Net neutrality aside, those arguments have gotten me thinking a lot about the word utility, and if I can really consider the Internet to be a utility in my own life. I mean, in concept the Internet certainly is a utility, an amazing one at that, but I'd be lying if I said that I always use it as one.
The Internet for me has really become less of a strict utility, and much more of an overall lifestyle. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is pick up my phone to check a million different things around the web. I've been trying not to do this lately, and maybe I'd have more success if my alarm clock were an actual alarm clock, and not my iPhone.
Once I'm ready to make breakfast, I turn on a podcast, and then I sit down and eat in front of my computer to recheck the same things that I checked on my phone less than an hour earlier.
Gosh, seeing this in writing makes it sound obsessive at best and downright depressing at worst, but I honestly wouldn't be surprised if this is how at least half of my readers start their days, too. No offense.
The idea of using the Internet as more of a utility than a constant lifestyle choice is really interesting to me, and in concept it seems like it could be as easy as checking Twitter fewer times during the day. But it's surprisingly difficult once you've grown accustomed to being online for as much of the day as I usually am.
The thing that makes it so difficult is that the Internet is such a huge part of our lives now, and it's taken over so many different activities that used to be separate, unique ways to spend your time. Listening to music, reading the news, writing, and looking at photos are just several examples of things that used to happen away from a screen, but now it feels almost old-fashioned not to do it on one. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and maybe the Internet is actually a utility in these situations, because its purpose is to make doing this stuff faster and easier than doing it in the more traditional ways.
The biggest reason why I'm looking to diversify what I do away from the Internet is that I'm concerned that I might not be using it in a way that is best for me, and that my (over)use of it could be affecting the in-person relationships that I have. Another reason why I'm thinking a lot about this is that, to put it simply, I'm bored with it.
I'm tired of spending too much of my time on Twitter, or reading random articles that I don't really care about, or looking at product photography for way too long. It's not that anything that I'm doing online is actually bad for me, and it's not even affecting my work or how productive I am, it's just that I'm probably using it more than I should be, and now I'm bored with it.
I've found that it takes a pretty conscious effort to change these habits. It takes some self-awareness to wake up differently, deal with boredom differently, and maybe even talk with people a little more when the easier thing to do would be to open up my laptop and look busy.
I don't think of myself as an incredibly social person, especially in person, but some of the most enjoyable conversations that I've had in the past three years have happened on the Internet. There are even a few people that I'd consider friends that I never would have known existed if it weren't for Twitter.
But there are obviously people in my physical life outside of the Internet that I care about, and I've probably spent a great deal of my time with them more disconnected than I should have. And it's not like never using the Internet would make my life with them better, but the balance I have right now isn't right.