Last week, I traveled to Ecuador with a medical team. We hiked into the jungle, ‘Heart of Darkness’ style, and set up a mobile clinic for the local tribes. It was an incredible experience. This post, however, is not about what I did on the trip. It’s about the lack of internet.
When I say that I was in the jungle, I mean that I was *in* the jungle, about a two-day hike from anything resembling a road. There was no power in the villages, much less internet or cell service. As a millennial with a smartphone in my pocket and a job on the internet, I was very curious to find out what being disconnected for a week would feel like. Would I implode? Would I reach a new plane of enlightenment? If my friend Instagrammed a latte and I wasn’t there to see it, did it exist?! Read on for these answers and more!
The surprising answer is that I didn’t really notice. I didn’t reach for my phone, I didn’t wonder what was happening on Twitter, I didn’t lament my missed Reddit time. It was almost like it didn’t *occur* to me to miss them, which was weird because I have set a routine for my internet time. I check my social networks in the morning from my phone. I read blogs over breakfast. I keep my Twitter app on the side of the screen through out the day. I peruse pictures at home after work. I look r/TIL whenever I’m sitting on the… never mind. The jungle showed me that I do these things because they’re in front of me to do. When they got taken away, I didn’t miss them.
My conclusion from this isn’t internet abstinence and a Thoreau-style abandonment of society. Our digital lives aren’t bad, but we tend to devote our time to the things we put in front of us. I check certain sites because I bookmarked them. I open certain apps because they’re on my homescreen. I need to be more conscious of what I put in front of myself. Twitter is fine, but do I need to check it 16 times a day? Probably not, so why do I have the app open all day? Instead, I think I’ll try to do something more productive like… go outside! Sun! Fresh air! I should check Twitter to see if any of my friends are outside right now.