It’s been two days since I “disconnected” from the internet. I still use it for work but I’ve deactivated Facebook and blocked my usual meme websites using the Chrome block site add-on. I want to keep it going for at least a week and document the experience.
Memes have been my great addiction over the past few years. I would spend hours a day on Facebook, 9gag, reddit.com/r/worldnews and more recently on youtube looking at alt-right stuff. Not just a big block of several hours in the evening: more like 30-40 quick, compulsive checks during the day followed by a few hours in the evening. I’m sure many people can relate to it somehow because I see people constantly on their phones just like I was last week. Last week I wouldn’t have noticed that because I would have been on my phone.
I’ve tried to go cold-turkey in the past and it’s quite an ascetic experience, punishing even. That dopamine doesn’t replace itself. That’s why I believe it’s important to replace internet content with something else; preferably something more positive or useful. I broke out the old ps3 and started playing Skyrim again. At first, it felt painfully slow and didn’t give me any pleasure; but after I while I started getting into it and it was better than life itself.
Video games are a step up from memes I believe. This is because they’re active rather than passive, and it’s a more life-like tempo. Gratification is delayed somewhat. Importantly, I feel that since it’s “just one thing” rather than a multitude of successive things, it is conditioning one’s mind to hone in on things for a good while rather than frittering momentarily from one to another like a butterfly. I believe that internet addiction cripples the mind’s ability to think deeply, and hence having it under control is imperative for a writer.
Meditation is another thing that I would recommend to anyone undergoing this process. Although I would recommend that to everyone anyway (imagine a world where everyone meditated: utopia). Meditation takes the edge off. You don’t take any of it so seriously because you’re just a few steps back from what you do either way. I think it makes a person come off as less wanky as well; wankiness being a perennial issue with giving up anything in common usage.
My experience on the commute to work this morning was rather interesting. Ironically I felt more anxious or vulnerable than usual. This is because usually when I feel this anxiety I immediately “escape” into my phone. I have two parallel realities to inhabit: the real world around me and the virtual world in my pocket. The real world is scarily out of my control and yet mysteriously necessary to me. The virtual world does exactly what I tell it to and there’s no anxiety whatsoever. My anxiety is eased when I notice that virtually everyone on the train is on their phones, however.
There is a certain power in being the least withdrawn, the most present to a situation. Being present puts you at the centre of things, in the momentary “in crowd”. The “scarily necessary but out of control” nature of the real world is diminished when you are more in it than others, after all, it is people who are the most out of control part of it. I believe that being present like this is a leadership quality. The opposite is the need to withdraw from what’s going on while other people shoulder more responsibility for being present: someone has to be present don’t they? Yes, this is what a typical train ride is like for me: highly philosophical.
After a day or two without internet, one feels more interested in the other things of life. The feeling of a hand rail. The person walking down the street. Even just the special impression of a moment can be oddly satisfying. Dopamine by looking out a window. That seems so right.
On the other hand, there is a certain neediness to being interested in people. If there are ten people in a room and nine of them are on the phone every fifteen minutes; the one person who isn’t on their phone is “all in”. At once more in control, more interested and more invested. The others have one foot in the present moment and one foot in the virtual so they can quite happily withdraw from the present whenever they wish. They get their dopamine virtually. The person without internet doesn’t have anywhere else to go. My point is that it can often seem that you are giving more of yourself than other people and it’s a bit like being rejected.
Part of masculinity means being active rather than passive. I believe being active in an interaction necessitates being present to it. Since the one who withdraws is “passing” on various levels. On the other hand, neediness isn’t very masculine. If it’s a situation you want to be in then it’s not needy, though. It’s much easier to be “active” and therefore manful when your mind is conditioned to be continuously at home at places and with people rather than the virtual.