closed for the season

It all started with a someecard my husband jokingly set me. Not only did it serve to remind me that Lent follows Mardi Gras (something I seem to forget year to year), but it got me thinking: what would life be like if I gave up the internet?

Before I could get very far in my musings, the voices in my head started howling. One flat out said we couldn’t do it. One immediately started listing all the things we’d be forced to give up. One started getting all worked while trying to determine what “giving up the internet” meant as the list started growing. One started considering where I’d get my news, would I get my news? One needed to be reminded that “giving up the internet” did not mean giving up the computer completely. One needed to be reminded that internet did not mean electricity. One started panicking because it remembered how much time we’d need to spend on the phone to compensate for the lack of online communication. A few started considering all the time we’d have to read books and work on writing, how much more attention we could give Charlotte, but they could barely be heard over the din.

So I made them all shut up and started working on the first problem: what does “giving up the internet for lent” actually mean? Only once that was defined could we really start figuring out if it’s something we wanted to do. So, we did that. Protests about the impracticality of never checking email were considered. The need to occasionally research something while writing/reading was respected. Concerns came in, but so did several benefits.

Once that was done, the arguments switched from “you can’t do that!” to “why would you want to?” I mean, seriously, I’m not going to pretend this is about getting closer to Jesus, for me. It’s about making a bold change and flexing my willpower. Yes, I could just cut back on using the internet if I feel like I’m using too much. “Cut back a bit” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Give it up”, though. The challenge makes it more fun, though, and using Lent means that I can’t say something like “well, I decided it was going to be 30 days, so now I say it’s going to be 15.”

I can’t help but wonder. What will happen on the other side? Will I even bother reactivating my Warcraft account? Will I feel the need to absorb an absurd amount of entertainment industry feeds? What will my brain do with all the hard drive space it had reserved for reading about the latest scandal? Will I twitter as much as I did before? Will this break me of some of my compulsive contributor tendencies, or will I go mad from the self-imposed silence?

At this point, I’m so curious, I can’t not do it. Starting Wednesday, I’m going relatively internet-free until Easter. What does this mean? Something like this:

  • No more than 20 minutes a day for research, bill paying, address lookup etc. (things that support offline pursuits, will result in credit score issues, or are umpossible without calling directory assistance ;)
  • One 20 minute email checking session a day (cutting it off completely is impractical and inconveniences everyone else — not very christian ;)
  • Absolutely no twitter, facebook, rss, flickr, warcraft, etc (archives mean it will all be there when I get back)
  • Using txt messaging as little as possible (ie: not to chat. just to say “I’m on my way to pick you up” etc)
  • Same deal for maps, etc on the iPhone – playing with maps/GPS is favorite car-ride pastime of mine
  • Still allowing self-to-self transfers (like Evernote, since I don’t have to see the rest of the internet to do so. …at least I think I will. Jesus wouldn’t have minded that, right?)
  • Jury’s still out on whether I’m going to let myself blog offline for posting later. I think I’ll just play that one by ear. No not-live blogging, certainly, but maybe a murmur article or two. Something that will still be relevant after the hiatus. And perhaps one single post recording how I feel week by week.

There are some things that I’m giving up that I’d rather not. No blog posts, no murmur-ing, no chatting with my husband and other friends during the day. I’ll have to start watching more television, because I’ll need to get my news someplace. I’m tempted to start making exceptions for certain things, but the minute I try to let one of these things in, it starts feeling less like a challenge or sacrifice. It’s like giving up meat, but still having lion’s choice, …and italian sausage …and my meatloaf …and…

It’s clear my biggest “cheat” in all of this is communicating with others. I know I could take this to the extreme and start using the phone or sending hand-written letters to folks instead of email, but I’m not interested in taking the experiment that far. I may modify the guidelines as the season progresses, but theoretically only to refine them in keeping with the original goal: removing every non-essential internet activity for the 2009 Lenten Season.

There is one small risk in this. As a stay-at-home mom, the internet is my outlet to the world beyond these walls and grownup humans. If I feel like I’m starting to go crazy (and the weather doesn’t let me get out, or I start accosting too many strangers because I need to talk to someone), or any sort of serious “mental claustrophobia” then I’m pulling the plug.

See you Easter Monday!

  • Speaking on behalf of the internets, we miss you already.

  • Jimski

    Giving up a thing for Lent: fine.

    So, you last set foot in a church when?

  • So, you last set foot in a church when?

    mid-january

  • Crazy talk. Just, crazy!

  • Mallorn

    I’m impressed and don’t think you’re crazy at all. I know I couldn’t do it, but I envy you all the reading you’ll get in!

    One thought on the news: Listen to 90.7 (NPR). It’ll save you from the crappy TV news!

    Hmm…it just occurred to me that, being the first day of lent, you might actually never read this :-P

    Good luck!