Monday, July 5, 2010

Going Internetless

James Sturm, a graphic novelist and occasional contributor at, is doing a pretty interesting experiment: He's going Internetless. For four months, he'll not touch a computer to do anything even remotely connected with the Internet -- no e-mail, no anything. He's going to see how he can get along with something that everyone got along without twenty years ago but is so ubiquitous today it's hard to imagine not having an Internet-ready computer purring away in a basement corner, a wi-fi signal in the bathroom and the possibilities of going online while lounging in a hammock in the back yard.

He's hardly a Luddite, just a little worried about how dependent he was becoming on his Internet connection:
Over the last several years, the Internet has evolved from being a distraction to something that feels more sinister. Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER. I've tried various strategies to limit my time online: leaving my laptop at my studio when I go home, leaving it at home when I go to my studio, a Saturday moratorium on usage. But nothing has worked for long. More and more hours of my life evaporate in front of YouTube. Supposedly addiction isn't a moral failing, but it feels as if it is.

He's written about his off-line adventure at Slate, and has come up with some pretty interesting commentary. You can read the first of his columns here. It hardly seems contradictory that he's writing for an online magazine about a life off-line. It's recommended reading, especially for someone considering cutting the Internet cord himself.

Part of his project is to gather input from people reading about his off-line life. Scanned below is a letter I'm sending him this week, just because I thought his experiment was so interesting. It's even more interesting coming off one of the first Internet-free weekends I've had in a long time. We went camping, but camped out at a relative's house in Swan Valley. They have an internet connection. I was only tempted once, by Twitter of all useless things. I resisted. We went to Palisades Reservoir and then to Wyoming for fireworks instead. I'm the better for it.

If you're not bothered to read what I wrote and scanned, I'll sum up. Basically, I told him about being stalked on Facebook by people insistent I come to our 20th high school reunion this summer. Then I went on to write about how I channeled my blogging addiction into pushing myself to write a 50,000-word fantasy novel. Basically showing that yes, the Internet can be a great distraction, but at the same time, if its powers are used for good (or at least for hack writing) time spent on the net isn't necessarily wasted, with which I'm sure Sturm would agree.


carl g said...

An interesting but obvious experiment that I also find a little ivy tower since sooo many people still do not have internet access or even use a computer. 30% of US household have no internet and, as of 2008, "Nearly one out of three household heads has never used a computer to create a document." It's not like he's living an Amish life, just the life many Americans live. I know he's writing for a website that is published for the hip and the young, I hope he makes that point somewhere.

Mister Fweem said... is written for the hip and young? I've read enough on the site that this description surprises me.

He is a bit ivory tower in his experiment, and doesn't mention that he's one of the privileged giving up something that others simply don't have. He does make good points for those who believe they can't live without this instant connectivity,k however -- showing that people's dependence on computers and internet connections is in many ways silly, since life does obviously go on without them.