(Taking a) Break (from) the Internet

douglas-coupland-i-miss-my-pre-internet-brain-800x800

From Douglas Coupland’s “Slogans for the 21st Century”

This is a self-indulgent post (“as opposed to what?” you may well ask) meant to solidify my plans and give myself a little accountability, but it could be used it as a guide or jumping off point for anyone looking to take a break from the internet.

Yes, let’s go with that.

I’m a habitual break-taker, sprinkling the occasional week, two weeks, or month “off” of various parts of the internet throughout the year. January is a popular time for me to take such a break, as are the lead ups to elections (provincial and federal are coming up in 2019, which is not a coincidence). But I’m not that good at taking breaks, because I usually end up lurking on the social media channels I’m supposed to be taking a break from (so really, I’m just taking a break from posting) and because once the break is over, I go right back to being extremely online.

This time, things will be different! Famous last words, yes, but I have a plan:

  1. Preparation: So far, I’ve subscribed to print newspapers for the first time since the early aughts, and put Jarod Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now on hold at the library. Over the next week, I will download some emergency podcasts for my kids, properly set up the radio in my car, prepay some bills, use StayFocusd to block a bunch of sites and set up an email auto responder, all to allow me to have…
  2. An Offline Christmas: I’m going to stay off the internet from the time I leave work on Friday, Dec. 21, to my return on Monday, January 7. Christmas break is the only time I could possibly not use the internet at all. I’ve never tried this, and if I fail, it’ll probably be because I need directions somewhere.
  3. Social media blackout: When I return to the interwebz on January 7, I will not be returning to any kind of social media or anything with a comments section, including (deep breath) Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, Goodreads, WordPress, podcast apps, message boards of any kind, content aggregators of any kind (Buzzfeed, HuffPo etc.), celebrity gossip or snark sites of any kind, and blogs of any kind (including “corporate” ones like Book Riot or LitHub). This phase will last until at least March 31, at which time I will reevaluate.
  4. #StopTwitter2019: I’m less certain about this, but I’m leaning towards staying off Twitter for the entire year. I’ve already been off since Dec. 1, and it feels pretty good. As mentioned, us Albertans are headed into two major elections in 2019, and whether or not vile Jason Kenney becomes Premier, or devastatingly handsome, but honestly pretty ineffective Justin Trudeau remains PM, I don’t want to wade through the performative outrage that will ensue. And I certainly don’t need Twitter to tell me how to vote; I’ve been voting ABC (anyone but Conservative) since the days of dial up.

I hope that by taking a real break, both from posting (and lapping up the dopamine hits when the same 4 or 5 people like all my posts, hey guys, I will miss you!) and from the reading/outrage cycle, I can remember what it was like before Web 2.0, when my bad habits were more simple, like picking at my split ends. Guess I better grow my hair out a bit longer.

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12 comments

  1. Kenzie Pierce

    Good luck with your challenge; you can do it! 🙂 These days, social media is SO hard to break from once you’ve been on it. I finally managed to completely delete my Facebook and Instagram accounts 6 months ago, and I have loved being less exposed to all that and not having to worry about how I present myself online. It really feels so good! You rock!

  2. Naomi

    We’ll miss you. But it does sound pretty nice. I hope it goes well. I’ll be very curious to hear about it once you’re back (if you ever decide to come back)!

    • lauratfrey

      Thanks Rachel, I miss you too 🙂 We’ll see. I got online when I was 13 years old (early adopter!) so hard to say if I can. I know you can’t really turn back the clock!

  3. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis

    I’m going to miss you, Laura, but I hope it all works out for you. I’d love to have my pre-Internet brain back, but I’m not sure the world can accommodate that. I’m really interested in how it you do – and look forward to hearing about it in the new year?

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  5. Laila@BigReadingLife

    This is awesome. I wish you the best! I deactivated Facebook about a year ago and I don’t really miss it. If something crazy or sad happens with a high school friend I have a good pal who will tell me about it – so she functions as my Facebook! Without the soul-sucking political mess. Sadly, I have filled the time i used to spend on Facebook with Twitter and Instagram, but they don’t seem to make me as crazy as FB. I admire your plan – it’s very detailed and I think that will make it work.

  6. Roxanne Felix-Mah

    I think it’s a great idea – make sure you blog about your re-evaluation. I have withdrawn my addiction to facebook, working on other social media platforms. Life is better without FB! And thanks for book recommendation – I reserved it at EPL!

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