A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
Can I Live Without The Internet For A Month? I’m About To Find Out.
July 19, 2018
Since I was sixteen, nearly two decades ago, I have gone online almost every day. Starting August 2, for one month, I’m going off. No email, no social media, no keyboards, no podcasts. No audio books, no video memes, no texts. Not a single smiley-face emoticon. Nothing. Smart phone powered down and stuck deep in a drawer.
How is that going to work?
Imagine you’re at a party. Across the room you see someone you don’t like. It doesn’t matter why—boring, close-talker, political nut, whatever. Out of the corner of your eye you notice him approaching. Now, if he had been a longer way off you might’ve been able to escape without seeming rude. But, bugger it, he’s only a few feet away now and there’s no escape.
You turn to him, smile, and endure a few minutes of conversation before mumbling about something you need to get done and that you’re sorry to be rushing off so soon. Then you make your escape. This is what you do when you don’t like someone.
But what about when you’re the one you don’t like? When you’re irritable, anxious, moody, and just, well, blah? How do you escape yourself?
Maybe you think it’s easy: you just distract yourself. You plunge into a myriad of noisy and titillating things to avoid having to be alone with yourself. It doesn’t matter what. YouTube, crossword puzzles, Pornhub, Instagram. But it doesn’t last, does it? Noise—which is essentially what all this amounts to, whether it’s audible or not—is a “deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer,” as Cardinal Sarah put it. “The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence.”
Oh, it feels good in the moment. But after the moment, are we at rest? Peaceful? Content? After you’ve watched five and a half episodes of The Office while texting and tweeting throughout, are you calm? I know I’m not. The internet promises leisure; what it delivers most of the time is stupor.
Yes, I’m aware than we can lose ourselves in stupor offline, too. But in this age, for most of us, it’s happening in that pixelated world on the screen in front of us.
That’s the first thing. The next thing is much worse. All this noise, this numbing-out, not only keeps us from ourselves—it keeps us from God. “If our ‘interior cell phone’ is always busy because we are ‘having a conversation’ with other creatures,” says Cardinal Sarah, “how can the Creator reach us, how can he ‘call us’?”
So I’m taking a break. This big black hole called the Internet is sucking up my mental, emotional, and spiritual bandwidth. It’s robbing my family, my work, and my contemplation. Things have to change.
Wait, How Will You Survive?
What will this mean, practically speaking? How do I plan on accomplishing this unthinkable feat of strength that twenty years ago we just called “life”? Specifically:
How will you let people know who are trying to get a hold of you?
Starting August 2, I’m changing my voicemail (and email vacation responder) to say something like, “I’m not using my phone (email) for the month of August, if you need to contact me, please call my wife.” Only I’m not going to give out my wife’s number. If you don’t already know how to contact her you’re probably not a close friend or a family member, and so whatever it is, it’s unlikely to be something I’d consider an emergency. Maybe I’ll be wrong. I’ll let you know in September.
What will you do with your phone?
I’m going to take my phone to a friend’s house and tell him to lock it away and not give it back to me until September 2. I may also buy a cheap flip-phone and give my number out to a handful of people. I haven’t decided on that yet.
What about your computer?
My dear wife will change the password to my desktop and laptop so that when I’m tempted to go online I won’t be able to. I’ll try not to bribe her with chocolate.
How will you get any work done?
Most of my work consists of podcasts and vlogs which I will pre-record this month (July) and schedule to release throughout the month of August. You won’t even know I’m gone!
What about social media?
I escaped social media about two months ago. I don’t mean that I shut down all my accounts (as those of you who follow me know) but I now pay a good friend to run them for me. I don’t even have the passwords. Yep, I’m that pathetic. I needed the passwords changed so that I, the addict that I am, wouldn’t go back.
What will you do instead?
Wake up. Hang out with my wife and kids. Pray. Read. I actually just bought a handsome copy of The Brothers Karamazov that I intend to complete next month. Other than that I hope to be bored. Remember bored? (Those above the age of twenty say, aye.)
Are you going to back out?
Maybe I would have if I hadn’t written and published this bloody article. Now my decision is set in stone.
In one sense, of course, this is not a big deal at all. But in a day and age where many of us can’t go an hour without the Internet (we don’t even say “go online” anymore, because we’re never off), including myself, this is going to be a radical move. And I pray that when it’s over I will have a healthier relationship with the Internet.
Wow, I just wrote “relationship with the Internet.” Maybe this will be harder than I think. Please pray for me. I’ll update you in a September.
Matt Fradd is an author, speaker, and podcaster at Pints with Aquinas. He is the author of several books. He lives in the mountains of North Georgia with his wife and children.
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