A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Digital Dependence

I’ve been without Internet for the past five days. I would love to be able to say that I decided to take a digital sabbatical as a way to refresh myself. Unfortunately, due to storms and the joys of finicky technology, I was forced to unplug this week. (The picture above is the inside of our tech closet. My husband sure has fun with his toys.)

Whether it was voluntary or not, it really showed me how incredibly dependent I am on the Internet. I couldn’t do my typical blog reading, reply to comments here, do research of any kind, or even print out math worksheets for my kids. If I stood out in the rain I could occasionally get enough signal to download email to my phone. Pretty desperate, right?

I was reading Everett Bogue’s book, Minimalist Business: How to Live and Work Anywhere, and he talks about how much more productive you can be by only checking your email once a day. I’m embarrassed to admit this. I’m not sure I could do that, but I’d really like to try. I think I’ll try by sticking to a few specific times during the day to check my email instead of having it open and automatically checking for new email all the time.

It did make me wonder though, what did I used to do before I had constant online access? In fact, what did my parents do before the Internet and the complete dependence on the technology of today? No one felt like something was missing because no one was dependent on it yet.

These past five days have convinced me that I need to make time for our family to unplug more on a regular basis. I am hoping that choosing to do it would feel different than unexpectedly losing it. It’s time to examine priorities and plan some non-digital family fun.

Do you struggle with a dependence on the digital world? What steps have you taken to help battle it? I’d love to hear your personal stories and suggestions.


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Article originally published on 09/29/2010

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  1. I would love to conquer this one! On vacation in July, we went somewhere that had no internet, and very spotty cell service. If I stood on the corner of the porch and the wind was blowing in the right direction I might be able to access facebook!

    As I am trying to build a blog for business, and learn social media (twitter, stumbleupon, etc) I find that I am spending even MORE time online than ever before! The problem is, I need time to write, and if I can access the internet, I will tend to click and surf, rather than write! And the even funnier part of this is that my new blog is on living a balanced life, lol!

    So, even though I have to be online for part of my work to be done, I am going to try and schedule specific times for accessing email, twitter, FB, and stumbleupon, as well as for reading and visiting other blogs!
    I may need to get a program that locks out the internet except at certain times of the day, lol!


    • I’m right there with you with trying to build connections using the internet but I’m amazed how fast time flies when I get going. Scheduling and being purposeful with your time seem to be the best methods.

  2. I recently traded in my iPhone for a modern non-smart phone. All that it does is phone, text and a camera (it can do more but I didn’t enable any of those features). As much as the iPhone “changed my view of a cell phone”, it really was not too bad to be without it. I found that I would constantly check email and facebook during the day. Even while talking to people face to face. People are used to it and don’t seem to mind you checking your phone while talking. But now I find it rude when someone suddenly stops talking to you so they can send and email in the middle of a conversation and then 30 seconds later carry on the conversation like nothing ever happened. I also save $50 a month by getting rid of the iPhone data plan with AT&T.

    • I’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of my iPhone too. Not just for the time sucks it seems to produce but the money it costs is just ridiculous. I like to think that I’ll just conquer my lack of self control in this area but we’ll see how it goes.

  3. Karen (Scotland) says

    This is tricky. I actually have to force myself to shut down the iMac sometimes and have a computer-free day.
    My husband is at sea so our main form of communication is email so I often check to see if he’s been in touch. However, I do find that I “faff” a lot – blogs, imdb, amazon and ebay being the main “addictions”. I justify it because I no longer read magazines or have a TV licence so this is my main contact with the outside world and the thinkings of others.
    I’ve managed to avoid facebook, twitter etc – just too much information swooshing around for my liking.

    I think it’s scary that my friend emails me back from her phone when she’s walking her dog. That, to me, sums up the problems of constant digital access.

    And, yes, I have NO idea how previous generations coped without the Internet – telephone numbers, prices, definitions, facts, diagrams, instruction manuals – things I pop online for on a daily basis must have cost them HOURS of time and research.
    On the plus side, when they were home and in their living rooms, that was it – relaxation time, I guess.


  4. I try not to turn the computer on every day. This week, I managed only Tuesday and Friday! However, I do have a smart phone so I check my email and facebook daily with that. I’m trying to curtail my use of electronics simply because it is SO distracting! While I should be paying attention to something else, or someone, I feel compelled to Google something…and that’s just bad manners. It is a process.

    In many ways, I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to keep in touch easily with friends and family, no matter how many miles separate us. Like most things in life, there is a very delicate balance to the equation.

    • Faith Janes says

      Wow, I’m totally impressed with cutting down your computer usage to just two days in a week! Like you said, finding a balance is the key.

  5. Hi Faith –

    I came across your blog after reading your post on the “Becoming Minimalist” site I’m a software developer so I pretty much live my life online during the day. However, I’ve recently designated Sunday as my day to unplug. While it was REALLY hard not to kick on the laptop and check my email or blog comments, I have to admit the time I spend with my family, and the amount of things I’m able to get done around the house makes it well worth it.

    As for usage during the week….I’ve been able to trim down my email-checking to just once a day and not at all on Sundays. And you’re right, I can get so much more done without the constant pinging of my email every 5 minutes.

    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks for reading, Steve. My husband and I both do web development and we’re pretty heavily involved with all things computer related. With the addition of my blog it’s even harder to step away and not feel like we’re missing something work related, email or like you said approving blog comments. But knowing the kids won’t stay young forever and realizing that we’re missing out on the more important things in life like family time really makes me want to refocus our priorities. Thanks for sharing how you’ve been able to cut down.

  6. This is so timely for me. I find that the constant internet/phone usage is so hard to avoid. I too am a blogger and homeschooler and I know I couldn’t just quit all together. I am also trying to teach my son to use technology in moderation. So I’ve actually tried modeling this with him by setting timers and talking about how I need a break from the screen to go play or do something else. As far as the phone goes, I try to keep it away from me during the day and my baby girl deleted Facebook for me– it was SUCH a happy accident. I felt so much better not checking it. Now I just look at it a couple of times a day on my desktop. All around, it’s a tough thing to balance but we have to figure out what works for us 🙂

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