I can’t leave the internet.  I’m part of a generation that requires it for much of their professional life as much as their social.  I have to access email for university.  I have to access various sites for my creative work.  Research is more accessible online.  For these reasons I would be foolish to leave entirely.  But just how dependant on it am I?


When I have days off from Uni I spend all the day in front of the computer.  All.  The.  Day.  And much of the night.  I imagine I am online for between 10 and 12 hours on an average day.  Much of that on Facebook, and very, very little of that using this amazing resource.  Virtually all of human knowledge and creative endeavours are online, a mouse click away.  Yet I spend most of my time looking at funny pictures and rambling on Facebook.

I am actively wasting my life.  I doubt any of us, when it’s not work related really need to spend as much time online.  News is available in other ways- these large papery things you buy in shops.  Communicating with friends can be done using rectangular devices where you can actually hear each other.  The internet is convenient, too convenient.  And life-force sucking.

Several years ago when I first moved to Edinburgh I was without regular internet access.  Maybe twice a week I could snatch an hour in the library- and oh god was I productive.  I checked emails, I communicated with people I needed to and I looked up resources for research.  In those two months I wrote my first play.  An achievement I haven’t been able to repeat since because even when I settle in to research something I get quickly distracted by shiny things.  This is admittedly more my problem than the internet.

But by spending so long in front the internet I am actively killing myself- those who spend almost all of their time sat down do tend to have shorter lives- we are less active.  I know smoking is shortening my life, I know alcohol is, I know poor diet is- and all of those things I am trying to address.  So why not also address the fourth factor in that quadrilogy of life reducers?

Now its not particularly the internet- but with limited access I would spend less time in front of a computer.   Sure, by the very nature of the work I do and that I’m a student, I am required to be in front of a computer to actually do things.  I actually am not allowed to hand in hand-written work, I cant even turn to a type writer as essays need to be uploaded to the Uni website.

Living entirely without the internet isn’t practical- not for an active student and worker in 2013.  But what I can do is restrict my usage.  To actually use the internet as the powerful tool it is, instead of a picture book of funny cat gifs and list based comedy websites.

So, as of today I’m going to be restricting myself and seeing how that benefits me healthwise and professionally.  For non work related uses, the internet only really needs to exist for me in terms of news and emails.  Work related it is needed for research- and I would be foolish to not use it.  I could (and will) go to the library more often, though of course some things may be more available online.

What I don’t need to be doing is spending every waking moment in front of a screen.  So this is my challenge, as of when I wake up later today:

1 – To restrict non work related access to 15 minutes a day.  I don’t get urgent emails, and anyone who desperately needs to contact me can call me.  I can also upload new blogs each Friday quite quickly.  Checking emails and uploading a blog are not time consuming activities.

2 – To restrict work related access to 45 minutes per day.  If I can’t find the information I need in that time, then I should probably visit the library.  I should action plan what I need to research and go straight for it.  The things I usually need to look up are not hidden and are usually the first to come up in a Google search.  And if I DO find relevant information in that time I can download the text and read it offline later.

3 – To spend at least two days a week not even turning the computer on.

4 – To restrict access to social networks to that 15 minutes above.

5 – To visit the library more often.  The university I attend has a great library.  I should be able to find information I need there and it has the advantage of getting me out of the house.

6 – To actually meet up with people.  The worst thing about social networking sites is just how anti-social they are.  We don’t really socialise, carrying on conversations can be tricky and due to the nature of written dialogue things can far too easily be misconstrued.

7 – Including the one hour access to the internet, to spend no more than 4 hours on the computer a day (And of course having two days off).  Now this may sound a lot, but when you are creating an image in Photoshop, or some sound work, or writing a particularly tricky scene in a script, or an essay that time can quickly vaporise and my restriction to the internet and computer should not have the effect of damaging my work.  That in itself would defeat the purpose of this attempt at a not so digital heavy lifestyle. (Plus as I’m on it about 12 hours a day, every day, that is a serious reduction!)

Ultimately my goal is not to become an old fashioned, technophobe, but to use the technology and resources I have access to far more professionally and in a useful manner.

I waste my life in front of a computer and I believe that may have a factor on my depression.  I use the internet as a distraction.  If I could be productive, active, network professionally and get the research I needed in two one hour sessions a week on a library computer before, then I see no reasons why I can’t now do that by restricting myself to no more than an hour a day, 5 days a week.

I’m going to trial this for a month and see what happens.

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2 Responses to De-digitise

  1. David James says:

    I know that a friend came to a similar realisation and it really helped his depression. He got away from the computer and use to go out walking and later running.

    Anecdotally, the sedentary life only seem to feed depression and depressive thoughts.

    I wish you the very best luck.

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