Unplug to Slow Down

Hello. My name is Katja, and I'm an Internet addict. 

I just spent a month in Europe, working as a professional model on my first international tour.  As you can imagine, my trip was full of amazing experiences! But there was one thing I missed when I was staying in a tiny German town.  It wasn't home.  It wasn't my family, my friends, or even my boyfriend.  It was my wifi connection.  I couldn't respond to email or post photos on Facebook.  I was in internet exile.

Before you think I'm completely over-reacting, there's something you should understand about modeling: my career, my entire field is dependent on internet availability. The Internet gave birth to freelance modeling. Just like every other self-employed model, I don't have a central agency. Without the modern-day tools of email and online portfolios, there is no other way to reach enough people.  I wouldn't be able to find enough work to make a living, let alone coordinate travels.  

But my internet use has gone beyond online portfolios and work email.  I write differently--I even think differently. I don't bother remembering facts and ideas that I can just look up without any effort.  For example, I was recently writing a book review that referenced Fermi's paradox. Do you know how I know it was called Fermi's paradox? I googled it. I didn't remember the name. It was marked in my mind as "that paradox about why we haven't heard from aliens."  No problem, right?  There's enough information there for the relevant search terms.  Well, it's not a problem until you try to write a book review in the middle of nowhere.  Referencing "that one paradox about aliens" in the body of an essay doesn't have quite the right authoritative ring to it.

I started thinking differently away from the Internet.

After a few days in exile, I noticed I started thinking differently away from the Internet. Slower, deeper thoughts with lots of consequences. Things like how I evaluate risk, and how I define myself.  I found myself craving more life experiences, and planning my next big adventure.  

Let me say again: this is not a condemnation of the Internet in the slightest. My home is on the Internet. It's created my job. It contains my friends, my art, my culture.  I socialize on Facebook. I write emails to my Grandma.  I follow artists and bloggers on Twitter that inspire me. It affects how I interact with the people in my life on a daily basis--most of the time, I think for the better.  The social aspect was certainly what I missed the most about not having internet in Europe.  Heck, it even made this Europe trip possible in a very real way.  

It is, however, a condemnation of myself--or at least a cautioning to not depend on one tool, no matter how amazing. It's like that old saying about the drunk man and the light-post: I'm not using it for illumination, but for support. 

So for me, I want to change how I relate to my internet use.  Here's the plan:

--No internet before 1pm.  I've heard lots of artists use this to keep their most productive hours in the morning free from distraction. Since I also do most of my best work in the morning, this seems like a good idea.  

--Focus on people, not profiles.  When I get the craving to check social media because I'm feeling lonely, I'm going to talk to someone directly instead. I'll ask how my best friend's day is going, or catch up with an acquaintance I've lost contact with. 

--"Unplug" regularly.  I want to take more frequent breaks from internet use to check in on those slow thoughts, even if it's just going backpacking in the wilderness for the weekend. I've also heard of Internet fasts, where people take a break from social media and go off-the-grid for an extended period of time.  I previously thought these were a little ridiculous, but having even two weeks off has been a great chance to recharge and come up with new ideas.  There might also be more guest posts in the future to help with this.

--Be grateful and keep perspective. I think this might be the most important thing to remember.  I have this amazing, miraculous tool at my disposal (and if you're reading this, then so do you).  It can connect me to people and ideas from around the world, and lets me live my unconventional life.  I'll try to remember that the next time I grumble about having too much work email, or mindlessly check Facebook.  I'm going to try and appreciate it more--and hopefully keep a few more facts in my own head in the process.