Could you cancel your home Internet service?


Twenty. That’s how many hours the average adult spends online every week. Twenty hours surfing YouTube, answering emails, googling obscure answers to random questions, and refreshing social media feeds. Based on my calculations about how much time I spend staring a screen weekly, I’d say that this little factoid hits pretty close to home.

In other words, I’m on the Internet a lot. (Something I’m trying to work on.) Apparently so are you.

Perhaps it’s because of this fact that when I encountered the following headline a year ago, it caught my attention. The headline read Killing home internet is the most productive thing I’ve ever done, and it was written by Joshua Fields Milburn of The Minimalists. One year later, I still think about it often.

In the article Joshua said that he felt like the Internet was stealing his time (yes—tell me more), and that he was discontent with the way he was using it (again, yes—go on). He claimed that he wanted to be more deliberate with his Internet use so he cancelled his home Internet service and hasn’t looked back.

What??? You can do that?

The Internet has crept it’s way into my life and taken over

I had mixed feelings about Joshua’s proposal to opt-out of Internet service at home. Since the late 1990’s the Internet has crept it’s way into more and more pockets of my life. (Literally, it’s now in my pocket.) When Joshua wrote about his discontentment with how the Internet was monopolizing his time, it resonated with me. I frequently feel like I’m not in control when it comes to the Internet—like it’s driving my behavior rather than the other way around. I love how accessible information is on it, but honestly it feels like the Internet consumes more of my life than I want it to. His example of cutting way down was provocative and enticing.

Another part of me (the part that still has Internet service at home a year later) feels like canceling my service is impractical. Firstly, I’m not the only one who uses Internet at home, and I know my husband well enough to know that he wouldn’t be on board going cold turkey. Secondly, I use the Internet at home for personal work (like this site) and don’t have the flexibility that Joshua has to hit up cafes and public wifi sites for Internet use. Thirdly, I’m just not ready to take a plunge like that (though I really admire him for doing it).

3 ideas for downsizing your Internet use

Fortunately there are some additional suggestions that Joshua mentioned in his article that I could implement, and they have the potential to make a significant impact on my life. For instance, per his ideas, I can:

  1. check email once per day (Okay, maybe twice is more reasonable. I do work in an office and my coworkers are crazy email fiends.)
  2. designate Internet goof-off time, and then keep the rest Internet-free
  3. keep a running list of things to check/research online and then do it all at once

Each of these suggestions invites the kind of discipline I’m looking for when it comes to my Internet use. By setting firmer boundaries around how much time and how I use the Internet, I feel like I’ll be gaining back some of the control that I’ve lost. Ultimately I’m looking for less complexity, less screen time, and habits that look more like 1996 than 2016.

What about you? Could you cancel your home Internet service?

Related: Do you spend as much time looking at screens as I do?

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Screens are taming us when we should be taking risks


I’m sitting the sofa, staring down absentmindedly at the spotted pattern of the cowhide rug beneath my feet. It’s Sunday, my newly instituted screen free day and I’m…


The thing is—I shouldn’t be bored. I can rattle off a list of eight things I like doing that have nothing to do with digital technology: hike, workout, cook, make something, play horseshoes, garden, declutter, write. Part of the reason I’m pushing myself away from screens is so that I can do more of these things.

So why is it so hard to get started? Why am I sitting on my sofa wishing I could flip on a sitcom instead of diving into any one of these eight things?

This got me thinking about how screens—phones, computers, TVs, tablets—lull us into watching and thus pull us away from the stuff we’d rather be doing.

Screens have tamed us, turning us into passive observers in our own lives.

For instance, I bet you can name at least one or two things you’re putting off right now. Hobbies you’d like to practice, skills you’d like to learn, places you’d like to visit. Why aren’t you doing them? Why are you watching a little blue screen instead, fully knowing that it’s less satisfying and leads to nothing?

Even more, what are you avoiding? What issues are you running from, and what new thing are you afraid to start? Because I bet you have a couple of those, two. I know I do.

I use screens to distract me from these things, to help me procrastinate, to help me run from problems. My heart wants adventure, risk, nature, growth. I want to build things and make things and explore things and fight for a good thing.

Instead, I’m choosing a screen.

Giving up what we really want to do shouldn’t be so easy…and yet it is

This choice is unsettling. It shouldn’t be SO EASY to put away the things in our hearts and minds, and yet screens have made it so. Power on, zone out. One press of a button and we’re stepping right out of the life we could be living and into a cage of our own making. And like animals in captivity, we begin to forget what life could be like on the outside.

By taking a day off from screens, I’m stepping outside of the cage, if even for a few hours. I’ll be honest—I don’t feel freedom. Instead, I feel the pressure of actually having to fill my newly screen-free time with real things. And…well…I’d rather not. It’s harder to do the things on my list, and I’m hooked on easy. But I don’t care—I’m committed to the harder thing anyway. The reward, which is actually living my life, is worth it.

Try it. Join me in a screen-free day. It’s a small commitment and could be the start of a new chapter of your life. Your actual life.

Related: Do you spend as much time looking at screens as I do?