The Flicker Box and Time

There are many and more advantages than one might dare to explore when considering the abandonment of Internet and the computer box altogether. Suddenly, there’s a lot more to do when you’re not staring at a blinking screen and lounging endlessly into the oppressive back of an office chair long overused. I learned this in the 10 days that my computer had been absent. The anxiety associated with unplugging did indeed make itself known to be, as it undoubtedly would to anyone of my generation, yet it did subside faster than I had imagined. What emerged in its stead was time itself; time for things to do and time for things long forgotten to do.

Curiously, during this time void of electronic entertainment on demand, I became aware of a scary kind of reckoning and a question I feared to answer: Is a life less connected a better quality of life overall? I hesitated pondering this for the more crippling realization that it could indeed destroy my ego, for it ran contrary to the most widely held beliefs about technology in this age—as well as my own daily routines.

Even now, I struggle to enumerate the advantages of a more unplugged life simply because I don’t want to find out what I might have accomplished in the time spent occupying myself with virtual agendas. I don’t want to know that I’ve spent more time feeling like I’m getting things done, rather than actually doing them. I’m afraid to find out that I’m an idiot and that the very technologies I revere have betrayed me—or maybe that I’ve betrayed myself. In the virtual world presented to us by the Internet, imagination is left to believe more than meets eye simply because we’re connected to an infinite number of possibilities at any given time. A conversation and connection with a friend over the net is a great thing, but it’s still just you sitting at a computer.

One thing I had noticed as the minutes crept slowly along into the middle of the night: the loneliness. Loneliness finds you faster than the jerk that peeks during that futile game of hide-and-go-seek before everyone quits. Without the lavish wizardry of interweb connectivity, its convoluted reflections of a world within a world, hiding is impossible. Out here in the real world, it’s just your heartbeat buried within the four walls of some apartment, echoing the endless whirling of your overpriced 40 dollar oscillating fan that you picked up impulsively at that shop down the block. You knew it wasn’t a great deal but you bought it anyway. You idiot. But, you bought it just like you bought into the virtual life, and only when it’s gone can you can thoroughly feel the branding burn of an iron poker pressing the words “sucker” deep into your skin.

But the loneliness does find you. It haunts your steps so that you feel uneasy and restless, and your living quarters seem strangely crowded and uncomfortable despite the empty space. Mundane tasks feel emptier because there’s no background noise to dilute your consciousness and physical existence. The Internet and the peripheral communication devices that suckle on it are so that they extend your sense of being; the true nature of your physical limitations and their isolation are completely blotted out from consciousness. Yet, without fiber optics one has only to pass ordinary minutes. I say ordinary minutes to emphasis the phenomenon that is time lost during web usage. Albert Einstein proved that time and speed are intimately connected and that time will pass much faster for a relative location we might travel away from at the speed of light and then return to. He talks about physical reality for the most part, but the Internet does transport our consciousness from our present location at the speed of light, leaving us to return and discover 4 hours missing from our lives. Spooky.

Having no access to the Internet completely changes the experience of every action, no matter how rote or insignificant. Whereas before, whether I was physically at my computer or not, I was multitasking because being connected to the Internet itself is a continuous task. It doesn’t stop, and the result is that every task becomes a relentless detour from the main event. Every action becomes hyphenated. You’re not washing dishes; you’re Internet-Dish Washing. You’re not playing the guitar; you’re Internet-Guitar Playing. Sounds fancy, only its not. It’s still just you sitting at a computer.

So, is a life unplugged necessarily better? Hasn’t the Internet made life easier, more exciting, and altogether a more pleasurable experience? I think the answer varies according to user priorities, and of course, to the discipline exercised on the usage of connectivity. That being said, there is no doubt in my mind that we could all benefit from some deliberately structured time away from the Internet. Most of us use computers or web-related technology at work, so to me, Internet discipline means abstaining from turning the computer on for one Saturday or Sunday. This also means ditching your phone as well for some well-deserved hours off from the constant flow of being connection and potential interruption. Unplugging is as much a liberating experience as the Internet is. So go ahead, get free, while I go Internet-Make breakfast.

Matthew Rosario

American / Writer / Musician

  • Anonymous

    I can ditch the computer, but not the phone. I need to read Reddit somehow.

  • I have to admit, I hear the name Reddit a lot but have absolutely no idea what it is.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, well written. Everything in moderation… Nothing in excess. That is something I should've listened to a long time ago. PC gaming online nonstop since Quake2 in 1998 has ended up meaning nothing. A waste of time without one thing to show for it. You may not want to look back and analyze your time spent connected, but I have done so with mine many times… Yet I have not changed what I am doing yet. :'(