Ming-Ho's Blog

Twenty-two days without Internet

September 26, 2012

As I’m sitting at home and writing this, I’m waiting for our provider’s technician to arrive to set up the Internet. As of today, my roommates and I have been without Internet at home for twenty-two days. Since I’m at home alone and without Internet, I decided I might as well write about some of my experiences and observations.

At this point, the question is probably “why?” Why don’t we have Internet? Why has it been so long? The answer isn’t very interesting or relevant here, so I’ll just say we had some very bad luck with one provider, cancelled our account with them, contacted a new provider, and today is when they’re scheduled to arrive.

What I think is more interesting is how I’ve had to adapt my day-to-day life, and that’s what I’m writing about.

What I use the Internet for

Of course, there’s the usual things like email, and the time wasters like checking Facebook/Twitter/Google+ and reading articles on Hacker News and such. But more importantly, as a student, many of my courses post assignments and materials online. Resources and references are at your fingertips when you have the Internet.

I’m a co-op student. I need to apply jobs to secure an internship for the winter. I need to schedule interviews through the university’s co-op system.

Some of my course work (and my work as a part-time undergraduate research assistant) require me to remotely log into the university servers.

I do all my banking online. I pay all my bills online.

Clearly, I’m not just complaining about my inability to tweet and update my Facebook status. There are many things that are very difficult, if not impossible, to do without the Internet.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, it is very difficult for today’s average North American student to function without the Internet.

How I have been getting Internet

One problem is that I do not have a data plan for my cell phone, or even a smartphone for that matter. I still have a “dumbphone.” At the very least, I would be able to check my email, but that’s better than nothing.

So, to get my Internet, I have been spending a lot of time on campus. I have always been very grateful for the private study labs and lounge my program has access to, and they have become invaluable as semi-private places to study and work when I cannot do so at home.

Some observations on how my day-to-day life has changed

Obviously, life has become a lot more inconvenient. I have to stay on campus (even on weekends) if I want to work. If I’m at home because I’ve found some work to do that doesn’t require the Internet, I quickly run into a roadblock when I need the Internet to look something up.

When I’m on campus all the time, I have to eat campus food or food from the nearby plaza. Both are far more expensive and less healthy than anything I could prepare on my own. I enjoy cooking, but I do not have the time to go home, cook, eat, and then go back to campus to work.

There’s also some stress. Dealing with our first provider was an exasperating experience for my roommates and me. Having to deal with a flood of emails in the morning (on the evenings I go home early) is not fun. Even now, waiting for the technician to arrive is stressful, considering all the bad luck we’ve had so far.

On the other hand, not everything about this experience has been negative. I feel that I’ve been getting more sleep. I feel that I’ve been more productive.

I always try to get home at a reasonable hour. I still do, even without Internet. The difference is that when I’m at home now, I can’t get distracted by the Internet. Most of the time I can’t continue to work on my homework. So, with nothing else to do, I end up going to bed a lot earlier. For the past three weeks, I’ve been averaging eight hours of sleep every night. It’s great on weekends: go to bed at a normal time, wake up fully refreshed at a normal time, and have the entire day ahead of you.

In terms of productivity, I don’t have the chance to get distracted by the Internet. For something that doesn’t require the Internet, like writing this post, I can concentrate and get it done. The same thing applies to any homework I can do at home, without the Internet.

And when I’m on campus? Because I’m consciously aware of how my “Internet time” is limited, I’m less likely to get distracted and waste time on the Internet. I haven’t completely cut myself off from the Internet distractions, but I do feel more productive.

On the days where I don’t have morning classes, I’d usually find myself sleeping in. But without Internet, I’ve been getting more sleep, so I can wake up early. And when I’m up, I have nothing to do, so I go to campus and I can study for a few hours before my first class. (This isn’t perfect; I still find I waste the first hour or so catching up on last night’s email/news/social media. But I guess it’s better than sleeping in.)

What will happen when I have Internet again?

The technician hasn’t arrived yet, but I need to start wrapping up.

The easy thing to do would be to resume my old habits. The convenience would be really nice, and everything can be “normal” again.

But there have been a lot of benefits to this “pseudo Internet free” life. I really enjoy getting eight hours of sleep every night. I want to be more productive.

I want the best of both worlds. The convenience of having Internet at home, and being able to go home after class, cook, eat, and continue studying. I want to get my sleep. I want to be productive.

There’s no reason why I can’t get my sleep and be productive, even with Internet at home. So that’s what I’ll do. Try to consciously remember this, and not waste time at home. Try to make an effort to not use the Internet after a certain time.

If I can accomplish this, I think this “experiment” of living without Internet will have been worth it.


September 28, 2012

The technician arrived right after I finished writing this post, but there were other issues, so we didn’t get Internet right away. We called our provider the next day, and later that night we finally got Internet.

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