Pulling the Plug


Slate writer James Sturm is doing something interesting. Impossible for the long term, maybe, but still thought-provoking. I wish I could try it, too.

He’s giving up the Internet for four months.

Now, the net has some really great stuff, including Google Earth, the “Chick-fil-A” Song and, of course, Plugged In. But moderation in life is key to just about everything, and many of us don’t monitor our web time that well.

Sturm’s initial plan was to go offline for a year, but as with most people nowadays, his job responsibilities require being online more often than not. Being unplugged forever just isn’t feasible, and there’s no going back to a pre-dot-com world. But four months of “fasting” should help him remember life before we all felt a constant pull to check messages, play 82,000 rounds of solitaire, surf the Web and ignore everyone who’s not directly on our screens.

In other words, he has time to reevaluate his life—not to mention reconnect as he disconnects. Sturm writes:

The question I've been wrestling with lately is whether [life is] all going by so fast because that's just the reality of middle age or because of the way I've been living my life. Specifically, I've started to wonder whether that feeling might be connected to all the time I spend online. Too often I sit down to dash off a quick e-mail and before I know it an hour or more has gone by.

He continues:

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 my computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER.

Can we relate? And what are we going to do to shrink the time we spend on the World Wide Web and get back on life’s slow track, without hours of compulsive web surfing or Facebooking?

I wish I could e-mail Sturm and find out how he’s doing. But wait … the irony …

Who wrote this?

Meredith has had two careers: one as a writer/editor for both Focus on the Family and The Navigators, and one as an English teacher trekking far-flung corners of Europe, Africa and Asia. She now rejoins Focus, but with souvenirs—including new eyes with which to better view American culture.

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  JackieG:

I and my family go to New England every summer for two months, and we don't have any TV and very limited computer--just E-mail (and very basic Facebook for the purpose of staying in touch; no games).  When I tell my friends about it most of them cringe, but I don't miss it at all, and when I come home I'm basically "cured" of desire to watch TV and my computer usage goes down substantially too.  It's back up to normal levels by about mid-to-late fall, but it's a really nice way to get sensitized to just how much we use the computer and the television.