I remember setting up my first email account to participate in an online discussion group for a seminar my senior year. I have a letter up in my attic from my friend Kate asking me if I had email and telling me what she thought her email address was. It seemed a novelty.
I remember that annoying noise that dial-up made. I always thought we can send somebody to the moon, but we can't come up with a nicer sound for this process? As recently as 2000, I had dial up. I'd log-in, go fill up my dishpan during that annoying bong-buzz-static sound, come back start the slow download process, go wash my dishes, come back to see if it was done.
And then I ponied up for a cable connection. Suddenly I could log on and be on all day. It was so much quicker. Email replaced letters. I played games online sometimes, got my news on my homepage. But still, I wasn't online all the time. I'm not sure how that happened, but I think it started when Henry was in the hospital. We kept moving rooms and I didn't have a cell phone, so email was the best way to get in touch with me. Email and our CarePage became my lifeline to the world outside the hospital walls, my link to the world I so longed to be part of.
And then he died and I was floundering and as much as I dove right into my grief, at night, I longed for distraction, to restless to go to bed. One night I was searching for a poem I got at a grief group and I found Charlotte's Mama's blog, which led me to other blogs and Glow in the Woods, which led me to still more blogs. There were other people who had lost babies who were sitting in the dark not wanting to shut down because that thin veneer, that sheer curtain they had pulled between their hearts and the sorrow that threatened to drown them would go away when they did.
I started to spend a lot of time online. And then came Facebook. Sigh.
This summer I decided to try to spend less time online. I had tried during the winter, actually shutting down my computer when I wasn't working. It made me realize how dependent I am on my online connection. I kept finding myself popping in to my office to "check something real quick," which would have turned into checking email and answering it, and liking half a dozen posts on Facebook and reading articles friends had linked to and . . . .
It's not how I want to spend my time, and summer with all its outdoorsness seemed like a good time to make a bigger break. It helps that I'm not working a lot. I'm out in my garden or trying to read while my kids splash in our tiny kiddy pool or sweating in a steamy kitchen making jam or pickles or relish. My weakness right now is right after bedtime when the kids are down, but not quite settled, when I don't want to get involved in anything because somebody is sure to need to use the potty or irritate somebody else with their noise or just need me.
Unplugged is a bit of a stretch for what I'm doing right now, but I'm cutting back and trying to figure out how cut back more, recognizing that cutting it out completely isn't feasible.
I wrote a letter today, to Kate, who so many years ago was the first friend I emailed. I put in an envelope, addressed it, stuck on a stamp. Tomorrow our mail carrier will pull it out of my box and add it to a pile of mail to be sorted and routed and delivered. She won't get it seconds after I sent it, won't reply almost instantaneously, but sitting with a notecard and a pen, jotting memories and stories about our summer was satisfying—and I didn't get distracted by the new message popping up or the new Like on a comment.
I'm shutting down now for the night. I'll get out early tomorrow before the heat really settles in. I'll drink coffee with my neighbor under the pear tree while my kids get along with hers (or not). I'll check my plants for squash bug eggs and pick lettuce and water. We'll get dressed for story hour and gather trash for the dump. Somewhere in there, I'll log on to see if there are any work issues for my one little on-going project and then maybe I'll shut down again to have the day free.
Do you spend to much time online too? How do you limit yourself? Or do you?