“The Wi-Fi is out”. Does that sentence strike fear in your heart? It does for me or at least, it did. One month ago I was minding my own business, re-ordering contacts from my iPad, when I realized that the Wi-Fi was disconnected. Another utility company was digging in front of my neighbor’s home and cut an unmarked line for Wi-Fi. Did you know there were lines for wireless? Isn’t the entire point no wires? On the date that I write this, it has been one month and two days (who’s counting?) since our Wi-Fi has been out. This is my experience.
For context, since 2010 when I moved out of my childhood home, I have used Wi-Fi to stream tv, listen to music, and of course go online. When I bought my home in 2018, I ditched my DVD player, my DVDs, my CDs, and my book collection in favor of a more streamlined media experience. I soon found myself navigating the stages of grief at my loss of the internet.
I thought “This can’t be happening”. For hours, despite speaking to the utility men responsible for the incident, I was in denial that the internet could actually be out. Seriously, they cut a wire and it’s wireless internet!
Anger & Bargaining
A few hours in, I found myself literally screaming aloud in my frustration. I had things to accomplish that could only be done online. I am handicapped and unable to work or do a lot of physical activity. Spending the entire day out of the house or busying myself with cleaning or organizing for long stretches is not as doable for me as it is for the average healthy person. I was furious that this was happening. I would do anything to get the Wi-Fi back on.
I went to sleep at 8pm the first three nights without Wi-Fi. Other than reading, crocheting, and drawing, which I had done all day, I had no easy way to entertain myself or more importantly stimulate my brain.
By the first Monday of my analog month, I got into a groove of going to the library to use the Wi-Fi to complete necessary tasks on my iPad. I checked out books to read and began renting movies and TV series on DVD to watch after I went out and bought a DVD player.
I am not living through “The Last of Us” (HBO). There was no apocalyptic fall-out and there is still electricity. I was speaking to a woman today who lost her home and 90% of her family’s belongings in a fire. That is a hardship. Not having Wi-Fi is inconvenient and sometimes frustrating, but it is not a hardship (unless you work from home). At least half of the planet lives without easy internet access and I realized my upset was very “first world” of me.
Challenges This Month Presented
Not having Wi-Fi did create obstacles. Completing everyday tasks such as reordering products. (If you see me soon, you’ll note I’m still wearing glasses, not contacts.) Practically, it proved to be a challenge to access my frequent online telemedicine appointments which require you to be in a private space. There were times when not being able to make purchases or file paperwork on a secure line was a hindrance.
The library is an amazing resource. My preferred branch, the Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library in Shrewsbury, provides free internet, inexpensive printing, DVD rentals (seriously they have just about every recent series and many classics), and meeting spaces (where I could speak on my phone to handle things such as customer service matters while I was online).
I am not used to waiting. Is it really worth getting upset over not being able to purchase something, schedule something, do something, watch something exactly when you want to? This month has been an exercise in patience for me and, of course, that makes me think of God, because there is a lot of waiting in the Bible.
Others are not good at waiting. Perhaps the thing that surprised me the most was how inconvenient and frustrating my situation was for others. My doctor, who would not meet on the phone, was infinitely annoyed that I had to reschedule our telemedicine appointment. People that needed to wait a day or two for me to email them back, could not stop texting me. This perhaps is a good time to question ourselves about the expectations we put on others and how generous we are with compassion.
If I am not distracted I will find more time for God. Instead of scrolling Instagram in the morning, I found time for the Bible and time to pray and meditate. While I did find an old radio, I mostly didn’t bother with it. “Alexa skip” does not work on analog devices, and waiting around for hours to hear your favorite new songs ceased to be a thing twenty years ago with the release of the first iPods. Instead, in the silence – at times when I would have been playing my Alexa device – I found myself talking to God.
What will I keep from this experience?
I did like that I found more time for God. I also enjoyed watching movie selections with my family rather than being off separately watching different shows. Most of all, I hope to take away a renewed patience and compassion for others that live without every modern convenience.
Would you be willing to go without Wi-Fi (except for work) for one month? What about a day? Can you and yours spend a day, sunrise to sunset, being analog? What would it look like for you? I’m not saying don’t watch a DVD or don’t look up the number of the pizza place on your phone. My suggestion? Try it! It’s not that bad and you may learn a thing or two or create a new tradition!
Perhaps you’ll find some memories in the moments you couldn’t just “Alexa skip” away.
Kate McLaughlin has been with Park Church for 5+ years. She is a member of the Shrewsbury Community Group. As a part of the Park Serves Team, Kate coordinates Park’s annual back to school supply drive for children in foster care. Make sure to reach out to her if you’d like to be involved in this year’s drive.
Another fitting challenge to pair with Kate’s is the 7 Minute Challenge Amy Crouch posed to us at our event with her a few weeks ago. Based on Sherry Turkle’s conclusion that it takes 7 minutes of conversation before anyone takes a risk and gets into anything real, Amy challenged us to take 7 minute pauses and allow ourselves to be bored before defaulting to our typical vices of choice to remedy our boredom, be it our phone, our Alexa device, our television, or more. What if you found some wonder by allowing yourself to feel that boredom for just 7 minutes? Set a timer. Give it a try!
And don’t forget to save the date for our Tech-Wise Panel Discussion on Friday April 28th! Panelist info and time coming this week. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the resources section for podcasts, books, videos, and other resources on being tech-wise on our Tech-Wise page.