One-hour-a-day internet access:
How I survived and what it taught me.

First a little background: I LOVE the Internet. All of it. The listicles, the quizzes, the videos, the podcasts, the tweets, the hashtags, the cats, the owls. OMG, the owls. I consume as much as I can every single day.

Facebook and Twitter. Deadspin and Gawker. Feedly is like crack for me. I even Snapchat occasionally and I literally don’t understand the point of that at all. And don’t even get me started on GIFS (yes, it’s pronounced: ga-if).

Is this healthy? No. Does it make me happier? Probably not. Do either of those revelations stop me? I’m sorry, what was the question? Aaron Chewning just posted a new vine and I stopped listening. I think you get the point.

So when my lovely wife and I traveled to Mexico to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, I was a little worried. According our hotel’s website, guests are limited to ONE HOUR OF WIFI PER DAY.

EXCUSE ME??? You mean 60 minutes? That’s only like 600 vines! What kind of a monster would limit me to only 600 vines per day?

STAGE ONE: PANIC

For weeks before we left, I researched ways to get that sweet, sweet Internet in Mexico without my precious American 4G LTE or wifi. Sadly, unless I wanted to pony up 120 bucks for a measly 400MB of data (400MB? What is this, 2004?) I was up the river sans paddle. Needless to say, I was grief-stricken and more than a little worried.

STAGE TWO: SADNESS

On the day of our trip, we boarded our plane for Mexico and I said a tearful goodbye to my best friend, the Internet. I sent out a few braggy vacation tweets, Instagramed the view from my window seat (#mexicoorbust), checked in on Swarm, read one more Buzzfeed article and posted one last Facebook status before putting my phone on airplane mode and quietly weeping into my nine dollar Coors Light. I was now staring into the abyss of SEVEN TOTAL HOURS of Internet over the next week.

STAGE THREE: DENIAL

By the time we arrived at our hotel four hours later, I had convinced myself it wouldn’t be that bad. First, I was sure there would be a way to pay for more Internet. There HAD to be a way to pay for more Internet, right? Second, I was even more sure that if I could split up my one hour a day into fifteen minute sessions, I could make it last longer. As I sipped my first margarita, I tried to nonchalantly ask the front desk clerk about the Internet “situation.”

Me: So, it’s an hour per day?

Clerk: Si. But you need to do your hour all at once. Once you’re logged in, that’s the start of your hour. (No bueno.)

Me: (Starting to be less nonchalant) But…I mean, you can pay for more time right?

Clerk: Si. But, you pay by the hour. (Double no bueno.)

STAGE FOUR: FEAR

After enjoying a great day at the beach, the wife and I showered, ate dinner and headed to the lobby for our first allotted hour of wifi. I was terrified. Where do I start? Do I tweet or post photos? News or sports? Fantasy scores or real scores? WHAT ABOUT TWITTER????

STAGE FIVE: SERENITY (WAIT, WHAT?)

Then something totally unexpected happened. I clicked on Facebook, scrolled for about a minute, posted a photo and closed the app. I clicked on my email, scanned for 10 seconds and closed the app. Same thing with Instagram and Twitter. After a few minutes, I put my phone in my pocket, people watched and just chilled. My wife did the same. About 15 minutes into our hour of Internet access, we got up and headed off to enjoy the night. I didn’t think about the Internet the rest of the night.

The same thing happened the next day. And the next. And the next. By the end of our trip, we were averaging no more than five minutes of Internet per day. It became an afterthought. Something we thought of as we crossed through the lobby. The question, “Do you want to get online?” was usually met with a shrug of indifference. I was content and peaceful. I was…happy WITHOUT the Internet. I felt a little like the Grinch at the top of Mount Crumpit.

It came without memes. It came without blogs. It came without YouTube clips of funny kids, cats and dogs.

WWW: WORLD WITHOUT WEB

For a week, I was (mostly) off the grid and I discovered that there’s a lot of stuff you can do while unplugged.

  1. Read (like ALL the words)

When I am online, I never read. I don’t have time for that. Instead, I skim. I get the gist of some stuff, but understand very little of most stuff. I save countless article to Pocket to read later offline, but never do. Until that week. I must have plowed through hundreds of pages of content that I had previously been too busy to bother reading. There is no TLDR when you’re offline, apparently. I may even be a little smarter, too. Probably not, but it’s a nice thought.

2. Talk (like to a human…while looking directly at their face area)

When we’re at home and connected, my wife and I can have distracted conversations. We’re both on devices (sometimes more than one). We’re usually watching TV. Many of our talks start with “Did you see the XXX on XXX today?” or “Can you believe what XXX posted today?” In Mexico, we made eye contact. We listened. We shared stories, not with a click, but with a conversation. It was great.

3. Relax (like for real)

Let’s face it. The Internet is stressful. What’s trending? What’s going on?What did I miss? When you’re off it, none of that matters. While in Mexico, I probably missed a ton of memes, twitter rants and five new dance crazes. As I sat with my feet in the sand and my wife at my side, I realized I could live with that.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I’m not sure I have the answer yet. I’ve been back online since Saturday and the only thing I notice is that I now notice how much I am online. Clicking through tabs seems a bit more tedious than before. Scrolling through twitter seems a bit more trivial. Will it last? Probably not. But I am going to enjoy every minute of it until the Internet digs its claws all the way in again…right after I watch this one owl vine.

I’m Jason, an amateur ornithologist and professional writer at Simple Truth. If you need a support system during your unplugged journey, find me on Twitter at @fiveoutstogo.

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