At the end of August 2017, I moved to a small Atlantic Canadian city with my long-time partner, where we decided to live without internet in our apartment. I do not consider myself technophobic or a technological luddite by any stretch — I still have 3GB of data per month on my cellphone for lots of activities like online banking, finding directions, email, limited social media, communicating with friends, and reading the odd internet article. I have simply chosen not to have WiFi in my home.
In this post, I will give you idea of what my life without WiFi is like by first providing three main reasons for cancelling and then sharing some benefits and challenges of not having WiFi that I have observed from my experience:
Reasons Why I Decided to Cancel Home WiFi
1. Wasting too much time at home
When I had internet in my house, I was typically using my computer or smartphone, more than three hours a day for the following activities:
- Scrolling through social media and posting every few weeks
- Streaming TV shows
- Browsing other websites like the news, Wikipedia, and movie/music review websites.
I spend about sixteen hours a day awake, so that amounts to roughly 20% of my waking hours. For the most part, I believe that my personal uses for the internet are not very productive and leave me feeling a little wistful and bad about myself. Therefore, that is around 20% of my day spent on activities that are unfulfilling to me, which leads me to my next reason.
2. I felt addicted and unfulfilled
This reason isn’t exactly quantifiable, but when I got into bed at night, I felt shitty because I had spent so much time absent from my own present physical reality. I found myself reflecting on my day and thinking negatively about my choices, having thoughts like, “Why do I always need to stream TV shows to wash the dishes?” and “Why do I always need to look at social media or read the news while I eat breakfast/lunch/supper?”.
I recognized hat these thoughts were negative and wanted to rid myself of this habit, but everyday when it was time to eat breakfast or wash the dishes again, I felt uncomfortable being left alone with my thoughts. That discomfort left me craving an escape into the lives of fictional characters like Mindy Lahiri or Hannah Horvath, or to distract myself by looking at what’s happening to other people who live in my city and are related to my life by innumerable degrees of separation. Hence, I made an excuse for myself to keep doing what I was doing, which led to feeling worse and worse when I was reflecting on my day.
Anyway, I did not want to continue this unhealthy cycle of addictive behavior and negative self-talk, so I decided I might benefit from removing the temptation of over-using internet from my home life.
3. Monetary costs
In 2016, I was paying about $75/month (taxes included) for your standard residential internet 50mbps DL speed, 30 mbps UL speed. That’s roughly $900/year spent on internet. I was curious to see how much money I could save/spend on other things.
In addition to these reasons, I must say that moving also played a big role in my decision to not have WiFi. Since I was already cancelling my internet, it was easier to cut ties and start fresh in a new home where I hadn’t already begun to rely on internet as a boredom buster.
Benefits of Having no WiFi
- Quality Time: Increase in time spent on other, healthier [in my opinion] activities, like reading, journaling, volunteering in my community, diy projects, cooking, going for walks, hanging out with my dog, and going out and seeing my friends in person.
- Control: I feel more in control of regular life responsibilities [like laundry, cooking, cleaning, making appointments, etc.] because there’s less temptation for me to just sit my ass on the couch and waste the evening watching Netflix or scroll through my Instagram Explore feed.
- Wiser Internet Use: I am much more aware of and careful about what I use the internet for. When I need to do some work on a Google Drive document or just want to use a bigger screen for some work, I connect using my cellphone’s hotspot. Though some may find the hotspot restricting as it uses up your phone data, I think it’s a great tool for causing me to step back and look at my activity to determine if the website I want to use is worth eating up my data — Knowing that, I am way less likely to get sucked into a YouTube hole or half-watch some series that I don’t even really like.
- Limited Consumption: My partner and I still love watching movies, so we started going to the public library and borrowing movies to watch at home. It makes me more careful about what I choose to watch and it also limits my consumption to only what I’ve picked out for myself to watch that week. I’m more present while at home and my partner and I have more quality time in our relationship. We sit down and have a beer together at the kitchen table, we cook together, we listen to music together, and we watch movies that we picked out at the library together.
- $$ Savings $$: On average, according to my calculations of current promotional and regular pricing for Rogers (Prom=$60/m plus tax; Reg=$100/m plus tax) and Bell Aliant (Reg=$91.95/m plus tax) Fibre Optic internet, I am saving about $1100 a year on internet bills.
Challenges of having no WiFi
In the end, the benefits of having no internet really outweigh the challenges for me. However, I do experience the following:
Alone with my thoughts (even when I don’t want to be)
As much as I don’t like to admit it, I really began to rely on the internet as a source of escape from some difficult thoughts that I wanted to avoid. Without internet at home, I sometimes find it hard to find other ways to cope with those difficult thoughts. I notice myself habitually picking up my phone/computer to browse Instagram or watch some old favourite escape show on Netflix and having to make myself put it down and do something else. This is starting to get easier over time, as it’s getting easier to remember how fun other options can be, like taking the dog for a long walk, texting a friend to hang out, starting/completing a DIY project, cleaning the house, baking/cooking some food, or reading a book. I have also found that journaling out my negative thoughts is much healthier than trying to run away from them. As time goes on, I even find myself more often engaging in those activities instead of turning to my computer or phone.
Feeling out of touch with the people around me
This doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes it feels like I have more trouble keeping up with regular work or my social life, because the internet is ubiquitous in the social lives of my colleagues, friends, and family. This means that sometimes I fall behind on volunteer work that I need to use the internet for (emailing, doing research, creating online documents, etc.) and sometimes I miss the invite to a big social event like a wedding or a New Years Eve party or something. I also find it harder to keep up with real-life conversations about TV Series. It seems like every month people are talking about a new show and I become confused and overwhelmed as the list of shows to check out grows and grows and I become less and less familiar with the TV Series references that are made at in-person parties or other social engagements.
The Phone Data Problem
Being from Atlantic Canada, my phone data charges are very high (the average seems to be around $50 a month for a phone plan with 1GB of data). For the last few months at home with no internet, I have had to spend additional $$ on data because the regular tasks I use my phone for take up more than 1GB/month.
One thing that has helped me to become more aware of how much time I spend on my phone is the SPACE app (Just to be clear, this is not an ad for the app). It can be annoying as it regularly reminds you to join the real world and even counts time I spend talking on the phone in a meeting or chatting with my parents as time spent not in the real world, but it keeps track of how many times you unlock your phone and how many minutes you spend on your phone per day. You can set goals for these in the settings, and then each day it graphs your phone use, and as the week progresses, you can see how far over your goal you went for each day of the week on one graph. I go over my goal almost every day, but it keeps the overall goal of reducing phone time on my mind, and overall I have improved each week since I started using the app a month ago.
My last tip for not going over on your data is to constantly check your service provider website for promotions. For example, just yesterday I saw that there was a promotion going on with my service provider just for the day. The promotion was offering me a plan for $55 that has 3GB of data for 2 years, which is a better deal than I was getting before (1GB for $40). So, I jumped on that promotion and changed my plan and now it will be much easier to not go over on my monthly data. Offers like this come up relatively often with my provider, so be sure to check with yours regularly to see if you can get any good deals.
So, as you have read, my experience with scrapping home internet has been a really good decision in my life. For me, the benefits outweigh the challenges and my life has slowed down and mellowed out a lot. I’ve noticed that some individuals write/talk about “disconnecting” and “going off the grid” as if that is the most effective change you should make in your life if you are feeling bogged down by your high level of connectivity. In my opinion and experience, this is extremely difficult to do if you don’t want to drop out of society. So, instead of 100% disconnecting, why not just try and gain better control over your internet use instead? You can have this sort of control by making a small, more easily attainable change like removing the option to spend all evening and weekend on the internet.
If you can relate to any of this or are thinking of trying this out, I hope that my post can give you an idea of what the experience might be like, and can show you how to potentially save some money each month while improving the quality of your time perhaps with a smaller life adjustment than you thought.
If you have already tried this and have anything to add about benefits and challenges, please feel free to add a comment to this post!
NOTE: I should clarify that the views expressed above come directly from my own perspective, which I recognize as being a North American middle-class perspective. I am aware that the digital divide is a growing problem in the world, and I do not mean to make light of this reality or make it seem like we all have a choice about whether or not to have internet access or how often we use the Internet. This is just how the experience went for me in my life. If you or anyone you know has any other experience with access they would like to share, please let me know or leave a comment below.