by: Joshua Isaacson
Consider this post a diary of sorts, reflecting on six days of my life that were free from the internet.
Monday, July 2
I arrived at my mothers house around 8 pm. It was nice to see my mom again and just hang out and basically just go to bed early after a couple drinks with her boyfriend. Simple enough. Just marking the arrival back home and the start of a string of days being “disconnected.”
Tuesday, July 3
I believe I woke up around 9:30 Tuesday morning. The time is not important. On a normal day in Minneapolis, I would probably roll out of bed, brush my teeth, grab something to eat or drink and plop myself in front of my computer screen and see all the fantastic things that I’m sure Facebook would inform me of.
Today, there is no such luck. My computer has been taken along on my visit home, but my mom doesn’t have the internet anymore. So, instead of sitting on Facebook this morning, I decided to delve into the world of the Dark Knight and Gotham City via Batman and Psychology. For once, I woke up and almost immediately started reading. Not just reading, but intense, prolonged reading, which lasted almost 7 hours. During the first couple hours of reading I had some difficulty really focusing on what I was reading, and really comprehending the content that I was trying to absorb. Later in the day, it became a little easier, and I found myself flying through the book and finishing it before my family got home from work.
Mission accomplished. The rest of the night was spent just hanging out and spending time with my family.
Wednesday, July 4
Since my family had the day off, I did not read much on this given day. I spent more time with my mom since we don’t see each other all that frequently, and we read together for a brief chunk of time before festivities began. Fourth of July celebrations took place, and we returned to my mom’s house later in the evening. Deciding to just not worry about books for the night, I just enjoyed the peace and quiet of Small Town, Minnesota.
Thursday, July 5
Back to the grind.
Woke up around the same time as Tuesday, 9:30, and grabbed myself another book. Today’s victim is The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks. Something was different about my reading session today though. I found that I remembered much more of what I was reading, and I’m sure I could summarize any of the case studies in the book just by the name of the title. My attention was incredibly focused on the book, and I found my comprehension to be much higher than on Tuesday reading “Batman. At this point I just equated this new focus and attention to just devoting a lot of time and energy to the material. Or could it be something else? I powered through TMWMHWFAH and finished a vast majority of it before 5:oo when my mom returned from work. Dinner and such was had, conversations began and drinks were consumed. I called it a night fairly early.
Friday, July 6
This was the day that really kind of punched me in the face and caused a shift in my behavior. Woke up as anticipated around 9:30, no shock there. Picked up the Oliver Sacks book and finished the last handful of chapters before 10:30 or something, still enjoying my newly appreciated attention to the material and my comprehension of it. Little did I know that when I picked up The Shallows by Nicholas Carr that I would be encouraging a reflection of my personal habits and behaviors.
Illustrated within its pages, The Shallows showed me precisely how our brains have changed, and are changing, because of our extended internet use. Inattentiveness, incomprehension, impulsivity and forgetfulness were all laid out as ailments that have a hold on many of us who rely on the internet to stay “connected” and relevant to the world around us. After reading The Shallows, I have come to the conclusion coincidentally (or perhaps not) that my lack of access to the internet for 5 days has helped me become more focused, attentive, and has made me comprehend more.
I’m not going to go into detail about the specifics of the book (which I highly recommend reading) but it really held a mirror up to me and gave a springboard on which to change my patterns of surfing the web. No longer will I be spending hours at a time on Facebook, mindlessly refreshing to see what new updates are waiting for me to breeze over. No longer will I read articles online (if I can help it), but instead will be printing them off to read them free of advertisements, hyperlinks, and other distractions. A more conscious effort will be made to break free from the internet, and try to incorporate more non-digital mediums in my everyday life.
I know it sounds like crazy talk, or maybe its just my appreciation for my brain, but I do not want to see my brain turned into a frantic, hectic and forgetful place. Just experiencing what my brain is like and how calm my thoughts are after a handful of days disconnected has been extremely refreshing. Even so much so that I do not sit and lie awake at night trying to fall asleep while my mind rushes over 75000 different thoughts, all of which mean nothing. The ability to sleep peacefully at night far outweighs anything that I might be able to read in a Facebook update or a tweet or an article online that I won’t remember.
And for the last time at my moms house during this trip: Sleep.
Joshua Isaacson is a Psychology major in Minneapolis who wants to research LGBT psychological development and the causes and affects of homophobia on the mind. Joshua is also a volunteer for the Trevor Project, a Diablo III addict, an avid reader, a big music junkie and loves some salty goodness.