In this piece, Emily Garlock (2021) shares her thoughts on our WIFI dependency, and some easy tips for how to reduce it. Read on to learn more about how to connect through disconnecting.
Wifi is our survival code. We need it to look up information for pre-class work, to take classes, to compile our research for assignments. It gives us maps to navigate our new cities, tells us the best food stop nearby, gives us the social connection we desire more than anything – facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram DMs…
What if we didn’t need wifi anymore? How would our lives look? I almost can’t fathom it – desperately searching for a cafe with reliable wifi and asking baristas for passwords has become routine, even second nature.
Dichotomies around the subject float through conversations, articles, even scientific research. In a tech-driven world, we have become convinced that technology is either the future and the source of everything, or that it removes us from humanity. Both can be true, which doesn’t make the situation any less convoluted.
Still, I’d like to imagine what it would be like to have less dependency on the tips of my fingers. What would we do if we weren’t distracting ourselves from ruminating thoughts with Netflix, or swiping on Bumble, or scrolling through Instagram, or watching “What I Eat in a Day” videos? Would we find the inspiration to read again, like a child who hides books under the bedsheets? Would we spend the money from data packages on jigsaw puzzles or going to an actual movie theater? Would we finally take that dance class or return to a once lived passion?
The only way to know for sure is by changing what we do now; otherwise, it will all stay the same. But change is scary. That may be a time-old saying, and as Minervans who move every four months, it should be less so, yet I am paralyzed. To make a considerable change is to embrace uncertainty. It is to take action to unstick yourself. I have found I am very good at being stuck. I find it simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable, but most of all, familiar. Maybe because I grew up in Alaska, isolated from the world such that I constantly felt stuck. Maybe because I have a pattern of holding on instead of letting go – to relationships, to habits, to thoughts.
How do I escape? How do WE escape?
How do I escape? How do WE escape? There’s no clear, one-fits-all answer. So, I decided to make simple changes that would help me unplug a bit more; actions through which I could connect to the humanity around me – or at least to myself. Here are a few ideas that helped me the past couple of months.
- When you want to watch food videos, just go make some food. Seriously, you’re probably either physically or mentally hungry, and cooking something will be much more satisfactory. Go all out, be elaborate, even film yourself for a good laugh. Get your friends involved too.
- Put books everywhere: one on your desk, one by the couch, one under your sheets. Make those cues to pick it up and read.
- On that note, read something easy. It doesn’t have to be a philosophy book or one that you’ve been told to read to be more intellectual. Pick a book that looks fun, that will make you laugh or cry or both. Read something that touches you in a way it couldn’t affect anyone else. Read an old favorite from childhood, be it Harry Potter or Junie B. Jones or Dr. Seuss. Before you know it, the book will be over and so will the day.
- Plan a movie outing once a week or once a month or whatever fits your budget. Go alone or invite whoever you want. Enjoy the full movie experience without any distractions.
- You’ve done enough yoga or workout videos to know the basics. Take what you know and go to a park to practice.
- Try an entirely new class! I signed up for ClassPass, which has a free two-week trial, during which you can try classes at studios and gyms all around Berlin. There’s yoga, dance, Pilates, personal training, gym time, boxing, swimming, even massages. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, to unplug and add some movement to your day, and you might also make a new friend.
- Need to play a game? Play cards or board games with friends, play solitaire by yourself, complete a jigsaw puzzle or sudoku.
- Sing acapella for yourself. Borrow a guitar and learn to play. Play a song in your head, without actually playing it.
- Ask somebody on a real date. Be it a crush, your best friend, your significant other, or a new acquaintance. Instead of swiping and chatting, make it real. Even if it’s just with a friend, get dressed up and have fun with it. If that’s too much, take yourself for a date.
- Instead of Duolingo, take a go at a language class or language meetup. Make it conversational – you’ll learn much more.
- Spend a day venturing a little bit further than normal. Go to a lake or a botanical garden, get lost wandering for hours, hike the tallest mountain you can find within a one hour distance.
The ones that you’ve heard but still work:
- Set a time of day that your room is wifi-free. Use the time to do something else.
- Take it a step further, and make your room a wifi-free zone!
- Go out without your laptop. Remove the pressure to work. Remove the ability to be academically productive.
- Download google docs to work offline, and write whatever it is that you need to write in a park.
- Likewise, download your readings.
It is hard to disconnect. Sometimes it feels impossible. Fear of missing out is a cliche phrase now, but it originated from valid feelings. We have instant access to information, to notifications from friends and loved ones. We can figure out where the best party is, where the best food is, where the best this-and-that is. Our generation must learn how to rest with intention, how to be by ourselves without the noise, how to have a face-to-face conversation without google or Instagram stories, how to travel for the sake of experiencing a new culture instead of that #travellife #wanderlust #seetheworld.
We have the control of experiencing connection through our fingertips or through the physical world around us. You might find that truer connection, to yourself and to others, through disconnection.