Help me quit you, internet
November 22, 2014 10:35 PM   Subscribe

How might a Luddite live without a home internet connection, but still have access to email and basic surfing for occasional practical needs? (Specific smart phone recommendations?)

I want to go paleolithic and cancel my home internet service. I have sweet memories of how many hours there used to be in the day before the web ate them all, and I want them back. I want to not even have the option of frittering away half the day watching videos or reading comment threads. However, I do want the bare practical functionalities that have become newly indispensable: email and enough web to look up stuff like driving directions, weather and the like. That's it. If I need anything more than that, I can go to a cafe.

I'm thinking a smart phone is the way to go. Not a very smart phone, though -- getting one that made the above addictive activities easy would defeat the whole point. I'd need a phone that could do internet, but would make me not want to use the internet. I don't know the first thing about smart phones; suggestions?

Or, other creative ideas for achieving the same end? (I know about programs like Self Control and Cold Turkey, but they have the fatal flaw of having to be switched on. I want "no internet" to be the default.)
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Before I got my first iPhone, I had a Blackberry Pearl that was great for email, and could theoretically browse the web and stuff, but it was painful enough that I only did it if it was absolutely necessary. Alternatively maybe a super low end Android phone or a Firefox phone, which might be slow enough to strongly discourage recreational use.
posted by primethyme at 10:37 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or, other creative ideas for achieving the same end?

Get a lamp timer and put your wifi router on that and set the timer up to only supply power for a few hours per day and then put the whole setup in a place that's really really really difficult to access.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:01 PM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just a note from someone that has one of those low end older Androids... yes, they're painful enough to discourage browsing, but they're also a time-consuming royal pain to try to do email on, and mapping is slow if it works, crash-y if it doesn't. I'd rather use the TomTom for GPS.
posted by stormyteal at 11:03 PM on November 22, 2014

I had a Blackberry for work for a while and agree with primethyme - great for email, but it was tediously slow for web browsing. I mean, if I wanted to look up something like the weather, I might persist, but browsing for fun.. nup.
posted by AnnaRat at 11:03 PM on November 22, 2014

Best answer: Might a pay as you go mobile hotspot be an option? Particularly one that charges by the megabyte, with the theory that if you think of every extra bit that you're online costs you money (even if it's a negligible amount) you might be less likely to use it. Bonus points if you can find one that you can configure to only use the edge/2g network, which should be slow enough to make you less likely to want to surf a lot.

Otherwise you might try to find a Firefox OS phone, as they're going to be fairly clunky and slow, but capable of rendering almost any website in a vaguely usable manner if you need something esoteric. Is needing to respond to e-mails with anything more than a very basic message a factor? If not, there's tons of feature phones you can get very cheap from prepaid providers like Tracfone that will give basic connectivity but a truly miserable user experience, which in your case is a feature.
posted by Candleman at 11:06 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just cancelled the internet connection at my workspace. I ditched the smartphone. I used to work daily at my studio. Now I'm going there 2 or 3 days a week. The other days I work from home where I have all my internets at my disposal. I use the home days to take care of all the email etc. When I go to my studio I always have a clear plan of what needs to be done.
The amount of work that can be done in a day without internet access is staggering. I bought a Nokia 6303i for personal email. A wonderful phone, but you can forget about replying to lengthy emails. They can ALWAYS wait till the evening and if there's something urgent, I just call.
This was four years ago. Two months ago I bought a new smartphone and I can only conclude that I potty trained myself well. Whenever I enter my workspace, it's still all about getting stuff done.
If my kids have test weeks coming up, and they really, really need to have work done, they love to work there for exactly that reason.
posted by ouke at 11:32 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer:
posted by sexyrobot at 11:51 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another option:
You could go retro and pick up an ancient laptop that's still good enough for text-based things like (pop)mail, but painfully slow to render webpages.

In 2009, I went on a trip and took a Libretto. It was fine for email, surfing was possible, but you wouldn't want to spend hours on it.

Then again, if you don't actually like computers and especially older systems, this might not be the way to go. But I just wanted to offer it as an option.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:30 AM on November 23, 2014

You can do well by turning your phone off and putting it on a shelf. You'll enjoy leaving it there.
posted by michaelh at 5:05 AM on November 23, 2014

An older Kindle browser is really painful to use.
posted by desjardins at 5:33 AM on November 23, 2014

Okay, weather and driving directions will be difficult on a Kindle - but you can buy non-web solutions to those like weather stations and GPS units.
posted by desjardins at 6:34 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you still get a dial up connection? That would certainly limit your ability to do much beyond email.
posted by COD at 6:41 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

A bonus feature of kindle's terrible web browser is that they have free 3g wireless in many parts of the world.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 9:10 AM on November 23, 2014

One way to do this might be to not have internet access in your home, but in a place that you work into your regular routine. I call this the "general store" approach after the way that some more rural people used to obtain information, current, events, and weather by making a short visits to town and stopping to collect mail, newspapers, and chat.

If you have an internet capable device, but can only use it when you visit the local library or when getting breakfast at the cafe, then you won't be tempted to use it for more frivolous purposes.
posted by Winnemac at 9:18 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you still get a dial up connection? That would certainly limit your ability to do much beyond email.

I like this idea -- as of August, anyway, AOL still had 2.3 million dial-up subscribers.
posted by mr. digits at 10:15 AM on November 23, 2014

Newer Kindles with 3G don't do the web...the only things you can do with 3G are the Kindle Store, syncing and other things associate with your Kindle account, and Wikipedia. Everything else requires wifi. If you can find a 3G Kindle Keyboard, the 3G still gets full web access, as far as I know. Which is, indeed, painfully slow.

There are several dialup options, as well. My mother still uses AT&T dialup access, with a USB modem that works great with Windows 7 (as great as dialup goes, that is).
posted by lhauser at 11:08 AM on November 23, 2014

FWIW, I found that having a smartphone made me feel way more stressed and connected than not having one. When my contract ended, I switched to a basic TracFone with happy results. However, perhaps the smartphone is exactly the right solution for you!
posted by smorgasbord at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2014

Response by poster: See, I didn't even know there were such things as pay-as-you-go internet hotspots, 3G mobile dongles, or Thanks MeFi, I'll miss you when I'm an e-hermit.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 6:14 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another option with respect to internet connection but has an external limiter is Freedompop. Freedompop offers a wireless home internet option called the Hub - Burst. You'd want to sign up for their free plan: 1GB/mo. I used it and 1 GB/mo doesn't go far. My first week with it, I set up the router, I listened to 2 Pandora songs, a couple of 5 minute Youtube videos, 2-3 weather forecasts look ups, 3-4 email checks plus replies, 1-2 Google Maps driving directions lookups, 1 library account look up plus associated renewals, and 1-2 AskMeFi browsings. The end result was that I used about 35% of my monthly allotment during that week. The key with Freedompop's external limit is that you wouldn't want to add any credit to your account. Without any credit added, they'll cut your usage until the next month as soon as you reach your monthly 1 GB allotment.

If you choose Freedompop for your internet needs and cannot find the Freedompop Hub - Burst, let me know. I still subscribe.
posted by dlwr300 at 9:37 AM on November 24, 2014

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