Unplugged: Life without Internet is easy, if you can adapt

By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 11:57 AM

Going a week without the Internet is stupid. I won't glean any wisdom about being unplugged or more fully appreciating the present. You don't have to go without to value what you have.

I walk around with both a BlackBerry and an iPhone. I got the iPad the day it was released. I don't use the home phone. Ever. I use the cell. And only when e-mail won't suffice.

So the worst part of my hiatus from the Internet is that while I'm blissfully out of touch, others will be inconvenienced. What if my wife wants me to pick up groceries on the way home? What if a source sends me a scoop?

Like I said, this is stupid.

* * *

That's what I wrote at the beginning of our Internet fast. And yes, I did inconvenience people, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and I did learn something: I learned that human beings are adaptable. We've gone from rotary phones to answering machines to cellphones to e-mail -- just in my lifetime. They are embedded in my daily life. But in just a couple of days, going without felt almost normal.

At first I worried about what I was missing. I felt out of it, alone, left behind. And then I didn't. Perhaps it was only because I knew the experiment would end in a few days, but I let go. I adapted. And then a funny thing happened, something I never would have anticipated: I cut myself off almost completely. My out-of-office e-mail reply told people that calling was the best way to get me. But I didn't answer most calls. Let them go to voice mail; I'll deal with it later.

It was rude, but hitting my phone's "ignore" button felt liberating. The incessant chatter, fueled by e-mail, cellphones, texts, Facebook, Twitter, had become like a car alarm that won't shut off. "Ignore" was a universal mute button that made everything calmer. It was my way of telling the world -- and myself -- to just shut up.

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