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Unplugged: Life without Internet means really letting go

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By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 11:56 AM

I cheated. Just about every day.

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Some of it was legitimate -- I was writing a story about Internet rumors, after all. When I had to ask a source to call up a Web site and get me phone numbers, I knew I'd reached the other side of ridiculous.

Some cheating, however, was purely discretionary. I just couldn't stop myself. I spent two hours on the first night of the experiment surfing the Web for "the perfect" place to stay in New York when my sisters visit next month.

Then I remembered a trip an aunt planned in 1976 for 13 relatives, ages 13 to 76, to go from Oregon and Wyoming through Denver and New York to Ireland to visit relatives. How on earth did she do it without the Internet?

That's when it hit me, at about 1:47 a.m.: The Internet feeds my worst instincts -- distraction, obsessive compulsion, perfectionism, control-freakishness. Did I really have to find "the perfect" place? Whatever happened to making do? We stayed in some pretty wild places on that Ireland trip -- like the New York hotel nestled comfortably on a block of peep shows -- but we just rolled with it.

A couple of days later, after our Web blackout had prompted me to do some unkind things -- I left my daughter's music teacher standing out on the front porch because I couldn't check the e-mail she'd sent reminding me of the lesson -- I found myself itching for bizarre, extraneous information. Like, how does a snakehead fish "walk" on land?

After the ban finally lifted, my daughter and I called up a YouTube video of a snakehead writhing its muscular body to motor about. Then we got diverted and wound up watching the trailer for the new "Twilight" movie.

I recalled a highlight of my unplugged week: chaperoning a field trip without a BlackBerry is good for the soul.

I turned away from the screen and said to my daughter, "Let's go for a bike ride."


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