I haven’t had a TV for over a decade. As an experiment, I snipped the internet cable about a couple of months ago. Two weeks later, I set up a record player, a cassette-tape deck, speakers and a DVD player, which I then connected to an already operating projector in my living room.
Last week, I neutered my smartphone, by opting out of its always-on connection to the internet. I now only get internet if I’m connected to an external WiFi source, and my smartphone now lives at the bottom of my work bag. I’ve replaced it with a Nokia button phone.
And I’m kind of delighted.
Why? Because I decided I didn’t want to host a digital world, as well as a real one, rent-free in my head any longer. Or at least not 24/7. The real game changer was snipping the internet cable at home. It has been difficult but I’m not sure I’d go back now. I feel calmer, my work focus has improved and I am finally getting a proper night’s sleep, every night. And with all that, life seems slower, which is probably the biggest benefit I’ve felt. What am I missing out on? Not much. I use public transport, so I get my daily news and social media (which I am beginning to loath) fixes on the commutes to and from work. It’s more than enough. At the weekend, if I really feel the need to engage with digital noise, or provide free content to Facebook, I connect to the WiFi at a caf?, or restaurant. But, to be honest, I already don’t really feel the need.
Am I a luddite? Not really, I’ve always been into electronics. But the fun went out of electronics when they became all-invasive. These days, the sight of my fellow commuter drones with their crooked necks and glazed screen eyes is almost disturbing.
And I’m loving tinkering again: adjusting the position of speakers to affect changes in the sound stage; recording radio programmes (The Blue of the Night, Lyric FM) onto tape and listening back whenever I want (like a podcast!); and noodling about with the record player, rediscovering B-sides and long forgotten tracks on my favourite records.
I’m also spending Saturday afternoons trawling in record shops and actually listening to mix tapes I made in my teens – cue cringey, yet nostalgia-filled, listening of an evening.
I still haven’t weaned myself fully off Instagram. I’m a heavy user with over 3000 posts (@SquireHiggins), but I’ve always loved taking photographs, analogue as well as digital. And, of course, I still use the internet at work, where I now feel it truly belongs.
My life once again feels like it is my own. I no longer engage with the poison of comments sections, and, more importantly, I’ve begun reading books again, which is something I’d been guilting myself about for ages. And while I may be missing out on having round-the-clock access to the latest status update about my second cousin’s Superclean Wellness Foodie Sandwich Stoop Party, I’m finding it easier and easier to agree with the lead track on my Back to the Future-inspired mix-tape from 1985 – it really is hip to be square.