Oregon is a strange place. And I say that in the fondest way possible. There are people that live completely off the grid, and others that surround themselves with technology every chance they can get. Seeing this juxtaposition in person for the first time, living 2500 miles away from home, it was quite jarring.
When I first moved there in June of last year, I was downtown Portland, surrounded by gleaming buildings, people zooming by on scooters, the whirring of metro cars, and the streams of bridges winding over the river. I was convinced I had moved to this new Emerald City where everything was new and improved. But my first glances soon started to fail me, and in came this sense of nostalgia and warmth; I couldn’t quite grasp it until I was standing, walking, sitting in the thick of it.
Coffee shops for me, are a great way to get to know a place. A new city, that is. And one of the coolest places in Portland (forgive me because the name escapes me now) was this internet-free coffee shop. Now, most of us who go to coffee shops, do homework, surf the web, read up on some emails. Most of those activities done through Wifi. So, what do you do at an internet-free coffee shop? I suppose you could use your phone with cellular data, but the premise behind this unique place, was to relieve people out of their usual tech habits, and force them to think out of the box.
After that place specifically, I stopped looking at my phone when I was out to dinner or browsing a gallery. I started carrying a book with me, so when I had a lapse in the day, or a few minutes waiting in line, I’d reach for my book instead of reaching for Facebook. The first few times felt strange; flipping instead of scrolling. However, I came to really enjoy it. But I found that, as soon as I got home, the devices would be right back out, and the screen time would suck up my whole day or night.
Clearly that needed to change. So I never got Wifi for my apartment. Which eliminated my laptop right off the bat. And because my cell service was so bad in my corner room, it physically disabled me from scrolling too much.
When I tell people I lived for 6 months without Wifi in my apartment, I’m usually pestered with questions: Weren’t you sooo bored?? Why not?! How did you stay in touch with people? What did you do all the time then? And then that’s usually followed by “You’re crazy” comments. Quite frankly, I did go a little crazy sometimes. When you’re constantly in the habit of being on the internet, watching TV, talking to friends, posting on social media, your brain is primed for those actions again and again. But once you break out of that cycle, your body almost resets, and gets used to the new thing.
Yes, I had to be creative. Yes, I got bored. Yes, I would still be on the internet and watch TV and talk to friends, and do “normal” 21st century tech things. But what I did learn is that if you stop the cycle, you’re more likely to start up a newer, better one. I’m back to having Wifi now that I’m in Michigan again, but I find that I’m less likely to grab my laptop than a book now. And I think that’s a small win for me.