I have been working on an organic farm in the South of France, in exchange for meals and a place to sleep. No pressure, no money and most importantly for what I’m talking about today… Almost no internet.
The farm is near a forest next to a small village in the Dordogne Valley of France. In the spring, this means countless flowers, new lambs everywhere and that special shade of green which only pops up at this time of year. The area is littered with castles, cottages, and old farms. All intersected with rivers and dotted with fascinating caves. The place where I was staying is an “Eco-Lieu” or Eco Site, who are building a community of people who live in respect for the natural world. This means going back to the basics of life. Homegrown vegetables, organic food, minimal use of resources like water and little access to modern technology. I had my computer to write articles offline and there was an internet connection in the meeting room. However, I had no way to connect and the Wifi was switched off 99% of the time and even then I was limited in what I could do. So between having no constant connection and working 5+ hours a day in the fields outside… This is what happened.
- I realized just how much of my life I was spending in front of a screen, in a virtual world. It used to feel like my days went too fast, and they often ended in me wondering what exactly I had done that day. I didn’t have an answer until I downloaded an app called Moment just before coming here and spent a week tracking my phone use. I then tracked it whilst I was here to see the difference. The week before arriving I spent an average of 2 hours and 34 minutes on my phone! Which may not seem like much to some people, and may seem like a lot to others. But to me, it was too much and I wanted to change it. For the last few weeks, I was forced to. The result was a drop in my average… to just 10 minutes per day.
- I realized how much of my life I was missing. Technology feeds us a constant stream of new and entertaining words, images, and videos. This forces our brains to process things so much faster than normal (study), and our brains have adapted to skimming through information to get the most out of it. This might explain why it was often the case that I would disconnect myself from the endless Instagram scrolling after a good hour, only to feel intense boredom. We become so used to having constant new entertainment, that when we have to keep ourselves entertained/interested with the same thing for a long period, our brain just can’t work with a situation that is so slow. I found that everything was too slow, boring, and focused on one thing. However, after usually about half an hour of this horrific boredom. I started to observe things and see life through a more detailed lens. I saw the bees landing on the flowers and the new shoots on the nettles, listened to the one bird that stood out from the rest and found that I was awe-struck by these little details.
- I discovered my creative side again. As a child I was limited in the time I could spend on our computers. I was only allowed 2 hours a day on a few days of the week. The rest I had to spend with my siblings, playing outside or around the house. I remember those days of building huts, making potions, discovering new bugs, painting, etc. I often wondered why I never had the creativity to dream up how to build a hut from blankets, tree branches and scraps anymore. Or why I never had original ideas for my paintings anymore and had to search the internet for inspiration. Getting away from my phone allowed me to slow down and listen to the ideas which came to my mind as I watched the world.
So, how can you spend less time plugged in and more time in the real world?
- Give Yourself No Choice ( Most Effective!): This is the only thing which finally worked for me. Take yourself to a place where there is no option of being connected and you have to find another way to be entertained. I would recommend Wwoofing. It’s a service which connects farmers and travelers/workers who go for an exchange. You work in exchange for accommodation, meals and often some incredible conversations and learning experiences. The jobs often take you to farms in remote areas as well, without the internet, including mountains, forests, and even deserts. It’s an incredible experience.
- Download a Use Tracking App: These are apps which remind you how much time you have spent on your phone in a single day and prompt you to spend less time on screen. They also congratulate you on keeping under a personal goal which is very encouraging.
- Give Yourself Motivation for Other Things: Make something to occupy your time. Examples could be a vegetable garden which demands work, starting a building project, volunteering, raising animals, etc. Things that take you outside into the world and force you to concentrate on the task at hand as opposed to searching for your phone.
With these tips, it should be a lot easier to cut down the amount of time you spend looking at a screen. It’s not easy, it’s so much a part of our culture that it’s very hard to be the one who’s not on their phone. But the mental, spiritual, and even physical benefits are profound!
Have you ever lived without internet?
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