A Millennial Goes Offline For 48 Hours & Then Blogs About It
Tapping away at my desk I received a parcel last week that really intrigued me. Sent from Innocent HQ (of the Smoothie variety) it included a notepad, some colourful writing pens, a letter-writing set and an Instax 8 mini Polaroid camera, with two sets of colour film. Attached was a note, explaining this was a ’no Internet’ package, something they invited me to use for 48 hours, if I agreed to turn off my Internet and go “unplugged” for the entire weekend.
Innocent asked an interesting question: “are we TOO connected?” I mean, the average person checks their phone every six and a half minutes- that’s 150 times a day… #GUILTY.
This activity is linked to the Innocent Unplugged festival, a no-wifi zone in the middle of a secret woodland just outside of London, where you go to unplug your phones, get off Twitter, and have a laugh in a field with your mates (make sure you don’t lose them though, because your phone won’t work in the forest). The festival includes music, but also cultural activities for book lovers and talks from inspiring thinkers and doers from the likes of Grace Dent (who, by the way I will be interviewing in her tent over the weekend, COME SEE US!) It’s a fun idea isn’t it? Having to get over your Internet addiction and withdrawal symptoms and just be in the moment. In the woods.
I must admit, I was super excited at the prospect of using the Polaroid camera. Apologies to those of you who don’t like ‘fads’ but there’s something exciting and RETRO about snapping something and a) not knowing how it’s going to look and b) seeing it physically churn out from the side of the camera. Then you shake it, shake shake it, and hope it looks alright. (It takes some practice getting the settings right).
I remember the joy of disposable cameras. Trekking down to Boots to get them developed only to find a rogue photo of someone pulling a moonie in the mix.
The irony is I then scanned in my polaroids onto Instagram the minute my 48 hours was over. Don’t judge. I’m only human.
The reason I put “boo hoo, big deal” in this blog post title is because, well, it’s not a big deal to be offline for a weekend. Who cares. The point is, it’s actually quite embarrassing to be like OMG YOU GUYS IT WAS SoOooooooooO TOUGH. I STARTED TO SHAKE AND COULDN’T EAT BECAUSE I AM A MILLENNIAL AND HAD NO INSTANT GRATIFICATIONS. NO BRAIN RADIATION. NO LIKES! NO CONNECTIONS! I’M NOT…GOING…TO ….MAKE ….IT. I MADE IT. I’M FINE. THAT WAS WEIRD. SORRY.
Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but at the same time, it weirded me out how hard it actually was. More so the automatic reaction of just reaching for my phone. I must admit I literally auto-piloted my way onto Twitter half way through Saturday and then shouted OH F*CK! and put my phone back down again. It’s so engrained, so natural, so argh-why-am-i-refreshing-this-boring-page-again-without-thinking.
So anyway, even though it’s no-big-deal to be offline for 48 hours, here’s what I learned. Some of it may or may not be a slight exaggeration, so forgive me if I’m making it look like I went cold turkey for a month. I didn’t.
More thinking time
First up, an obvious one. I had more time to think think think. To myself, without prompts, without being spurred on by other people bitching and moaning about their own personal problems that day. I was free to roam more easily by myself to think up and ponder and reflect. All my best ideas come from some digital downtime, mostly on planes. (My idea for my book came to me when in the air, without WIFI and no distractions). I really enjoyed taking a step back from the noisy world of everyone else’s thoughts, and became more at one with my own.
Actually listening to people
I am so guilty of this. My sister often slaps me on the wrist because apparently I ask a question, and then I don’t even listen to the answer. HOW RUDE. Not all the time, but occassionally. Then I’ll ask the question again and she’ll turn purple and say I JUST ANSWERED IT BUT YOU WERE LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE. My bad. So the good thing about not going on the Internet at all whilst chatting is that you are 100% engaged. Like staring until their eyeballs for a long time engaged. I was away this weekend on a press trip and obviously you can’t be staring at your screen anyway with people you’ve just met, but we had some brilliant chats. No checking phones. Just proper deep and meaningfuls sat outside in the hot air over-looking the sea.
Late night writing in bed
Getting into bed is meant to be a blissful experience, much like taking off your cheap mascara, or unfastening your bra at the end of a tough old day. It’s meant to be ‘me-time’, it’s meant to be a safe little cocoon away from all the bullshit of the world where you nestle in and take some deep breaths. But no, most of us curl up in our beds and flash a bright screen into our poor little retinas. I know I do. I curl up in a ball, onto my side, and scroll like a maniac through stuff I don’t need to read, filling my brain up with shit I don’t need to know. “Mary just liked Jane’s photo of a full nappy”. NO! I don’t want to see pictures of full nappies! I want to be zen, and at one with myself!!!!!
So anyway, not having Internet in bed was a nice thing. I re-read half of Cheryl Strayed’s WILD (I re-read books like nobody’s business, same with music, I will listen to a song on repeat until I get obsessed with something else). I also wrote notes in my notepad which made me feel really really calm. A wrote a page of “to-dos, things I had already written in my work calendar but there was something really therapeutic about writing them down in a blue and purple pen, and then I wrote a list of things I want to achieve. Not massive scary things, just little things that I want to tick off the “list”. Although one learning: my handwriting has become APPALLING.
“Hey guys I’m going off the Internet for a bit.” This is the hilarious “reminder” that is posted as a bit of a desperate attempt to be like “hey, don’t forget me! I’ll still be around! I haven’t died! Don’t think I’m dead!!” No one will think you’re dead, but just in case, it’s polite to let people know. If people care, which they most likely won’t. It’s funny that this is one of the motions of going Internet-free is this weird worry that the whole world will forget your existence. I guess you don’t get as many messages because you’re not ‘active’, but the ones you do get (when you log back in after the 48 hours) you realise that your buddies are still going to message you even though you’re offline for a bit. Its nice to feel loved, but there’s a worry that you’ll pick up your phone to a giant tumbleweed.
Learning to be patient
Impatience is a millenial trait I think. We write blogs and publish it asap. We email, we tweet, we complain about airports while in the airport. We have to be contactable at all times. We joke that we could tweet whilst pushing out a baby. We think someone has been abducted by aliens if they don’t reply asap. We can message our mates around the WORLD in a group message on Facebook. We order Ubers. We don’t like waiting.
But going Internet-free taught me to hold back and chill. BUT THIS IS SUCH A GOOD INSTAGRAM! Yes. Yes it might be a nice photo in YOUR opinion but no offence: the world doesn’t care. I had loads of nice photos from my mini-break to Egypt but who cares? No one actually. A few people might “like” it, because they’re your mates or nice people who support your choice to brag about your holiday, but most people don’t give one hoot. A friend of mine gave birth this weekend and THAT is something worth documenting. Me wearing a snorkel mask: not so much. (I posted it anyway).
I feel more relaxed. I slept better. I have more ideas floating around my head than I have for a while. No one cares about your Instagrams as much as you so you don’t need to post everything asap. Experiences matter. Go online when you feel like it. Don’t treat it like a “fix”.
But hey? Who am I to preach? I’ll be back in the rat race by tomorrow, and maybe I’ll read this blog post again to remember myself that a Internet free weekend was actually really really nice. The minute I was “allowed” back on the Internet, for a first few hours I just thought “meh.”
How I Grew Up Online
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
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