Yes, you read that right.
It’s been a thought I’ve been incubating over the last year and one that I have spent lots of time considering. A number of months ago I expressed my feelings to my wife and she agreed that it was time to cut the cord (so-to-speak).
Soon we will be moving. I will be taking my first parish and we will be leaving the apartment where we have been for two years and moving into a rectory somewhere else in the Diocese. When we get there we will not be installing internet (I have not had television for 6 years now, that also won’t be coming into the house).
Not only will we not be installing internet, but we will also be “downgrading” our smart-phones to flip phones with no data access.
We will have access to public libraries, coffee shops, and I will likely have an internet-enabled church office very near by, so we will still access the internet, but we are making a conscious choice not to make it part of our home life.
Computers have been a part of my life for a very long time, both of my parents’ jobs necessitated them having computers at home, even when I was in very early elementary school at a time when no one else had computers. Soon after, just as dial-up internet was being made available publicly, we had that enabled in our home. My fascination with computers was largely due to the tinkering side of my personality, and the internet opened up a whole new world of people, interests, knowledge, and fun that had before then been very different to access. From then on the internet was a household and daily part of my life.
In so many ways my access to the internet has led to good things: people I have met, access to incredible amounts of knowledge and things to read, games that could entertain for hours. It also does something though, that when unchecked, becomes quite insidious: it desensitizes, it makes disturbing imagery intimately close, and it skews ones desire such that there is an almost insatiable drive to keep browsing.
This desire combined with unfettered and intimate access means that the gritty and gruesome details of the latest ISIS massacres are welcomed right into our beds as we check our phones before we sleep, or right after waking up.
I once remember a journalism professor remarking to us that what makes radio unique above all other forms of media is that radio is with us where television and newspapers are not: a human voice that is with us in the shower, next to our beds, in our cars as we drive, in our ears as we walk, in our kitchens. Like phones, radio exists in those intimate places in our lives that other forms of media cannot penetrate; unlike radio, which is scheduled and finite, the internet provides an endless rabbit hole of fascinating and often depraved things to click and read.
Where once I sated my desire to get lost in reading with books, now I reach down beside my bed and pull up Google. Where once I could distract myself from reading books with day-dreams, now even that time has surrendered itself to my iPhone.
Now at this point you might be saying to yourself, “But Colin, this is your problem, not the internet’s. This is a problem of your self-control and discipline,” and indeed you are right, it is. It is extreme, perhaps, but there is something to be taken I think from a loose interpretation of Christ’s words in Matthew 5:30–it’s not my hand I will be cutting off, but rather the very thing that enables us to spend our time in a way that neither of us want.
It has been such a dependable routine for so long I know that there will be pains in the beginning, it will not be easy. Thankfully the excitement of starting a new job and setting up our home will help mitigate whatever difficulty we have and hopefully books, focus, and quietude will again become parts of our regular home life.