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What I Learned from 24 Hours Without the Internet

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One of my goals for my 31st year on this planet was to stop worrying so much about documenting life, and instead spend more time actually living it. I struggle with (and I think a lot of us do) needing to feel validation through technology. I sometimes feel like if I don’t Instagram a picture of it or have an app to track it or write a blog post about it—the event didn’t matter. I’m (obviously) not one of those anti-technology people. I met my husband online. I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging. My career is entirely online. I get the value of the internet! My issue is that sometimes, it can feel like the digital world is where my life is happening, instead of in, you know, the real world.

I’ve been slowly trying to step back from my life revolving around the internet completely. I try to be 100% present when I’m with my daughter—instead of mindlessly having a hand on her while I check Twitter on my phone. I’m trying to share less and less personal details online—but still connect with my friends. I want to be technology savvy, but I want to use it help me live a better life—I don’t want technology to be my life.

I was curious just how much of my day is spent revolving around the internet and social media. I knew it was a lot, but I don’t think I could really grasp just how it permeated every aspect of my day until I went cold turkey. So I decided to cut out all internet-y things for 24 hours last week. No social media. No email. No blogging. No checking sports scores. No checking the weather. And I learned so much about myself and my behaviors!

1. I mindlessly check into social media.

Facebook on iPad

I knew this was the case, but I don’t think I realized how pervasive the act was until I wasn’t able to do it. I mindlessly check my phone for social media updates constantly! As in, I’ll just grab my phone to transfer it from the table to my purse, and during the five second walk from the table—I’ll quickly log in to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I’m honestly not even sure I’m digesting the updates I do read. It’s just pure habit! Whenever I have a free moment during the day, my default reaction is to pick up my phone and check what is going on out in the world. I even quickly flip over to TweetDeck on my computer while a website is loading on my browser! Why do I feel the need to do this? Is it really the end of the world if I miss a tweet or update?

What I’ll change: I’ve started to be intentional with my social media time. It is important for me to stay connected because of my job, but that doesn’t mean I need to be constantly connected.

2. I felt disconnected.

trees woods stock

Even though I knew a lot of my friends live in my computer (no shame), I was surprised by how disconnected I felt from my circle by going off of social media. I really draw no distinction between my “online” friends and my “real life” friends, so a day without them felt like I was cutting myself off from the world. I felt lonely!

What I’ll change: Nothing! I think connecting with friends is one of the best things about the internet. My life would be loads different if I never used the internet to meet new people (as in, I wouldn’t have met my husband and had my beautiful daughter).

3. I remembered the ways of the past.

Newspaper

Whenever I encountered something during the day that I would usually do online (say, check the weather), I had to try and remember how people would do it pre-internet. I’m probably the last generation that has a recollection of life pre-internet (we got our first internet-connected computer when I was in fourth grade), and so I have some frame of reference for time before the land of cat videos took over. Remember the time and weather phone line? You’d call and a recording would tell you the time and temperature? And remember when people would check the newspaper or wait for the local news broadcast to hear the weather?

What I’ll change: Nothing here, either. Technology has made these everyday tasks so much easier and faster than they used to be. Although, I have to admit, I do miss the days where you could accidentally get caught in a warm summer downpour because you didn’t have the ability to check the radar every second of every day.

4. I feel validated by numbers.

Pacer on iPhone

I went for a walk at the park during my 24 hours without the internet. I walked for about 45 minutes. I didn’t use a device to track my steps or even my time—I just glanced at my watch at the beginning and the end—how unscientific! By the end of my walk, not having any numbers somehow made my walk feel less important. Was that walk any less of a workout than the 45 minute walk I did the day before with tracking? Nope. But it definitely felt like it was. I realized that numbers give me validation and motivation when it comes to health and fitness.

What I’ll change: I’m trying to milk this fact for all it’s worth and really let myself get “into” the numbers and be competitive with myself to help me reach my health and fitness goals. I’ve also been trying to do at least one gentle walk each day where I leave my phone at home and just enjoy the pure, untracked joy of a simple walk.

5. I was lost on some tasks.

Computer on Desk

There were some run-of-the-mill tasks during my day that I had no idea how to tackle without the help of the internet. I had to refill a prescription on that day. Usually, I just go online, push a few buttons, and it’s ready for me to pick up in an hour. But I had no idea how to refill it without the internet. I assumed you could probably call the pharmacy and get it done, but it’s not something I’ve ever done before! I’ve always done prescription stuff online. It’s interesting how some tasks in our lives become so connected to the internet, that it’s hard to imagine another way to accomplish them.

What I’ll change: Nothing here, really. It’s more of an observation. I have to admit, it does make me a little nervous that we have an entire generation (or two, really) who would be completely lost in life if the internet suddenly stopped existing.

6. I’m more connected to reality without technology.

flowers stock

I may have felt more disconnected from my friends online during my day without technology, but I was definitely more connected with my reality. Because the internet is always on, it means I can always be on, too. I can always be working. I can always be talking to someone. I can always be researching something. And because of that, I always feel like I’m rushing to the next thing. I have to get back from this walk so I can work on this thing. I have to hurry through my shower so I can answer emails. I have to hurry up and get to bed so I can hurry up and wake up and write a blog post. With the internet out of the equation, there was nothing to focus on except the here and now. I had nothing to “get to” so I could just spend some extra time snuggling with my daughter, looking at beautiful flowers, and petting my dog.

What I’ll change: I’ve decided to take internet breaks more often. The reconnection to reality was a really positive side effect of my day without internet, and it’s something I’d like to continue. I’d like to make a conscious effort to really stop living for/around/in the internet for a few days each week. It doesn’t mean I won’t check the weather if I need to, but it does mean that I might try and forget that I have this super powerful device in my pocket a few days a week.

I’m really amazed at how much I learned by just taking one single day off from the internet! If you’ve never tried going on a social media cleanse, I highly recommend picking a day and leaving your phone at home (or, at least, just use it for emergency calls). It was incredibly refreshing!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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11 Responses
  1. Kim

    I lost my main email account last year (password, security picture just disappeared). This made me return to paper. This is not good as I’m better with electronics than paper, but now I must. I started writing recipes on an app, but the app changed format, making it unusable. Now, I’m looking at recipe books, boxes, and cards. I’ve decided that some things can’t change. What ever is important needs to be on paper.

  2. I posted something to similar last week. I feel like as bloggers, we feel so connected to the internet that it is occasionally time to step back. I’m glad you found and got what you wanted out of your 24 hours unconnected. It sounds like it was great. Technology is both a curse and a blessing (in my opinion). Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi Cassie, me again with my privilege and my feedback… Just that in feedly your “sponsored post” disclaimer doesn’t show. I felt mildly annoyed that I had clicked through without knowing that by doing so I was actually hitting up something sponsored. It doesn’t really matter I suppose, but given your aims of transparency, I guess it would be nice. And it can work both ways — sometimes I don’t want to read sponsored content, but other times I might feel like clicking through for the sake of supporting you. Make sense? I hope so. I don’t want to sound like I’m whinging, I still love your blog and appreciate your hard work!

  4. I totally will check social media while I’m waiting for a browser to open. Also I met my husband on-line too!

    I think your experiment definitely showed ways technology is good and ways it is bad. I haven’t gone cold turkey for an entire day, but I do try to stay away from my phone more often.

    Also, I struggle with living in the moment vs. documenting the moment. I will say that I love looking back on instagram and seeing things I don’t remember, but then what am I missing because I’m behind my phone trying to get a photo in the first place?

  5. Laura

    Hi Cassie! Random question – I follow in Feedly, and recently I’ve had to click through to finish every post. I wasn’t sure if this change was intentional or not and wanted to point it out! You’ll keep getting my clicks if it was intentional, but if not, I know sometimes when bloggers design to have a cropped version on the front page to keep it neater it can affect how it shows up in Feedly too.

  6. Katie O'Brien

    Wow, this post was really insightful! I was in the middle of eating my lunch this morning while reading it… and I stopped reading, moved to a table to eat, and then came back to read after I finished my meal. 🙂

  7. I remember a time when I didn’t know that a notifications tab existed on my phone. I kind of miss those days, but it is amazing how addicting checking for updates can be! I had to silence all of the notification sounds when I reset my phone–too distracting!

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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