I’m sure my internet-connected devices will continue on their merry autonomous way without me).  The rules I am imposing on myself are as follows:

  • No web access
  • No reading or responding to email
  • No browsing social network feeds (twitter, facebook, google+) in any capacity (smartphone or PC)
  • No Netflix streaming access

To avoid too much disruption, there are a few exceptions to the above.  I will check email/web Saturday October 6th because I have an ebay auction ongoing, and will need to send the winning bidder their merch.  Also, I will allow myself web access at work if I need it to perform my job duties, or at home if I need to respond to something time-sensitive (like enrolling for work health benefits, etc.).  And if Melissa wants to watch a movie on Netflix with me, obviously I will oblige.  But otherwise, that’s it.  I’ll slap a vacation message on my email addresses and come back a month later.

Lack of internet access doesn’t mean I’m sequestering myself from society.  If you need to get a hold of me, please call or text me — you know, like before the internet was popular.  I’ll have my cell phone on me at all times.

I’ve never done anything like this before and have many questions.  Will I spend more time with my family?  Will I get more sleep?  Will I finally read Neuromancer?  Will I spend more time playing games?  Will it affect my weight?  Will it affect my work performance?  Will it affect my anxiety?

I’ll come back with answers in November.  See you then!

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6 Responses to “October Lifehacking: Internet Detox”

  1. David said

    I look forward to hearing how it goes. I started using the internet on a daily basis about 20 years ago as well, and I remember life was good even before the Internet. I have thought about taking a break from it lately. A little more than 10 years ago I took a big break from the internet and ended up spending more time hanging out with friends and being more physically active, but then again, I think those two results may have been the cause of being away from the ‘net just as much as the result. I do remember that I wasted time watching whatever bland show was on the TV too often when I came home from work. I wish that I could have that TV time back today, so I could spend it researching what I wanted on the Internet. Enjoy your sabbatical/detox/experiment.

  2. Chris said

    I did this back in 2000 for a week, just because. I went a step further and actually configured the firewall in the house to only let email through. I survived it, most people will. I could do it again today without too much problem as I don’t use any of that social networking stuff. (call me old fashioned, but e-mail still works fine!) For perspective, there are still people in the US that don’t own a computer or go on the internet.

  3. Jay said

    I too have used the internet almost every day of my life since the days of bitnet and 300 baud modems at ilstu, way before PLATINUM.

    I just don’t envy your having to go through thirty days worth of email… and I thought my inbox was bad!

    But maybe you can spend some of your newly-found time reading my new and first book, which I’m sure by now is hopelessly buried in your email :) It’s titled “Zen and the Art of Truck Driving” and is published by Amazon.

    Does a Kindle count as internet access? :)

    Anyway, I will check back on your blog in T -30 and see how things went.

    Best of luck, Jim!

  4. Optimus said

    Interesting experiment. If I’d do that I would abolish everything except email. Because I might have some serious stuff going on in email, job offers or other stuff. After all email is not like the rest, never eats my time too much. Only problem, friend sends me email, hey check this funny youtube video or some random funny page and then I am wasted jumping from one thing to another.

    Even if I am on the internet every day, I don’t remember to ever feel addicted to it. In fact there were times I didn’t touched the internet for a week (being in vacations or in the greek army, where you didn’t have access before smartphones) and I just forgot it. Then it was interesting to come back and check tens of emails and wipe out hundreds of spam over the week. And check your favorite sites for whatever you’ve missed the whole time. But a month of it? Interesting!

  5. Mark said

    There’s something ironic about writing this knowing you won’t be seeing it for another three weeks or so. Were I more motivated, I’d send you a letter.

    I read that article and it just doesn’t apply to me. In fact, I really identified with the first comment on Slashdot: the only time I use my phone to play games is when I’m taking a dump. Contrary to the articles posted though, it’s not to alleviate boredom, but because it’s the only time I have to play the one game I own that I really like.

    I’ve not had much success using my phone or the Internet to alleviate boredom. Mostly on account of there being two feelings I will not abide in my life: being tired and being bored. Both of them cause me very real, very physical pain. I have always been this way. I will do anything to not be bored, and because of this, I developed a very rich internal life to stave off boredom long before the advent of the Internet or smartphones.

    I will admit to using my phone and the Internet as a diversion when faced with something I don’t want to do, but there’s a world of difference between avoidance and relieving boredom. And frankly, they kinda suck as diversions for me because I get bored so quickly I end up putting them away and just doing what I was supposed to do in the first place. Now Minecraft on the other hand…

    • Trixter said

      Unlike you, I LOVE to be tired. I could sleep 23 hours a day if society would let me. However, the only real benefit to this is that I rarely get sick.

      My position is especially ironic given that, even when I’m not working and have no responsibilities, I never have enough time to get things done.

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