It has been over a week since we have instituted our new computer policy around here. Pretty much it involves me getting up early (yes, I have been pretty good about doing this), using the computer until 8 or 8:30 am, then turning it off for the day. No, I do not have a smart phone, so that really means that from 8 am on, we have no internet access live in our house. It feels a little radical, which is crazy because up until about ten years ago, this is how just about how everyone lived all the time.
So how is it working? I actually love it. Really. And it hasn't been as difficult as I expected it to be. What I have discovered is that when the computer is on, my tendency is to take a "quick" look at it throughout the day. Well, I don't know about you, but sometimes those "quick" looks aren't all that quick. But it was important to see if I had any email that needed answering, right? Don't we all tell ourselves that? I know I did.
Guess what I discovered. I'm not all that important. At least not to the outside world. My family thinks I'm very important, but then, they aren't sending me emails. It's a little humbling to realize that there are very few important emails that arrive in my inbox and even fewer that require immediate attention. (OK, full disclosure, there were no emails that were so important that replying to them couldn't wait for the next morning.) Really, each morning, there wasn't a whole lot new to look at. Having the computer on all the time gave me a mistaken sense of importance to the greater world and made me forgetful of the where I am truly important.
By turning the computer off during the day, I have also discovered a wee bit more time in my day. This was particularly noticeable the first few days of our new policy. I was hyper-aware of my impulse to head over and check the computer every time I finished something and was wondering what to do. This was also humbling. I did check the computer too much, and nothing makes you aware of this as quickly as when there is no computer to check. I read a statistic that if you watch four hours of television a day, by the end of the year you will have spent the equivalent of two months of your life in front of the set. Well, TV is not my area of personal challenge, but I think I can say the computer is. I don't want to have spent months of my life in front of it at the end of the year. The time really does add up.
A couple of other benefits. I don't have to argue with my older children about how much time they were on the computer. This is a constant battle that I DO NOT miss. A couple of times B. and A. have asked to turn it on because they have specific tasks to complete and that's fine. It goes off immediately afterward and it is not left unattended. You probably won't believe me, but I have had no grief from them about the new policy. It probably helps that we had a pretty limited policy to begin with and our only computer is in the kitchen area of our house. There was not an extreme level of connectedness to begin with. And I've been going to bed at a more reasonable time. (Unless I'm in the middle of a particularly engaging book.) That check the email one more time-thing was never quick.
I do have to be a little more purposeful in knowing what I want to accomplish when the computer is on. I have taken to making lists throughout the day of things I either want to look up, or need to write, or people to contact so I don't forget when my early morning brain isn't fully functioning. I still do a quick check-in with my favorite bloggers, but it's a smaller list.
The internet and its accompanying technology does have some really positive benefits, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. But is also has the ability to creep into our lives and give the illusion that it is far more important than it is. It can very easily blind us what is important. I know not everyone is going to be willing to cut back in the same way that we have done, but I would highly encourage at least a brief experiment to see what it is like. Probably I was able to make the jump a little easier because we had already instituted a policy of no computers on Sunday. Even that little break was enough to remind me that it is possible to live without the computer on.
The most surprising thing about this whole thing has been to realize how much more relaxed I have been without the computer on. It seems that having access to it all the time did more to contribute to an overall feeling of anxiety than anything else. Too much information is not necessarily good. Try it. Even if you don't think you can manage (or maybe particularly if you think you can't manage), give it a try.