30-day e-tox
February 25, 2013 11:33 AM   Subscribe

going without smartphone & computer post-work for 30 days, and am mostly wondering... so, what do my fellow solo-dwellers DO in the evenings, if not internet-related? have you done this before/how did you stick with it?

i'm at a computer at work all day, and would like to spend 30 days without texting or the internets after 6pm, for a month, just to remember how it feels. i realize many people do this as a matter of course/out of necessity/otherwise, but trust that this would be a huge change to my evening routines.

rules of engagement so far: tv is ok (owned/rented/borrowed dvds), plans-related telephone calls ok, computer art (messing around with offline programs) is ok.

i'm busy most evenings with a sport i'm involved in, but i am really curious what other bachelor solo-living folks DO in the evenings! i am trying to compile a huge list of things to fill up my time (read magazines, dinner with pals, dates, write hand-written letters to folks, make art, go see music, elaborate meals, etc.) to make sure i see this 30-days through to the end.

if you have done this before, how did you stick with it?
posted by crawfo to Technology (31 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a solo dweller but I often read books (sometimes made of paper) in the evenings.
posted by rhymer at 11:41 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Go bowling
Go to the movies
Walk around town and see the sights.
Go Hiking
Visit the gym
Practice a skill you always wanted to learn.
Find a pool and go swimming.
posted by royalsong at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2013

How about reading books? I love reading and once you get into a book, you'll find your evenings flying by!

Also, now is a great time to do all that in-depth "spring cleaning". You can set aside two hours a night to really tackle cleaning something:

The Fridge
The stove/oven
Fibber McGee's Closet
The baseboards
The Pantry
Clean the windows.


Another thing you can do is go through everything in your wardrobe. Get rid of stuff you don't wear. Replace your underwear. Shop for a few new pieces to smarten things up.

Take a class. Learning Annex, Conversational Spanish, Indonesian cooking, something fun. You'll learn things AND meet new people.

Pub Trivia!

Workout more in the gym. Take walks, now that the weather is getting better (unless you're in the Northeast in which case...sorry.)

Trust me, I rarely hang out on the internet in the evenings. That's my day job. At night, I'm Renaissance Woman!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm a solo dweller (at the moment) and I read books, periodicals that interest me, try out new recipes, and hang out with family and friends.
posted by AngryLlama at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

+1 books!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just got internet at my "new" house, 10 months after I moved in.

Since tv / movies are OK, find something you like to do with your hands. Me, I knit while I watch TV. Other things could include ironing & folding laundry, some kind of woodworking (learn to whittle!), draw, paint, walk a treadmill, ride a stationary bike or just sit and watch with a cat / dog / animal on your lap.

I also got through a ton of pleasure reading books, about 1 a day at my peak. (If you care about housework like I don't, ymmv).

Sign up for classes of any kind or join meetups to make sure you're being entertained out of the house as well.

Host dinner parties and potlucks.

Go to bed early. Mmmm, sleep.
posted by mibo at 11:45 AM on February 25, 2013

I read like crazy and I cook big elaborate dinners and then have to clean up after them. Bonus: you can invite people over to eat with you! I take long baths and primp a little (you know moisturize, put glop in my hair, do skin treatment stuff). I go for late night walks. I mess around with photos I've taken and organize them. I write letters to friends. I clean my place (seriously once you've bleached your kitchen sink you will wonder how you survived beforehand). I make chatty phone calls (are these not okay?). I go to the gym. I make mix CDs.
posted by jessamyn at 11:45 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Are podcasts fair game? You could combine a podcast with one of the activities above (cleaning, crafting, cooking, etc. -- all of which are fine without a podcast too, of course)
posted by veggieboy at 11:46 AM on February 25, 2013

Well, I'm not a solo dweller and I haven't done exactly the "media fast" you're describing, but I often unplug for weekends or weeknights, and I've done many 10-15 day retreats with no media, smartphone, internet, computer or even any kind of entertainment at all...

-Read novels
-Go for a walk
-Go to the gym (swimming is particularly relaxing)
-Sew a quilt
-Practice pencil drawing
-Listen to the radio while you cook
-De-junk your house: go through everything you own and get rid of anything you don't want; organize stuff
-Put on a symphony and listen to the whole thing without multi-tasking
-Write opinion pieces on issues you care about (can take up a HUGE amount of time)
-Sit in a patch of grass and try to count how many species you can see (bugs, plants, etc.) - this is not nearly as boring as it sounds and it can be a cool experience
-Watch documentaries about subjects you've always wanted to learn about
-Write letters to people who have helped you in life thanking them for their kindness/guidance/whatever it was. One of the most rewarding things I've ever done and a great way to get back in touch with people.
-Assemble "kits" - make an emergency kit for your car, a sick-day kit for your pantry, a get-well kit for a sick friend, etc.
-Invite friends over for a gathering, and have everybody read a certain lecture or lesson beforehand, and discuss it. Alternately you can all watch a famous speech, lecture or video and talk about it.

And my favorite...

posted by Cygnet at 11:47 AM on February 25, 2013 [11 favorites]

When I was single and living alone, I learned how to play the guitar. I also cooked a lot and spent a bunch of time at the local pastry shop eating biscotti and reading books.

There was always something to do, and really I feel like I use the computer more as an excuse not to do things that are more challenging than surfing the web.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:00 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like puttering around my kitchen with the radio on as the sun goes down and the sky turns a deep dark blue.
posted by colfax at 12:00 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Getting out of the house helps. I do a ton of community theater, and when I'm involved in a show, my computer time goes down by a lot.
posted by xingcat at 12:02 PM on February 25, 2013

ahhhh i am loving all of these! i'm so excited! this is very invigorating to hear all of your ideas -- there are many things on here i NEVER would have thought of.

ok, i'm sorry to interrupt! plz do go on!
posted by crawfo at 12:03 PM on February 25, 2013

Sort your collections, if they're disorganized. That can be anything from bookshelves and CD/record collections to files on your computer.

If they're already organized, explore your collections! This could help you prune out the extraneous bits.

And you can either wander through these tasks, or schedule your evenings and see how much you can get done, or how many different things you can do.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:10 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I knit, exercise, and cook a lot. I also love to read.

I'm big on cleaning, too, when I can muster the motivation.

I love this idea and might try it myself.
posted by k8lin at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Books. If you think this is trite, go find a really nice, ideally independent, brick and mortar book store (these do still exist) and wander through all sections. You will be overwhelmed with how much there is to read it may end up sparking other interests for you to pursue.
posted by the foreground at 12:16 PM on February 25, 2013

Buy or borrow an Xbox, play engrossing single-player games (Deus Ex, XCOM, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Dark Souls).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:26 PM on February 25, 2013

I'm inclined to do internet surfing after work. While it was suggested to put on a symphony and listen to it while not doing anything else, I love putting on classical music while cooking some sort of feast. It really makes me forget about the internet for a while, maybe since the music was written before there even was an internet. I also knit and signed up for a free class in the area. There might be volunteer opportunities after work, too. In NYC there are, and I started signing up for those.
posted by wondermouse at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2013

practice an instrument

posted by unreasonable at 12:31 PM on February 25, 2013

also, cooking and baking
posted by unreasonable at 12:32 PM on February 25, 2013

I live alone and it's a rare night when I do anything outside the house. On productive nights I:

Wash dishes (no dishwasher).
Cook (thus dirtying more dishes for tomorrow).
Listen to music.
Play the piano (poorly).
Exercise (I have a home gym).
Listen to the radio (satellite and local, also internet streaming through a radio, not sure if that's okay under your plan. I also have a large collection of old-time radio programs that I listen to). I like to do jigsaw puzzles or play solitaire (with cards) while listening to the radio -- I still have the paperback book of solitaire games that I got for Christmas almost 40 years ago.
Sometimes I knit, although I'm not good at making things with sizes.
I sometimes type letters on a manual typewriter.

On unproductive nights, I watch TV or movies. (sometimes you gotta have an unproductive night.)
posted by JanetLand at 12:41 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not just cooking, but baking! Practicing the same thing a half dozen times will make you somewhat adept at it, and a month gives you time to practice several things.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:42 PM on February 25, 2013

Not a solo person either but rarely do e-anything in evenings. Instead:

Run on treadmill and watch foreign language movies on Netflix because that way I can tell what people are saying

Bicycle or lift weights with exercise DVD

Knit. (Or crochet or tat or embroider . . .)

Clean/organize things to accompaniment of loud immature music

Take a walk or drive and listen to an audiobook

Teach the dog a trick and brush him


READ. Books or magazines.

Work crosswords or logic games.
posted by bearwife at 1:03 PM on February 25, 2013

Would calling relatives or old friends on the phone violate the smartphone part of the ban?

Also, some kind of movie or TV "project" always makes me feel productive even if I'm not- like watching all the movies on a top 10 list or every movie a famous director has made, etc.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:47 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

well, this has been so fun hearing about your evenings! thank you for the thoughtful responses!

i am someone who does well with a plan and schedule, so i think i will do a mashup of flithy light thief's suggestion (planning what i'm going to do each night), and the many, many, fun and challenging things that are throughout. gah, it's going to be such a neat month!

a bonus activity that a pal just texted to me is puzzles! which also made me think of coloring books and paint-by-numbers. i love those things, but it has been YEARS.

if anyone wants to do this for the month of march, feel free to fire me a msg if you want a partner-in-crime to commiserate with :)
posted by crawfo at 4:34 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Better make a list of inexpensive things to do out of the house, both solo and with friends. Seems like you (I) can really spend a lot of money "just getting out of the house," if that means going out drinking, eating out, movies, etc. more than a couple of times a week.

Bowling is (relatively) cheap, and a pretty fun thing to do with friends. Museums, hiking trails (not so good for nights, but weekend days.)

Work your way through a cook book, trying to make everything in it? Cheaper than eating out, and maybe a friend would want to alternate with you.
posted by ctmf at 5:36 PM on February 25, 2013

I read tons of books and actually go to bed on time (except when I simply must find out how the book turns out).
posted by ktkt at 9:20 PM on February 25, 2013

Tickling. Bouncing balloons. Splashy baths. Splashy sinks. Walks in the woods. Sledding. Cat chasing. Eating cookies. Learning words. Picture books. Cartoons. Turning the lights on and off. Pooping. But my friend is only two and a half.

When I'm not with him, poetry is fine. If you have it in your head, you don't need a machine or even a book. Poetry is the one art form you can contain entirely faithfully in your mind and enjoy time after time just by remembering it.

If you write poetry, all you need is a pen and paper. Add an instrument and maybe you're writing songs.
posted by pracowity at 5:17 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

One thing I love to do is watch the sunset with a drink in my hand (alcoholic or not). Sunset has been happening before I get home all winter, so I haven't been doing it, but March 10th is Daylight Savings Time so it'll be an hour later. Highly recommended.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:38 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hardly have time for the internet if I complete all my "tasks", here they are in order of priority
1. Go to gym - lift weights and work out and chat for 1.5 hours, then hang out in jacuzzi or steam room, or watch reality tv, and wash yourself for 0.5-1 hour
2. (I usually prep meals on Sunday, so I am not cooking during the week due to time restraints - if I were looking for something to do, I would cook something fab for dinner every night, but instead I...) do dishes/laundry/your nails with your home gel nails system or mop your floors ala flylady (you could get the book instead of the smartphone reminders) while playing music or books on CD (usually I talk to my parents or a friend on headphones with a mic while wandering around, not sure if this fits with your scheme)
3. If you get backyard chickens, muck out their coop and trim their toenails, or get a different pet and walk it/brush it/whatever
4. Drink a whole pot of herbal tea while reading books from the library or magazines (I like recipe books and teen fiction)
5. Write a letter a day to someone about anything, even if just sending them a clipping or picture
6. Take up a fermented beverages course; tend your kombocha/kvass/ginger beer/whatever
7. Journal your gym activity/whether you liked what you ate/what you ate/how much you weigh and check items off of your daily checklist in the journal you carry around

During the week, you can also: get a massage after going to the gym (mmmm), take daily outfit pictures, go to concerts at local bars or to bigger shows (I do this frequently), go to free documentary/movie showings at your local University, have people over for breakfast/lunch/dinner/tea spontaneously or a picnic, join toastmasters, go to the grocery store, go browse an "ethnic" grocery store, get all your weekly ingredients for things from specialty store (so go to the butcher, farmer's market, ethnic grocery, etc. etc. etc.), have a weekly tv&tea date before or after you go to the gym with a friend date (I have two currently), have a big cooking evening, call your parents, volunteer to visit with lonely elderly people in your neighborhood via an organization like VON or deliver meals on wheels, thrift shop, alter or repair clothing...
posted by Acer_saccharum at 11:23 AM on March 1, 2013


first of all, THANK YOU all so very much for your thoughtful responses. they made me feel like this was doable and worthwhile (which it totally was!).

mixed things to report:

1. i only lasted for 20 days! then reintroduced texting. then internets. i felt down on myself for not lasting 30 days, BUT...

2. the habits that i developed in those 20 days are STILL with me now, a month after the fact. i don't see them changing anytime soon.

these new habits include:

-i don't look at the computer in the morning before work. it's amazing how much more time i have in the pre-work bracket now.

-i go to the gym immediately after work, as opposed to after dinner. it's perfect, i've met a whole new crew of people, and my lifting is so much better at this time of day. who knew!

-i read and write exponentially more than i had been.

-i barely look at the computer in the evenings these days, unless it's very task-oriented. there's very little "surfing" or just e-dicking around, which had been my worst habit.

IN CLOSING: this was a really fun project, and the takeaways have all been immeasurably positive. it was really strange the first few days, mostly just with realizing how much time i was spending being completely checked-out and just cruising around the internets / mindless texting / netflix-ing. but now i just feel delighted and like i have so many more hours in my day.

feel free to msg me if you embark on this yourself! good luck! xoxo
posted by crawfo at 8:24 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

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