Can we justify it in a world saturated with smartphones, free WiFi and depression

erika sauter
Mar 22 · 5 min read

It’s Saturday afternoon. My husband is streaming college basketball on Hulu Live. Our son has traveled back in time to defend the world from warlocks and dragons while split screening his attention and participating in a group chat on Facebook. The girls are in their bedrooms. One is watching cat videos on her phone and listening to music via the IHeart app, the other is on a video call with her boyfriend. She has Netflix paused in another window.

No one even knows I exist outside of the cats who follow me around begging to be let outside.

I try to visualize how much bandwidth is being sucked up by my family. I imagine there’s an electric force field, similar to Violet’s superpower in the Incredibles, and with tornado like winds drawing lightening from the atmosphere. As an independent writer, the internet is a tool. I unequivocally need an internet connection in order to receive a paycheck. It’s my livelihood, but it’s not my life support.

We live in a rural community. As far as utilities go, it’s a monopoly. If you want electricity, there’s one electric company. If you want landline telephone service, there’s one telephone company. If you want cable television and internet, both have one company. Of course, with only a single option, if you want the service — you’re going to pay for it.

But I can’t justify paying $100 a month for home internet service. In a world saturated with smartphones and free WiFi, it doesn’t make sense. Even more astonishing than the inflated internet bill itself, the company recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

They’re on the brink of destruction and I’m fantasizing about what I could be doing with that extra $1,200 annually in my pocket. I could afford to take my family on a vacation each year. My husband and I could finally go on a honeymoon four years into our marriage. Or, I could save it each year and in 20 years when I retire I can afford to spend a year in Paris with him. I’d sip tea, wear flower print dresses and carry a picnic basket filled with wine everywhere we go.

Regardless of living in a town so small it’s not even on the map, we have access to free WiFi at the public library and the locally owned coffee shop in the town square. Within walking distance is a connection available to us for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Sunday is a day for God and family. Town is closed down and even on farms there is no such thing as work. I should take that as a sign that I shouldn’t be working, either.

For a person who experiences depression and agoraphobia, leaving the house for internet service would be a huge motivator for me, the same as it would be for the teenagers who struggle to turn off YouTube so they can get their chores done. These are the words of a mother who two decades in is starting to feel bitter.

No one in my house agrees that we should cancel our home internet service. Instead, I hear protest each time I suggest it. They’ll either die a FOMO death or, “how am I supposed to watch The Office on repeat?” In an attempt to live off the grid, internet service is a hindrance from completely detaching from society, but so are smartphones.

We’re a family of five and live in a house with five smartphones. I’m vengeful about having to pay this sizable expense, as well, but I’m willing to pay it. The smartphone is an all in one device, and with the right data plan you can constantly stay connected.

It’s a computer, means of communication via telephone, video and text, a camera, a notebook, a GPS system, flashlight, calculator, a form of entertainment and for independent writers like me, an absolute necessity for getting paid.

Cellphone service is the only service that isn’t a monopoly. We can choose from a lengthy list of providers. The difference for cellphone service is that Verizon is the only carrier that actually has functioning service out here. We have an unlimited plan, and in a rural community few contenders pulling from the data pool. Our mobile hotspots work like magic, just not magical enough to satisfy my family’s compulsive use.

My hotspot is perfect for me, even better that I’m completely disconnected from the distractions of social media and the cesspool of misinformation on the World Wide Web while I’m writing. Then once I’m ready to send it off to an editor or publish it, I just flip on my hotspot and click submit. I can do this from anywhere at anytime. This also keeps me focused. A common symptom of depression is difficulty focusing.

Internet connection and a hotspot are merely added bonuses and not at all why I pay out the ass for cellphone service. I want all of us to be able to call 911 in an emergency and if one of our cars break down during a 30 mile stretch of desolate farmland, we can call for help. If we go outdoors during winter weather we have GPS locators in our pockets. We have an instant map if we need it and so on, et cetera.

According to every self-help article on the web the internet is bad for us, anyway. It causes obesity, spreads hate and jealously, and brainwashes us. Since the early 2000’s its turned the world 100% monochrome and all humans with access, duck faced.

Not to mention there’s a plethora of benefits to disconnecting from the internet. We’ll be reducing the amount we see the word, “Trump” by 73% (*guesstimate). I could take the annual $1,200 I save and donate it to a different candidate’s campaign to help ensure we’ll never have to see that word plastered anywhere again.

We’ll genuinely be mindful of our usage because we won’t be able to pay the panic inducing electric bill if we’re not. When our only source of light is the glow of our smartphone screens my family will probably reconsider their revolt.

We can read the newspaper, listen to music on the transistor radio and entertain ourselves by eavesdropping on small town gossip, but what’s interesting to me isn’t interesting to the rest of my family, not even the idea of a temporary home address in Europe. It’s just not worth giving up their internet.

Here’s an idea — we can spend time together and interact like a family, the same barbaric behavior humans had back in the days of cavemen.

erika sauter

Written by

Editorial Reporter @ The Hometown Current newspaper. Iowa County, Iowa. I write stories, snap photographs and farm. Instagram: _erika_sauter_

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