Reflecting on a week off from the internet

02 August 2020

Last Friday, I published my blog post on doing a digital declutter, then disconnected (mostly) from the internet.

Taking a week off allowed me to understand what is and isn’t required in my life. This was an experience I really enjoyed, and would definitely recommend if you have the opportunity.

How my week went

I spent the first three days binge-playing Ghost of Tsushima from the moment I woke up, and for most of the day until I went to bed. It felt a bit weird playing video games at 7 in the morning but it was good to get this out of my system.

The completionist in me wanted to do all the side quests and find all the undiscovered locations on the map, but I ended up burning myself out on the game. There’s only so many bandit camps you can clear out before it gets a bit boring (sorry, for any Tsushima fans out there!) I only made it through half of the game’s main quest line.

One thing I noticed while playing this game was that not having the internet forced me to try a bit harder at things. I’m the kind of person that will Google something pretty quickly if I can’t figure out how to beat a boss, or don’t know how to find a specific item. Without the internet, I had to try a little bit harder, but still managed to figure things out in the end.

After I got tired of video gaming, I ended up doing a lot more reading (5 books, and one audiobook). I had left Goodreads unblocked so that I could add my books on there as I finished them, but I found that even that site was distracting. It was very easy to end up scrolling through books and reviews on there.

I also managed to catch up on all my Japanese kanji flashcards that I had been neglecting for a long time. I had about 500 flashcards piled up so it felt good to get those out of the way! The site I use, Wanikani, also has a community forum. I had never used before, but I ended up spending a bit of time browsing it. I think I was desperate for any internet I could get.

I had hoped by removing most of my distractions, it would be easy to do things that weren’t fun but were important to me, like studying Japanese from a textbook. Unfortunately this was not the case, and I’m going to need a bit more discipline to get myself back in the habit of studying.

Did I miss the internet? Not too much. I didn’t know what the weather was going to be like each day, or how COVID cases were going in Australia. I will admit that I “cheated” and turned on my phone’s data a couple of times for certain things like checking my bank account balance but it was easy otherwise to stay off the internet.

Life did feel more simple and peaceful - but I did also take a week off work so that could be a big reason why!

My relationship with my phone

It’s scary, but I’m considering whether I need to make this “no internet on my phone” thing permanent. I don’t think the value I get from my phone outweighs how much my phone negatively affects my life.

If I tried to do some sort of intermittent, “only turn off the internet between these certain hours” type of thing I would be a lot more likely to fail. Sticking to a schedule would need a lot of discipline to turn it off at the required time. I don't think I have that level of discipline!

Occasional internet use is still super useful, so I'm not going to downgrade to a dumb phone. I’d like to keep the internet off on my phone at least 95% of time, and only use it for super important things.

The other downside I noticed this week was that I couldn’t use the app I use to record my runs. I’m not a serious runner, so it doesn’t matter too much. But it is nice to be able to look back at the end of the month to see how much I ran, or how much I’ve improved over time.

Is it worth turning on my phone’s data each time I go for a run? It is risky, because I can’t trust myself to not open up a web browser and spend 10 minutes browsing before I get to actually running. I may need to investigate if there are better ways to record my run e.g. with my phone’s built-in stopwatch.

The other alternative is to try and find an app for my phone that will block certain apps / sites for me. I’m on an Android, and in my experience I haven’t been able to find an app that works really well for that. (Let me know if you have any suggestions!)

Thoughts on sites like DEV and Twitter

There are plenty of downsides to social media. You can waste a lot of time on meaningless browsing. There's also the validation you seek each time you put out new content into the world (whether that be a tweet or a blog post). Social media isn’t necessary.

But social media also does help with networking and building your personal “brand” on the internet. Of course, it depends on whether you think these things are valuable enough and worth doing. At this early stage in my career, I think there is some value in it for me.

I’m not too sure how to approach social media, yet. I considered giving myself an hour a week to use social media, and post any new blogs on DEV, and block it for the rest of the time.

The downside with that is that people may need to wait up to a week to receive a response from me, which seems kind of rude. So instead I’m thinking of splitting it out into two 30 minute intervals per week. I could even reduce it to two lots of 15 minutes, if I find 30 minutes to be more than enough time.

Using the internet while programming

It’s hard to use the “block all but a few sites” approach when it comes to programming. There’s a lot of useful information out there on random sites that you can find on Google, and so it would be limiting if I couldn’t view them as I needed to. All I can do is block sites that I do use to procrastinate while programming, and do my best to add more sites to the list as I find them.

I plan to be more strict about when I start and finish work, as well as the time I give myself to do hobby programming. This should make it easier to limit the time that I could spend being sucked down into the depths of the internet. If I only get a certain amount of hours to spend on a side project, I hope that I can be a bit more motivated to actually program and not waste the time on mindless internet browsing.

In conclusion

This week off from the internet has helped me to reevaluate some of the things I thought were essential in my life. Unfortunately, removing the internet isn’t a magical solution to become a super productive person. There’s still a lot of work I need to do there, but this digital declutter has been a good start.

I could spend my first day back on the internet browsing all of the sites I’ve missed browsing for the past week, but I want to use this momentum that I’ve gained to continue to stay away from a lot of them (looking at you, YouTube!).

My use of social media is still something that I need to figure out, as well as internet usage at work, but I’m going to try and be a bit more mindful of my usage into the future.

Thanks for reading!