It’s Saturday afternoon. My husband is streaming college football on Hulu Live. Our son has traveled back in time to defend the world from warlocks and dragons while split screening his attention and participating in a group chat on Facebook. The girls are in their bedrooms. One is watching cat videos on her phone and listening to music via the IHeart app, the other is on a video call with her boyfriend. She has Netflix paused in another window.
No one even knows I exist outside of the cats who follow me around begging to be let outside.
I try to visualize how much bandwidth is being sucked up by my family. I imagine there’s an electric force field, similar to Violet’s superpower in the Incredibles, and with tornado like winds drawing lightening from the atmosphere. As a reporter, the internet is a tool. I unequivocally need an internet connection in order to receive a paycheck. With our editorial staff spread out across three counties, the internet acts as our newsroom for real-time chats and sharing content.
It’s my livelihood, but it’s not my life support.
We live in a rural community. As far as utilities go, it’s a monopoly. If you want electricity, there’s one electric company. If you want landline telephone service, there’s one telephone company. If you want cable television or internet, one company. Of course, with only a single option, if you want the service — you’re going to pay for it.
But I can’t justify paying $100 a month for home internet service. In a world saturated with smartphones and free Wi-Fi, it makes little sense. Even more astonishing than the inflated internet bill itself, the company recently filed for bankruptcy protection.
They’re on the brink of destruction, and I’m fantasizing about what I could do with that extra $1,200 annually in my pocket. I could afford to take my family on a vacation each year. My husband and I could finally go on a honeymoon four years into our marriage. Or, I could save it each year and in 20 years when I retire I can afford to spend a year in Paris with him. I’d sip tea, wear flower print dresses and carry a picnic basket filled with wine everywhere we go.
Regardless of living in a town so small it’s not even on the map, we have access to free Wi-Fi at the public library and the locally owned coffee shop in the town square. Within walking distance is a connection available to us for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Sunday is a day for God and family. Town is closed down and farm fields are vacant. I should take this as a sign I shouldn’t be working either. I should accept it as a gift.
Leaving the house for internet service would be a huge motivator for me, the same as it would be for the teenagers who struggle to turn off YouTube so they can get their chores done.
No one in my house agrees we should cancel our home internet service. Instead, I hear protest each time I suggest it. They’ll either die a FOMO death or, “how am I supposed to watch The Office on repeat?” To live off the grid, internet service is a hindrance from completely detaching from society and so are smartphones.
We’re a family of five and live in a house with five smartphones. I often feel bitter having to pay this sizable expense, but I’m willing to pay it. The smartphone is an all in one device and with the right data plan you can constantly stay connected.
It’s a computer, means of communication via telephone, video and text, a camera, a notebook, a GPS system, flashlight, calculator, entertainment and for people who use the internet for income it’s an absolute necessity for getting paid.
Cellphone service is the only service that isn’t a monopoly. We can choose from a lengthy list of providers. The difference for cellphone service is that Verizon is the only carrier who actually has functioning, reliable service out here. We have an unlimited plan, and in a rural community few contenders pulling from the data pool. Our mobile hotspots work like magic, just not magical enough to satisfy my family’s compulsive use.
The hotspot is perfect for me, even better that I’m completely disconnected from the distractions of social media and the cesspool of misinformation on the World Wide Web while. I remain focused on the project I’m working on without the temptation to wander off into cyberspace and getting derailed.
Once I’m ready to send it off to the newspaper editor or publish online, I just flip on my hotspot. I can do this from anywhere at anytime. This also keeps me focused. It keeps my attention streamlined. I’m more productive without access to all the digital noise.
Internet connection and a hotspot are merely added bonuses and not at all why I pay out the ass for cellphone service. We need it to call 911 in an emergency, and if one of our cars breaks down during a 30 mile stretch of desolate farmland, we can call for help. If we go outdoors during winter weather, we have GPS locators in our pockets. We have an instant map if we need it and so on, et cetera.
According to every self-help article on the web, the internet is bad for us, anyway. It causes obesity, spreads hate and jealously, and brainwashes us. Since the early 2000s its turned the world 100% monochrome and all humans with access, duck faced.
Not to mention there’s a plethora of benefits to disconnecting from the internet. It won’t be as controlling or brainwashing, not spending hours binge watching Netflix and we wouldn’t wake up in the more to panic inducing, mass media notifications informing us the world is a hateful mess.
We’d be more mindful of our usage when it’s limited, and maybe it’d have more value or meaning. The head space of not having access to millions of people at all times would be refreshing.
We could read books or listen to music on the transistor radio, but what I find entertaining isn’t entertaining to the rest of my family. It’s just not worth giving up their internet. I grew up in an age when the internet didn’t exist and cellphones weren’t a thing and they were born into the I-Generation.