VICE's most online writer is currently disconnected from the internet in a small town outside of New York City. She will be logged off for five days, during which time she will chronicle her adventures in nature through daily dispatches. Her second correspondence is below, and you can read more about the project here.
Aside from the internet, the only other things I’ve successfully quit are dating assholes and drinking alcohol. The former happened almost accidentally, but the latter was my decision. When I quit drinking, I did it cold turkey because I feared I would imminently die if I didn't change my behavior. When I quit the internet, yesterday, I did it because the web had started to feel like a parasite that was slowly eating me alive.
I eased myself into these dark days of disconnect gradually, deleting Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook from my phone before getting on the train that took me into the woods. On the train, I deleted more apps—Slack, BuzzFeed, Reddit, Chrome, Gmail—and rearranged my home screen with the few apps I still gave myself permission to use (basically just Messages, phone, and the camera). “Look out the window,” my boyfriend said, laughing at how obsessively I was checking my essentially bricked phone. As the train journeyed up the Hudson, he said, “Look how beautiful the water is.” He was right, it was beautiful; but was it as beautiful as my Instagram feed?
When we arrived at the train station, I was close to being completely logged off. Before heading to our lodging, we sat by the river, all sparkling and sunny, as I anxiously peered into my now very boring phone, silently scolding myself for forgetting my sunglasses and headphones at home, sucking down a cigarette like my life depended on it, while my boyfriend, much more adept at not being connected 24/7, paced around the park, reading plaques and looking at a weird sculpture of an upside-down bronze man donning a swim-cap and goggles, diving into the marble base.
My last taste of the sweet, infinite information flow was calling an Uber from the train station to my “cabin”—which actually, as it turns out, is more of a sweet suburban house in a town close to Westpoint. To me, a Manhattan native whose idea of the Great Outdoors is getting lost in Prospect Park, the locale seems "woodsy." To my boyfriend, a total nature buff, it was not “really” in the woods. I say tomato, he says to mato. Maybe we should just call the whole thing off?
“I miss Instagram,” I complained, lying on the bed of my temporary home, away from the stresses of urban life, reading a tabloid, imagining all the funny moments I would be posting in my story if only I could, giggling at an item about Brooklyn Beckham supposedly dropping out of Parsons. (“He gets an F in friendship!” the magazine declared, detailing how his alleged “massive ego” and “diva act didn’t fly with other students.”)
“Why don’t you read a book?” my boyfriend suggested.
“No thanks,” I said, rolling my eyes.
I was anxious, already concerned about what I was missing. “Stacey Dash is running for congress,” my friend Sarah texted me. “You’ll never know if this is real.” I laughed, unable to decide whether such a news item was just bad, a sign of our crumbling political system, or whether it was so bad it was stupid enough to actually be good.
The consequence of a life with no internet isn’t necessarily pain, but rather a nagging sort of loneliness that comes along with cutting yourself off from the thing that connects you to everyone else.
I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since I swore it off entirely. But with the internet, it hasn't been so easy. When my boyfriend showed me a Facebook video of Fiona the Hippo, I wondered if that was cheating. Is texting cheating, since I have an iPhone and use iMessage? [Editor’s note: yes] Is it even possible to completely log off without downgrading to a flip phone and throwing my computer out the window?
I started reading a copy of the Unabomber Manifesto, which I brought with me mostly as a joke, but also because it was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of major anti-technological works. “There is no way of reforming or modifying the [industrial-technological] system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy,” Kaczynski wrote. “If the system breaks down, the consequences will still be very painful.”
But the consequence of a life with no internet isn’t necessarily pain, but rather a nagging sort of loneliness that comes along with cutting yourself off from the thing that connects you to everyone else.
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