From the beginning of this project, people laughed when I said I was blogging about living like a cavewoman. So I promised I would go offline ánd without a phone for 30 days. ‘It can’t be that hard’, I thought.
My flatmate is happy to borrow my laptop, as hers is broken. For me it’s a way to ensure that I won’t touch it for the next 30 days. My phone will be locked away, too. So here I am, on a grey Tuesday in the beginning of December, at the start of a digital detox. My expectations? Well, without all the disctractions of Social Media, email and news sites, I expect to finally find the time to turn my room into a cave, to read all the books about paleo life-style, while I will also becoming some sort of a Godess of serenity. I’m looking forward to it.
Week 1: the perfect babysitter
I’m picking up Fee and Ove, the kids I’m babysitting on Thursday. Usually I use my phone every hour when I’m at their house: to answer a phone call, to text a friend, or to check my email for a second. But without this leash to the outdoors world, I really have all the attention in the world for the kids, and it seems like they notice this too: they are super obedient, and the 5 year old and I have a lot of fun cooking an elaborous dinner. We decide to start a restaurant together.
At night I’m visiting a debating centre where I’m supposed to meet my friend Inge. I’m not alarmed when she doesn’t arrive on time, as this happens more often, but when eventually I have to let go of the seat I saved for her, I’m a little disappointed. I wonder how I will spend the break by myself, without a phone to look busy. Fifteen minutes later I suddenly see another friend of mine walking into the hall. I would like to jump from my chair to hug her. We have drinks and I’m thinking: ‘I’ll just go by Inge’s house to see her, no problem’.
Week 2: going by friends for nothing
On Monday I see my flatmates leave for their work. It doesn’t seem to make sense to go to my freelance office and sit there without a laptop, but I miss having the people around me there. I start decorating my cave instead, and my friend Hermien takes me to a good paleo-activity: a story telling night in a cave-like place in Utrecht.
The rest of the week is a little empty though. I decide to walk to Inge’s house – an hour away from mine. She doesn’t answer the door bell. I wonder if I’m picking the right bell, as there are several on the same address. Usually I just call her when I’ve arrived. Walking back in what seems much longer than an hour, I’m starting to curse myself for deciding to go offline this long. I’m still thinking I will probably manage to reach Inge before New Year, so we might laugh about my offline struggles together.
Week 3: an offline accident
I’m writing an article from an interview I did by hand. I did this before, but I’m still surprised it takes exactly the same time as when I do it with Word. Just like using public transport without checking time tables doesn’t seem to make me any slower – it even frustrates less because I don’t aim for a certain time. And I enjoy asking for directions instead of using googlemaps.
But my social life doesnt get better. I’m looking forward to meet my coach Coen, but when I arrive at the park he isn’t there. I remember he was abroad and wasn’t sure he would be back on time for our appointment. I decide to walk to Inge again. It’s kind of dark and rainy when I take a cross road. As I was told later by the people that witnessed it, a driver doesn’t stop on time, I fly over the car hood and I land on my stomach next to the car. I hear someone saying ‘I called an ambulance’. Although I don’t have any serious injuries, the friendly lady from the ambulance does warn me: ‘Do call someone tonight, otherwise you’ll start dreaming about it’. I wish I could follow her advice. I decide that if none of my flatmates is home, I will break the rules and call my mum. Luckily, my upstairs neighbour Marjolijn is home and I can stick to my rules. I have enough people around me during Christmas time as well, but I find it hard to explain how my challenge is isolating me. It doesn’t seem like a cheerful Christmas dinner topic that I’m feeling slightly depressed.
Week 4: breaking the rules?
I have these huge feelings of fear in the morning again. I used to have those a long time ago when I was seriously unwell, and they are back now. I’m starting to wonder how often primal people were alone. Were they ever? I already figured it wasn’t really safe to be by yourself in those times because of predators and so on, but now I’m convinced it’s also unsafe for mental reasons. When I’m unable to do my morning push-ups in the park because I only feel like crying, I decide that it’s better to go home and rethink my offline plan. I realise part of the problem is that I’m just afraid that I will get depressed. But not seeing people really doesn’t help. And I don’t want to risk my health. I feel guilty towards you, my followers, but I also think it’s quite interesting that after so much discipline in following all these rules, this one apparently is too hard for me. I decide that I will not stick to my rules and give myself one phone call to a friend that I miss.
Luckily she picks up right away. ‘Hey! Are you not offline anymore?.. I went by your house too, but you were not there..’
This is part 1 of the offline results. In part 2 I’ll tell you:
-What paleo-antropologist Paul Storm says about being alone in the Paleolithic era
-How you can spend less time online without having the blues.