Off the Grid

Off the Grid
Out of the Internet and Into the Wild

L.B. Jeffries | 17 Mar 2009 12:08
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For some people, the notion of going five days without the internet is unfathomable. Many who work from home built their jobs around the internet. Others keep in touch with Facebook or bark ideas to acquaintances through Twitter. These sites aren't just diversions anymore - they have become the new way people keep in touch with one another, entertain themselves and, in some cases, build a reputation.

My approach to the internet could best be described as faking being important. I have an email account, a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, a webzine I write for, a personal blog, several forums I frequent and numerous blogs I comment on regularly. These activities take up so much of my time that you could rightly say I live a decent portion of my life on the web. How could I possibly function if I had to quit cold turkey for five days? I decided to find out.

It seems obvious at first: The long list of websites and blogs I checked regularly was now meaningless. That left me cut off from a group of people to which I had heretofore felt pretty connected. I've been diligent about either achieving or prolonging my 15 minutes, depending on what you consider the threshold of fame. For five days, I was cut off from that.

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I produce a very tiny commodity that a decent group of people enjoy. That's what I regularly shoot up on when I post an article, column or blog. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once said that a real writer cares more about being read than he does about being paid, and the internet is his ultimate validation. Almost all of us have posted a comment or written a response to something with the sole purpose of being read by someone else. We are all here for that slice of recognition, whatever its size or scale.

What does it mean to be removed from that? There weren't any physical symptoms, but I did act a bit abnormally. The incessant boredom meant I hit the bottle more than I usually do. I kidnapped my neighbor's cat and pretended I owned it for a while after I got sick of watching TV. (The cat insisted I be realistic and let her out.) Several of my friends accused me of constantly needing to hear music while I hung out with them - I didn't even notice this until they said something, but I had been carrying around my portable stereo the whole five days. And every time I woke up, I immediately thought about checking my e-mail. When I finally sifted through my inbox five days letter it was mostly junk mail and someone telling me I got my facts wrong on an article.

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