Christa D’Souza locks away her phone, turns off the wifi and tries to spend a whole weekend internet free
No biggie. No biggie at all. I’m old enough to remember what it was like without it and besides, it's only for the weekend. And so it is I wake up one Saturday morning and begin my 48 hour digital detox. Already I’m cross. It’s such a routine checking my Instagram, checking my Twitter, logging onto Times Online (in that order), while glugging my 75ml of water, before actually getting out of bed.
The upshot is I actually listen to the news on Radio 4 (although you could argue, since our radio is digital, I shouldn’t be listening to that either, but, oh well, too bad). So far, then, quite good. The next hurdle is getting out of the house. Again, I’d not realised how Pavlovian the reaction to check my messages while waiting for the lights to turn red in the Talgarth Road, even though I might have checked 60 seconds before.
Then there’s Starbucks. What the hell does one do in that time it takes them to make my Venti black Americano? Look at everyone else checking their messages, I suppose. Get back home, and switch my computer on to finish a piece (with the internet switched off, obvs, and nobody said anything about no screens). Dammit, though, I can see there are four messages in my inbox from last night and it’s killing me not to check them. But then I’m the dumbass who sends herself an email and then, seconds later, gets all excited when she hears the ping, wondering who it might be from. This digital detox, I guess it didn’t come a moment too soon. Oh, Lord, but how brutal it is, having to write a piece without being able to multicrastinate digitally; how brutal not being able to idle most of the morning away looking at bathing suits on Net-a-Porter or checking out the schedule at the Primrose Hill branch of Fierce Grace, and instead, having to actually think?
Right. Need to print this piece out... which involves switching on the internet. I suppose I could get one of the kids to do it for me, but isn’t this slightly like playing that game where everyone has to guess what celebrity you are thinking of, and saying it rhymes with “Badonna”? They won’t do it for me anyway. Watching mum going through withdrawal is sort of fun, although I think the 17 year old, bless, feels my pain. “Why don’t you go and buy a book from Waterstones,” he eventually suggests, “That’ll while away some of the day…”
You are either a texter or a ringer and I’m the former; I LOVE to text. A sneaky look at my phone shows that my friend Nadia has sent me three messages, and it is literally torture not to answer them. I suppose I could call her on the landline, but I HATE talking on the phone. And besides, I don’t know her number. There are only two numbers in the whole world I have committed to memory… and one of them is mine.
Time to go to exercise obviously and on the tube ride over, I find myself rocking. Constantly flicking between email, Twitter and Instagram even when there is no internet has become such a part of my life, I don’t know what to do without it. And here comes the breakthrough. Between Baron’s Court and Chalk Farm I end up reading a 20,000 word essay in The New Yorker right to the end. You want to know about unnecessary medical care in McAllen, Texas? Just ask me.
So yeah, boring as it may sound, I’m having a bit of an epiphany here. It's still very hard not posting or sharing every single thing that happens to me throughout the day — did it happen if I don’t, sort of thing — and oh, my, not being able to do it when I get into bed, how shitty is that. The routine of it, endlessly switching between Instagram, Twitter, email and then back again, has come to be as soothing as a Stillnacht. Although what they say about blue light affecting the way you sleep is obviously a thing. My reading an actual book rather than a Kindle feels like it might already be having a positive effect. God, but there are times within this long, long 48 hour period I feel murderous. A thought: might a crime digitale ever stand up in court? It ought.
And here’s the thing. One cannot switch off completely, but maybe there are certain rules one can implement. Getting the newspaper delivered, for example. Giving away my Kindle. Turning the internet off (along with one’s phone and iPad) while writing. My 12 year old’s place of comfort is sitting on the sofa with the US version of The Office or The Peep Show on his laptop while playing Destiny on his X box. I can’t tell him off if I am doing exactly the same thing. Like dieting, it is a discipline. What did Aristotle say? Something about being what we repeatedly do, so excellence isn’t an act but a habit? Sorry if that’s not quite right but I’m not allowed to Google it.