I am writing this from Brighton. I have escaped here. And for the first time this year … okay, I do know it is only January … I am connected to high-speed wifi. It is delightful. I have binged on Netflix, Googled to my heart’s content and blogged from the comfort of a warm and snuggly hotel room. But escaping has provided headspace too. Space in which I can get back to myself and remember all the reasons I decided to have a year offline.
Because as lovely as it is for a short period of time, high-speed wifi on constant supply is not a route to happiness for me.
It is easy to remember this when I am on holiday. Easy to remember when I am relaxed and nothing else is making demands on my time and energy. Easy to remember when all the alternative ways of spending my time involve loveliness. The tricky thing is remembering it when real life kicks in.
The temptation when life gets tough is to reach for the easiest coping mechanism. The thing that requires the least energy and resource.
Browsing the internet or watching Netflix ticks the boxes with regards to requiring little input. But its benefits are short-lived. As with lots of other so-called coping-mechanisms, vast amounts of time online doesn’t really help in the long-term. What helps is putting time and energy into cooking yummy food, fostering social connections offline, sleep routines … you know the drill.
There is no escaping the truth. The last couple of weeks have seen more online time than I would eventually wish. It has not been a perfect start! But I am now more aware of what I risk losing by being online. And I am more clear about the steps I need to take to rebalance my offline life.
To this end, I have started the final stages of decluttering and reorganising my flat. Yes, the days of an unsightly hallway cupboard are numbered! But it is more than that.
This is about redefining spaces for my newly-focused offline life.
Spaces that support the things I am trying to achieve by spending more time offline.
So I have created a new living room space and, with only a little sadness, moved my television out of my bedroom. Yep, the hotel-at-home days are numbered or, at least from now on, limited. Reserved for special occasions. In the days before wireless life became such a feature of our lives, this merging of living and sleeping zones was less pronounced. In fact, offline and online spaces were generally more distinct. At university, the computer was in the dining room, next to the phone socket, and that was the only place we connected to the internet. So we used the web purposefully. Connected to check our email and then spent the rest of our time sitting in the living room chatting.
I am sure it sounds horribly old-fashioned. How much better, we might think, to be able to connect to the internet anywhere. But, actually, I miss the days of distinction and it makes me sad to think that a generation only slightly younger than me will not have experienced this neatly categorised life. A life where online was not all the time.
Of course, I cannot change the world. And maybe they are happy anyway. But I can change my world. And so I am going to start by logging off. I will enjoy the rest of my time in Brighton not by gorging on the internet but by falling asleep to the sound of the sea.