Considering canceling wifi
August 12, 2017 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I've been thinking on and off about cancelling my home internet service. Partly because of the money it would save me, but mostly because of my internet habit. I'm interested in hearing from other people who have either gone cold turkey (by removing internet service from their homes) or have found other ways to manage the internet habit. Bonus points if you do this with inattentive-type ADD.

I find myself spending hours on metafilter, youtube, facebook, etc. I can use blockers but whatever sites I block I simply gravitate to new ones. I already spend most of my working day in an office in front of a computer screen with relatively little human interaction. I have ADD and this makes it VERY hard to create new habits and control the impulse to just check FB for a few minutes or just do a quick search on what's wrong with my dishwasher. I feel like quite a lot of my life passes by without me really being present for it, and as much as I love the internet I don't know that I'll go to my grave saying "I'm so glad I spend all those hours online." I'm frustrated at how little time I spend on my creative pursuits.

PROS: Removing the internet would force me to at least waste time by reading, writing, drawing something etc - maybe even exercising or keeping the apartment more tidy. It would save me around $80 a month. I would hopefully be more engaged and intentional with my life.

CONS: When I'm sick or just exhausted there's nothing like vegging out with Netflix. A lot of my long-distance friendships are maintained via FB. I love listening to podcasts but usually don't download them. I feel a strong push to zone out when I am overwhelmed and going online feels very soothing. I've been thinking I should look for a new job, and that means a lot of time online. I fall asleep to Netflix, and I'd have to adjust to another method.

OTHER FACTS: I do have access to wifi on the office floor of my condo building, so I would still be able to download kindle books and podcasts, use online billpay, etc. I have an iPhone with a minimalist data plan. I don't have a TV. I do have a radio.

The perfect thing would be a wireless plan that would work only for 1 or 2 hours each weeknight and maybe a bit more on the weekends, but that seems unlikely.

I know some of you are probably able to create a rule that "I'll just use the internet for one hour a day" and then stick with it. This will not work for me - it relies on both constant willpower, time awareness and constantly remembering the rule. I have to create a structure that will help me whether I remember my goal or not, and if I rely on reminders I have to change them frequently so I don't stop noticing them.

I'd like to hear from other's who have tried this, or has taken other actions to curb internet use.
posted by bunderful to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
there are wifi router with parental controls that can do time limiting per day.
posted by noloveforned at 11:42 AM on August 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

At one point, I set up time restrictions on my router so that the wifi was only on during certain limited time windows. I also turned off wifi access to the router so that, if I wanted to change the settings, I'd have to go through all the bother of finding a cable, plugging in, etc. Just creating that inconvenience barrier did help a lot -- I went on more walks, socialized more, read more books, etc.
posted by ourobouros at 11:52 AM on August 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, I have done this with good results for a couple of months at a time. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have since had to learn to stay focused with full internet because I am in med school and full internet is essential for our various assignments (we must communicate with the school servers, even if we are able to look things up in hard copy books). If you have no work-related reason for in-apartment internet, I highly recommend shutting it off. To that end, I would even get a data-free phone plan. It feels great. I also quit Facebook and have started up intermittent text conversations with my far-flung friends.

You probably will be able to get on via some neighbor's wifi, so I would further recommend an internet-free or internet-limited computer. I have an older iMac, which unfortunately is far from internet-free, but it doesn't like streaming beyond youtube, so every little bit helps.

Good luck!
posted by 8603 at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2017

You can also set LeechBlock on Firefox to block everything, all the time, to protect yourself from the neighbors' wifi. A PC is challenging because internet explorer is always available, but on a Mac at least you can uninstall your non-Firefox browsers.
posted by 8603 at 12:09 PM on August 12, 2017

Here's how I do it: my internet access is through the 4g network on my phone, which I can use as a mobile hotspot (and do when needed for work). But it's expensive and a hassle and those two little things are enough to make me reluctant to use it and mindful when I do.
posted by janey47 at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2017

The problem with having inattentive ADD is that it's impossible to just strip away distractions categorically from your life. I have gone a few days without internet at a time, and my apartment doesn't magically get cleaner, you know? I do wind up reading more books instead of watching Youtube and that might be something you'd consider a net positive, but if you're struggling with stuff like keeping your apartment clean, forcing myself to shift from one set of distractions to a second set of distractions has not for me been particularly productive. My grandmother, who barely knows how to use her tablet, is just as prone to losing whole days to puttering around as I am.

Are you seeing a therapist or an ADD coach? Because I think that medication aside, working with someone on how better to manage my brain and my time was a really useful thing for me. Didn't fix everything magically or anything, but it helped.

Which is all to say, I don't think it's going to kill you or anything and it might be an interesting experiment, but it's not going to work miracles.
posted by Sequence at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

I did this for a year in the 2000s and found it fairly relaxing. However, a lot of the social organization and communication still took part mostly through SMS and phone calls back then. If I tried these days, I'd probably end up missing out on things I'm interested in.
posted by Candleman at 12:52 PM on August 12, 2017

Sequence, you're absolutely right. I do see this as a first step in better managing my time, and not a simple solution. (I was alive and trying to get things done before I had internet access at home, and I had trouble then too. But I don't regret any of the books I've read).
posted by bunderful at 1:23 PM on August 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm typing this from my phone and its very low data plan.

I disconnected two months ago (in hopes of gaining better focus and curbing the anxiety I get when reading the news) when I moved into my new place and it's been wonnnnnderful. It's so peaceful and serene. I've been reading a lot and generally sleeping better. And I feel much more focused and calm. On the housecleaning front, I'm doing OK! Certainly more than I did before but not winning any awards.

In general, I think more people should give it a try! I told myself I would reassess in October, so we'll see. Right now I'm leaning against it.
posted by mochapickle at 1:33 PM on August 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I cut the internet a few years back and found myself eating out a lot more at places with free wi-fi...or hanging out at the library during their open hours....I have internet now, but I force myself to limit my time online.
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 7:37 PM on August 12, 2017

I did this for a while and eventually gave up on it due to inconvenience (i.e. "please download and print this return label" sorts of issues). It was kind of awesome though.

Other possibilities: Circle by Disney is a router that costs about $80 and can be configured to allow some internet use while curbing endless surfing, i.e. to allow Netflix indefinitely and all other sites for 30 min/day, and you can also say no net after a pre scheduled bedtime hour or during dinner, etc. Freedom similarly allows granular and scheduled logging off, but it uses VPN instead of routers.

Happy logging off!
posted by hungrytiger at 8:34 PM on August 12, 2017

Like a couple of other folks that responded, my only internet connection at home is on my 4G/LTE phone, which is fine for web surfing, anazon, social media, etc. I get movies on DVD from the library (I have two slightly older laptops that have DVD drives; when they conk out or can no longer be updated, I'll buy a freestanding DVD player). I have some friends with a huge-ass tv and the same taste in series; I go to their house once a week to watch with them- so tv is turned into a social thing. I do this for two reasons: I grew up without a tv so am unable to multitask if content on demand is available, I can't tear myself away; and I'm perennially offended by how much tv/phone/wifi packages cost. Ironically, my "landline" actually relies on a router. But the wifi on it isn't enabled since I'm not paying for that service. I'm pretty happy as is.
posted by mollymillions at 10:11 PM on August 12, 2017

haha nothing works, not if you're an addict. I use it for managing my mental pain, which just resurfaces as soon as i'm not distracted (that's my life plan, waste my whole life distracting myself), so it doesn't win. An alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get up, and there's a Windows computer programme hidden away called, i believe, Task Manager, that you can set to shut your computer down every night at 11pm or whatever. But there's nothing in life i want or enjoy, including the internet it just distracts me better, so it's not much help. Exercise and being alone are the two biggest depression triggers. So i think you need something else in your life, not just getting rid of this addiction, if you have a real problem (you don't sound like you do, but if). Motivation: i have serious neck problems and a bad back and rsi badly aggravated by heavy laptop use, you will too if you act like me:)
posted by maiamaia at 2:38 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I love this question. I don't have ADD, but your description of your internet use and how it makes you feel rings VERY true to me.

I did this in the mid-2000s when I lived in an apartment without home internet for six months. Granted, this was in an age before streaming everything and social media wasn't as pervasive as it is now, but still, it was a pretty huge adjustment. Yes, it was boring and frustrating at times, but so is life with home internet (where boredom = ugh, no new updates! and frustration = everyone and everything online is pissing me off, rarrr!). Without internet availability, mostly I read a LOT. Like, a staggering amount, easily 2-3 books a week. I stopped at the library every other day. I journaled frequently. I played non-internet-based computer games (easier to turn off after awhile). I went for a ton of walks; in the absence of other plans on weekends, often I would go out and just walk for 4-6 hours until I'd exhausted myself. I went to bed early or at least on time most nights. I had a lot more sex. I got tons better at packing workday lunches. My mind did feel clearer and less cluttered. I felt like my thoughts were my own a lot more, if that makes sense. I was forced to deal with any emotional discomfort head-on instead of escaping into the internet like I was accustomed to doing so often, which of course didn't feel terribly fun at the time but was better for me in the long run. I did have internet at work, so frequently I would stay an hour or so past quitting time and do all my surfing and internet-related errands then, plus email and chat with friends. On weekends I typically went to internet cafes for 1-2 hours a day; nowadays I'd probably become a coffee shop regular to accomplish the same thing.

Basically, I think there's zero downside to at least trying this for a month or two! Most of your cons don't feel like true cons to me...maintaining friendships on FB definitely doesn't require more than a handful of check-ins a week, you said you can download podcasts in your lobby, and using the internet to deal with overwhelm isn't really a great strategy for mental health anyway. Learning to live without Netflix looks like your biggest barrier at this point, and if you find it's not worth it after awhile, it'd be easy enough to reactivate service.

Good luck! I'm curious to know if you decide to take the plunge. I would love to try this myself, but my family would NEVER consent to getting rid of our home internet, so I'm currently patching together my own stop-gap solution using a combination of Freedom, deleting certain apps, and a lot of self-discipline, but it's not as satisfying or effective of just getting rid of it completely. :-)
posted by anderjen at 5:10 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm testing the waters. This morning I unplugged the router and put it in my car. If I really want it I can go get it, but it's just inconvenient enough to make me think I could do something else instead. So far it hasn't been that bad. I'm not *totally* slaying it with productivity, but I read a bit - though I love books I have to really struggle with myself to set aside the laptop and pick up a book - and did a couple of chores.

I don't have a real plan here, but if I find that I can easily get through a week or even two without it, then why not cancel and save the $$. And if I find that it's a real *problem* to go without ... well, that will be informative.
posted by bunderful at 6:17 PM on August 14, 2017

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