No Internet for a week? No problem!

By Emma Claire Sohn

Chances are the first thing you do in the morning is stumble into the bathroom and look in the mirror. I have my own morning regimen, initiated with the opening of my baby Macbook. It begins with Gmail, progresses on to a detailed Facebook inventory, a skim of the Opinions page, on to a glance at BBC’s headlines, a few “good mornings” to AIM buddies, onward through a handful of blogs, and usually concluding an hour later on the iTunes store where I’ll audition seven French folk singers in the search for a soundtrack to the oncoming day.

My wrong side of the bed is the one lacking a wireless signal. So it was with a reluctant heart that I took a self-inflicted vow to abstain from the Internet for the duration of a week. Quite the daunting proposal for an AIM addict and a Facebook fiend, like myself.

Support the Daily Illini in College Media Madness!

Help the Daily Illini take back the top spot in the College Media Madness fundraising competition! See the current ranking here.

learn more
donate now

But I’m a pretty tough cookie. I can withhold Facebook privileges for a week, no problem. But my life, sans Google, was more trying than anticipated. Instead of employing a search engine to aid in writing on political commitment in art during the Spanish Civil War, I was forced to not only to pay a visit to the library but found upon my arrival that even the card catalogue had been adapted to web form. I stuck to my guns, scaling the library shelf by shelf, propaganda posters and pint-sized versions of Picasso’s Guernica before arriving at anything that even remotely resembled the direction of my paper.

Scanning through titles on Velasquez, Goya, Miro and Dali, I realized that I have come to use the web as a communication crutch. I am free to be fiery in my columns and online interactions, but face-to-face I shy from the confrontation that leaves me vulnerable to “real time” accountability.

And don’t we all? How much easier is it to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or “Dear Professor, I slept through class for the fifth time this semester” via the web? How much responsibility do we accept when instead of a neutral computer screen our musings are met by a pair of human eyes?

The general tendency of our culture is convenience. The Internet is a remarkable tool that allows for instantaneous transfer of information, but there is much to be experienced outside our Google-driven lives. The musty smell of a library book, the stain finger pads acquire leafing through newsprint, a hint of green in the eyes of the person you’re talking to – these seemingly trivial sensory details do not translate well in e-mail format.

And while the Internet allows for the rapid dispersion of information and ideas, it erases the unique creative initiative that brews when we are left to our own devices. Freed from, I pioneered a hummus recipe. Without Google image search, I flipped through some dusty design books for ideas on chairs for an upcoming project. I even picked up a few print copies of The Daily Illini and extracted my own ideas on the raw news without the aid of the blogging bunch. In short, I collected the fleeting moments I usually spend pursuing tour dates or Threadless T-shirts on the web and invested them in many things I would never get around to on a normal schedule, complete with tri-hourly e-mail checks.

As I submit this column, (via flash drive) I have broken my self-inflicted seclusion once – to register for fall classes. Beyond that I have every intention of staying the course for the remainder of the week, which will wrap up in time for me to read this column in its online edition if I so desire.

But I’m hesitant to return from my virtual Walden Pond. There’s so much more to be done – cookies to bake (and eat), cloud animals to be deciphered and an infinite number of books to read. But all in good time. Right now my Facebook profile is in dire need of an update.