Unplugged: A week without Internet is harder than it seems

By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 11:57 AM

If aliens dropped into my living room on a weekday evening, they would think marriage is a strange institution. My husband, Dan, and I spend most nights with computers in our laps, making little eye contact and trading fewer words.

By the time my colleagues and I decided to spend a week off-line, I had accepted this scenario as, if not the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings, at least within the realm of normal. I secretly wondered whether unplugging might be a way to regain some marriage mojo. I even pictured us having some awesome five-hour conversation, like when you're first dating.

We had all agreed to keep our Internet hiatus a secret from our spouses for as long as possible. We even placed bets on whose spouse would be last to notice.

Dan was the first. The first day, I left my USB port at home with all my work notes on it. When I asked Dan if he could bring it with him when he came downtown, he immediately grew suspicious: Why can't I e-mail everything to you?

After I explained the situation, his initial reaction was indifference, then an oddly intense sympathy. Dan, I should explain, blogs for a living. For him, being offline is akin to being in a coma.

As we sat on the couch on the third unplugged evening, he turned to me and joked, "Let's have a conversation." And we did. It lasted about 40 minutes, not five hours, but it was nice just the same.

The next morning, I dropped out of the experiment. I couldn't get work done.

When I e-mailed Dan news of my liberation, I expected a sympathetic sigh of relief. Instead, he was incredulous. Later, at home, he ribbed me.

"What's the point if you can just quit?" he asked.

I glared at him. Lovingly, of course.

A few days later, when I asked what he thought of the whole mini-ordeal, he surprised me again, saying, "I liked it that your face wasn't buried in a screen all night.

"Not that I can talk," he added quickly.

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