Notes from Candice Ransom

How Much Do You Want It Back?


“Look at that!” my husband exclaimed one morning. Through the breakfast room window we saw a saucer-sized spider web that seemed to float in midair, a shimmery wheel backlit by the sun. Perfectly round. Perfectly woven with tight spiraling radials.

My husband ran for his camera. By the time I reached the back yard with my own camera, the jeweled light had vanished and the web trembled in a rising breeze. The tiny blue-and-green orchard weaver sitting in the center had anchored her creation precariously, four long silk threads stretched from a high tree branch down to the grass.

As I watched, the stiff wind folded the web once, twice, then into nothingness. The spider raced along one of the guidelines to safety. All her work . . . gone in an instant. I wondered why she built her web in such an unlikely place. Not even up long enough to snare a single insect.

Maybe that wasn’t the spider’s intent.

When I unplugged my Internet computer September first, I felt relief and freedom. But in my head, I heard the refrain of the Trace Adkins song, “You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna waaant this back.”

Twice before at the end of my Online Shutdowns, I did want it back. I’d eagerly put my computer together and hurry to log in. Not long after, I’d spiral downward into the usual net of distraction and unhappiness.

This time within days of the Shutdown, the crippling agitation and lack of focus faded.  I went to the library to check my email. The rest of the day I worked and read.

I read about smart phone addiction. Did you know people check their phones an average of 100 times a day? One man admitted his phone is his “truest companion.”

I read about the lack of time. Someone wrote to the Wall Street Journal: How can I enjoy life more? Every year, time seems to go by faster. The columnist responded that time seems to pass more slowly when we were kids because we experienced things that were new and unique. As we get older, our lives drop into a routine. The columnist concluded: Maybe we need some new app that will encourage us to try out new experiences, point out things we’ve never seen, and suggest places we’ve never been to make our lives more varied. Tongue in cheek? Maybe.

I read that children spend less than 40 minutes a week in their back yards. Parents use their back yards less than 15 minutes a week. Despite Memorial Day displays of new porch furniture, grills, and swing sets, people still spend most of their time indoors.

Two weeks into my Online Shutdown, I felt a seismic shift beyond the shedding of my fractured, distracted skin. Random memories came at odd moments: the lift of anticipation when handed new textbooks on the first day of school, the feeling of being in this world one summer evening when my cousins and I played tag, the sense of being on this planet as I lay watching bats, the earth pressed firmly against my shoulderblades.

I had become my old self again. Someone I had not seen in years. The stiff wind that rattled thoughts and stirred too many emotions settled down. In my head, all was quiet.

Oh, yes, I wanted this back.

But how could I keep it? I can’t live in a bubble. When I first announced going offline, people said, “I want to do this too!” and I thought, Why don’t you? Then I realized I only had to unplug my Internet computer. I don’t have an iPad or an iPhone or i-anything. To follow my example, people would have to give up their phones.

I spend a lot of time defending my decision not to get a smartphone. You can’t text me or call me on my cell because I don’t even carry it half the time. Who needs to be in touch with me that much? I’m not Hilary Clinton. Although I use email and the web for my business, I’ve reached the conclusion that my life online needs to be on my terms.

Online controls seem ridiculous and fiddly. Covering my monitor like parrot cage or shutting the processor down doesn’t work. A program that locks Internet usage for a period of time would make me feel the machine has even more power over me.

So I decided on the scorched-earth method: five days a week my husband leaves for work with the DSL router in a little lunch bag. When he comes home, he gives it back to me. I’m busy with supper then, which means I don’t go online until after six o’clock.

Truthfully? It’s kind of a pain. I’m working more in the evenings, but I’ve learned to zip through emails. Yet . . . I shop less. I sleep better. I can concentrate on the projects I have underway and not feel pressured. I don’t feel rushed or “crazy busy.”

Untethered to the Internet, I’m able to react less and act more. Move forward and not spin in circles. Make connections that are meaningful and not become ensnared.

Create a web—a fantastic weaving of midair dreams that might perish with a breath—because I can.

4 thoughts on “How Much Do You Want It Back?”

    • It’s amazing how much difference it makes. Yesterday I was sick (but not too sick to sit up at the computer) and spent much of the day online. It made me unhappy to realize I would never be Jill McCorkle (for example), married to a photographer who runs an MFA program in documentary photography. I can’t even take the MFA program. And then I shut it down because I didn’t need to *make* myself unhappy!

  1. When you finally read this message… you’ll learn that I agree with you. I just had a week’s vacation. At first, we went down to the lobby once a day to check emails (the only spot with wifi). But then I missed a day, and then two, and then the rest. And oh yes, I was IN the world where I was rather than the cyber space where I spend so much of my time otherwise. I don’t know if I can do that always (or if I want to). But it did make for a lovely vacation! 🙂 e

    • That’s how I began taking these cyber vacations–I spend a week at Bell House every year with no Internet (or TV or even radio). Then I stretched them to a month, once six weeks. It makes you rethink how much we need to be online, the blogs, FB, Twitter, etc. Does it matter *so* much to our books? I’m not so sure . . .

      But I’m online every day, just not so long, and evenings and weekends only. It’s enough. It. Is. Enough.


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