Living Life Offline

lake and mountain
Photo by James Wheeler on

For the first 22 years of my life, I lived offline. Of course, my life straddles the digital divide and the birth of the Internet, which made things a little easier. I can recall a time (college, say) when I had no mobile phone, when I still put dimes and quarters into pay phones, when my IBM PC was not connected to a network of any kind. I can recall keeping an address book, and looking up phone numbers in the Yellow Pages. None of it was particularly hard or off-putting. It was just the way things were.

More and more, as I am draw into living my life online, I feel the pull of living it offline. Just as I have this desire to move out of the urban areas that I’ve spent most of my life and into some ideal rural setting, I also find myself day-dreaming of living my life offline. Not completely offline, you understand. That would be impractical. But much more so than I am doing today.

I have been doing more and more to live life offline. For instance, since May, I’ve been doing the bulk of my writing offline. I write in those old marble-covered composition notebooks. For a time I was even writing the drafts for this blog in a notebook, but I gave that up just because I found my time too limited. If I want to get a post written, I’ll just write it here and be done with it.

I subscribe to a bunch of magazines that arrive in the mail because I can sit with them at breakfast and read articles without looking at a screen. And speaking of mail, I’ve been writing more handwritten letters and postcards than I used to. Of course, I’ve been carrying around Field Notes notebooks for seven years now (I am currently filling up my 36th notebook). But I’ve also moved away from looking up contact information online. A friend at work gave me a couple of Muji notebooks six years ago or so. One of those notebooks I filled with notes when my youngest daughter was born. The other I have turned into a pocket address book. Interestingly, I am much more likely to keep the entries in that notebook up-to-date than I ever did in the Contacts app on my phone.

My current journal and my Muji address book.
My current journal and my Muji address book.

Recently, I’ve taken two additional steps to live more of my life offline. First, I am stepping away from Facebook. Facebook used to be a great way to keep up with friends and families. Now, I see more ads on Facebook than I ever saw on TV, in newspapers, or magazines. Then, too, it is too addictive for me, especially the dopamine hit one gets from flipping through Reels. I am not deleting my Facebook account, but I have removed the app from my devices, and I don’t plan on logging in and checking Facebook for the foreseeable future. (Posts from this blog will still automatically post to my Facebook page, but even there I won’t be logging in to check things.)

The other decision I made is to only check my personal email on Sunday mornings. I’ve found that there is rarely an email message so urgent that it can’t wait a few days to be read and responded to. To that end, I’ve added an auto-responder to my personal email. It just lets folks know that I received their email, but that I only check and respond to email on Sundays, so there may be a delay in response.

As I said, I am not completely giving up online life. I’m still writing here (though maybe not as frequently as a I once did). And I’ll still maintain an active online presence on Twitter. If you want to keep up with my goings on (for instance, what I am reading, or how I am cataloging my book collection), Twitter is the place to do that. Those who want to, can follow me there at @jamietr.

Still, I am trying to find more and more ways to live life offline. I’m looking to wean myself off my phone. Today I carry it with me everywhere, but there was a time–the first 26 years of my life or so–when I lived perfectly fine without a phone of any kind. I’d like to see if I can spend more hours in the day without my phone than I do with it.

Written on August 21, 2022.

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    1. Don, not entirely. I’ve found that I just enjoy the act of writing with pen and paper more than typing. That’s not Obsidian’s fault, it’s personal preference after much experimentation. Edmund Morris describes this feeling in a 1981 essay he wrote entitled, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Smith Corona.”

      There are still 2 ways I use Obsidian with my journaling: first, my daily notes still act as an index to my life and there are frequently references to journal entry numbers there. Second, I have a file in Obsidian that is a journal index: a text file cross reference of entry titles, entry numbers and dates. So if I need to find something in the handwritten journal, I can search the index (of titles) and usually find what I am looking for pretty quickly.


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