The Cain Mutiny

[There] was a distinct sense that there’s a whole world out there. Not out there on the internet, but out there over the horizon. Out there in this same world are jungle cats, opera houses, subterranean hideouts, breakdancing circles, riverside tire swings, and old women playing mahjong. There are desert caravans and bullet trains and foggy valleys and kangaroos, and I can one day visit some of these things or maybe just read about them.

You know David Cain. He’s the chap behind the Raptitude blog and he also wrote the foreword to Escape Everything! A great friend of the magazine.

David’s latest post is excellent. It’s about what happens when we go without mobile Internet for a while. What happens, it turns out, is deeply positive and his observations about the experience are refreshing and interesting. It’s not an anti-internet piece. It’s just about what we lose when we’re scrolling through Instagram (or whatever it is). Check it out.

My own relationship with the internet has improved in recent years: it’s been very light on social media and other fripperies, though Gmail remains a load-bearing part of my personal organisation and my use of streaming services has increased. It’s largely deliberate and seldom passive. As it happens, this breakthrough was Rapitude-related. In 2019, David used the phrase, “making my phone a tool, not a toy.” I immediately understood what he meant. It appealed and I committed.

Twitter and the other “fun” (i.e. not really fun) junk was removed from my phone. I’d still allow myself to use these things but I’d have to want to do it enough to open my laptop and hit up the websites. Useful apps like the radio player and the public library catalogue were moved to the front of my phone and it became truly “a tool, not a toy.” Perfect. And that’s how I use it today.

My next breakthrough, I think, will be keeping my phone beyond arms’ reach so that I’m less tempted to pick it up and start futzing with it. I like David’s idea of making a holster for it in the kitchen so it resembles (logically if note aesthetically) the wall-mounted landline telephones many of us had in our kitchens up to 2004 or so. Not sure I’ll have the strength to commit to that one but one never knows.

Related posts: Lanier and Escape the Digital (New Escapologist) and It’s Time to Put the Internet Back into a Box in the Basement (Raptitude).

About

Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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