Recently I've been frustrated with myself for spending too much time online, in front of screens, and otherwise engaged in virtual realities. I've given Facebook a little rest but it's not enough. I still spend too much time online.
When I am offline I am so super productive. It's sort of scary how much I can do if I am not attached to the computer. Between increased productivity as a positive motivator and escaping all the digital spying as a negative one, I had to wonder what my life would be like if I stopped being online.
So in my usual way, I thought about it and took some notes. Then I talked the idea over with a couple of people and took their observations on board. Dropping off the Internet certainly would make life more challenging. Here are my Top Twenty Things That Would Change In My Internet Free Life:
- Encyclopaedic knowledge This is the obvious one. Without Google and Wikipedia, how will I know anything? Solution: go to the library, ask friends, build a reference library at home, and/or live without the answer to every single little question.
- Creative sharing Wow. This feels almost cruel. No Internet sharing means no posts here on Mediatinker, no photos on Flickr, no videos on YouTube or Vimeo. Solution: publish books, create a zine, have gallery shows, cut an album, have screenings, perform live, mail photos to people.
- Social life 99% of the invitations I receive come via Facebook or e-mail. Without them, I will never see anyone. Solution: host my own social events, ask friends what is going on, attend ongoing activities, invite myself to dinner at my friends' houses.
- Daily communication Every day I use e-mail for random notes, sharing ideas, catching up, inquiring about plans. It is convenient and non-intrusive. Solution: SMS. Phone people instead. Or send letters, postcards and telegrams.
- Calling Mom I use Skype to phone her landline. We have lovely long calls. Solution: regular phone call, but would want to find a reasonably priced international carrier that isn't IP-phone based.
- Weather forecasts I check tenki.jp every morning for the forecast and to see if I should hang out washing. This is also where i get my earthquake and typhoon info. Solution: learn to predict the weather by looking at the current conditions or live more in the moment and forget forecasts. As for earthquakes, ride them out without data.
- News & other reading No news might be good news, but nonetheless I like to stay current. And I read over a dozen news sources regularly. Next to Facebook, reading blogs and other feeds takes up the most online time. How else will I see cute animal videos, clever animations or insightful updates on friends' lives. Solution: Subscribe to a newspaper or three. Buy magazines, read current event and subject matter books. Collect cute animal videos on DVD. Go to art events and screenings. Visit friends in person.
- Spin Matsuri events I use the Spin Matsuri website, Twitter and Facebook to get the word out about the workshops, retreats and other hoop events I host. Solution: flyers, phone calls, face-to-face promotion.
- Shopping I use Rakuten to get bulky items and stuff I can't find in my local stores. Online shopping form international sources allows me to have medicinal herbs, shoes that fit, fancy hula hoops, and as many e-books as I can read. Solution: Do without. Buy local. Get things when travelling. Buy and share paper books.
- Quick translation I use machine translation and other online language tools to help me with Japanese. Solution: stop relying on tools and get fluent. Back to school and hit the books. Hello, denshi-jisho.
- WHD Dance No way could I do this annual, global hoop project without being able to share the tutorials online or accept the footage from hoop troupes in the cloud somewhere. Solution: hand off the project to someone who is online or end the project.
- Getting around I use Jorudan Norikae almost every time I leave the house to confirm train times and routes. Google Maps is invaluable for navigating Tokyo and Street View is handy when you are trying to find a location in the concrete jungle. Solution: memorise the train system again; use maps; leave more time to get there; plan longer trips with the station staff. Go back to paper maps like Mapple and learn the lay of the land.
- Restaurant reviews/reservations. I use Gurunavi and Open Table at least once a week to help me find places to eat. Solution: buy some of the specialty restaurant guides that come out quarterly and cover a geographic area or a certain type of food.
- Music and media Can one use iTunes without the Internet? Since I don't do TV, I've always struggled to keep up with conversations about entertainment. I am grateful for the Internet Meme Database and IMDB. Solution: buy CDs. Look confused when people talk about memes and TV shows. Shake head and mutter "Young people today..."
- Household scheduling Tod & I keep track of one another's activities via an online calendar. How will he know when I'm going to be home for dinner or not? Solution: get a paper calendar, hang it in the hall and use it together.
- Banking & taxes I do a fair bit of online banking. I communicate with my accountant via e-mail and her web system. Solution: visit the bank in person to make transfers and payments, or bank by mail. Mail shoeboxes of receipts to the accountant.
- Work On the rare occasions that I get editing or other work, it tends to be last-minute, remitted and delivered online. Solution: get a real job. Hahahaha.
- Chat with far-away friends I've been using various forms of IM for over two decades. This would be hard. Solution: letters, postcards, and phone calls.
- Hoop community connections The hooping community is huge worldwide. I keep in touch almost exclusively online except when I travel. Solution: schedule trips to lots of hoop events and make stronger connections face-to-face.
- Travel planning I already use a travel agent for most of my air travel, but I research options before I send off an e-mail to her. Solution: Call Juri with an outline of what I need and make her do all the work for me.
There are myriad little other things, like package redelivery, ordering food in, sending holiday greetings, working with print houses, that didn't make the list, but they would be a series of daily pains and troubles.
Lifestyle changes of offline life would be profound. Surrendering to ignorance! Taking the long way around. All that extra productive time would be taken up in getting things done the old fashioned way. It would be a real shift of perspective but it could be done. Mostly.
The thing that I could not accept right now is not sharing my creative work. I realise that is because the bar is very low online so anything is OK and there is no judgement. To write a blog post is easy; the urge to create and share a thought can satisfied with a bunch of typing and a few mouse clicks. Maybe someone reads it. Or not. To publish a book, on the other hand, is a major endeavor. Cutting an album? Performing live? Getting a gallery show? They all require a decision by others whether one's work is satisfactory. That is a scary show-stopper for me, right there. All of my art, my writing, my photos would stay in storage if I had to shop them around to someone.
So I am not ready to go dark and escape the online world. But having written it all out like this, I think I can see some changes I might make without too much trauma. I'll let you know.