Friday, August 24, 2012

Life Without Internet

I cancelled Comcast for the summer to save money, which has resulted in a TV and internet free environment for my family. Our entertainment has now been reduced to watching library DVDs on the computer. Because the computer is in the master bedroom, the scene is four kids trying to get away with eating pizza on the king sized futon and putting their feet on my pillows on a very regular basis. The upside of this situation is:

- The children will gladly make the bed and vacuum if it means they can watch a movie.

- Library DVDs usually have some educational or philosophical or cultural content.

- Nobody can watch anything while I am asleep or working on the computer.

Now that the summer of 2012 is nearing its close, I am evaluating the effects on my life of having no TV or internet in my home. On the negative side, it is harder for me to get updated on Islamic events. Today I rushed from the grocery store to the library to check my email 15 minutes before closing, but was too late. They had already shut down the computers. So I don’t know what time the Eid prayers will be held on Sunday. Luckily, I have someone’s phone number from the Islamic Center so no problem inshaAllah.

On the whole, the benefits outweigh the negatives, such as:

- Increased use of prioritizing internet time. The library only allows a person one hour on the computer, so Facebook time has been cut dramatically. Instead of checking all my friends’ updates, I go straight to my Inbox and reply only to personal mail, taking a half hour tops. That leaves me 30 minutes to pay an online bill, look up some item of interest, or update my blog. What a dramatic change from my old lifestyle of impatiently checking my updates all day long!

- Increased use of free print media. For wont of things to read to provoke my intellectual curiosity, I now more frequently pick up free neighborhood newspapers. As a result, I have been better informed about local events, very importantly including free public barbeque parties. A local bank’s five year anniversary party offered free burgers, hot dogs, chips, juice, cake, helium balloons, and a fistful of free pens. A local parish offered unlimited pony rides, a bouncy house, and food throughout another Saturday afternoon this summer. These events have turned out to be great ways to meet neighbors.

- Increased socializing. The upslope has not been dramatic, but steady. As my boredom increases with lack of contact with the outside world, the more the importance actual people take up of my time and energy; in particular people whose phone numbers I have. So whether it’s someone I knew from high school or someone I would like to know, the absence of internet in my home increases the likelihood of my calling them to say hello.

- Increased use of radio in the home. Needless to say, my tweenagers call the shots when it comes to what music we will listen to as we chop vegetables or tidy up the living room. This has given me increased insight as to what is meaningful to them. My son pointed out one popular song, telling me it was the story of my life, and I was touched that he had thought about the events of my life on such a level. On other occasions, the presence of radio in our home instead of the TV has resulted in family dance parties and recitals.

- Increased exercise. In the days when I had internet in my private office with a locked door that I could use to shut out all commotion, I spent the majority of my day with one hand on the mouse. This resulted in serious chronic muscle spasms in my neck as well as tendonitis in my arm. Now that we have no choice but to listen to CDs or cassettes, my children have become exposed to Pakistani Sufi music, Bob Dylan’s poetry, and the Beatles. It is so important for the human body to reach upwards with the arms. If we do not ever dance, we lose all the muscle tone in our shoulders, lungs, and stomach. Dance is the most intimate of physical activities beyond the marital act, so it is important to provide a private environment, but it is essential to the human condition to be able to express the human joy of living life to its full physical and emotional capacity.

- Going outside more. When there is nothing to do at home, the next thing to do is to leave. I am very proud of my 13 year old son, who has started walking home from the Boys and Girls Club to save me the trouble of picking him up, a walk which can take 40 minutes. When I was his age, I had to walk almost that far to school but nowadays we have to question whether or not walking home alone is safe. In my experience, a kid on a bike is more likely to get hassled, especially if someone wants to steal the bike. My advice is always to learn to ride a skateboard – it is faster than walking yet you can carry it onto a train or into a store so it is much more convenient than riding a bicycle.

School will soon begin again, and with school comes the stresses of homework, busses, and tests. I am glad we still live in a country where kids get the summer off, because even if they are not actually needed to tend to any crops, I still need them here to do chores around the home and help take care of their younger siblings. I want them to succeed academically but I am also very grateful to God that I had them here at home this summer so we could be a family.

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