Going internet cold turkey at Christmas…

It would be for a week, said Virgin Media – a week before my new modem would be available and meanwhile, long (technical) story, I could not use the old one in the interim period.

No bother, I thought. I’m a practising artist. I might even get a lot more work done when I’m not making comments on other peoples’ latest creations; getting sucked into plucking images from Instagram postings onto my Pinterest boards or, reacting to the various Whatsapp Lock-down video highlights of Trump, Brexit, Stormont, Obama, Biden and the Cuomo brothers, posted by a handful of my self-quarantining friends pontificating and protesting in their perfectly valid chattering clusters.

In a normal pre-Lockdown world, though – being without an Internet connection at home, would have been a whole other ball-game, with local libraries, cafes, pubs, Arts’ Centres, Colleges and even friends and neighbours I could drop, willy-nilly, into to piggy-back for free onto their Wi-Fi.

Four days in, it began to hit me.

I’ll be honest. Battening down the hatches, switching on the electric blanket and going into hibernation-  with the occasional forays to the kitchen for a coffee and tinned soup respite felt vaguely appealing.

I suddenly had no access to my Office Word online course and the ZOOM fitness class I had followed faithfully every morning for Lock-down months.

I couldn’t shop online in my usual pre-Xmas dribs and drabs for presents and I right-royally missed Black Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Timing was suddenly everything.

I had an art fair coming up and two bisque-firings to get on with. I was making large quantities of Christmas angels because my larger Lock-down pieces were scattered throughout three galleries – including a pop-up one in a shop window in Bangor – and I just needed ceramic grunt work, nothing that required too much analysis – to be getting on with.

“Peak” by Annemarie Mullan. A nod to NHS workers.

So – I did. I emerged from the studio after a six-hour stretch, the kiln firing up for the next 48 hours, feeling virtuous, stiff and starving, the lack of Internet a mere dot on the horizon.

And, then nothing. I went to sleep. I slept deep. I woke up at 4 in the morning – wide awake, insomnia pulsing through me, reached for my phone, without thinking, read the ‘No Signal’ icon and stared into the darkness. I started to think. Things were still manageable.

The weekly Landmark seminar I had covered. I was ZOOMing online at a friend’s house one evening a week, which was kind of fun. She and I were both in a ‘bubble’. God – this Covid lingo tripped so easily off the tongue, these days.

There were 200 global participants in this particular seminar, which was dealing with Money and our relationship to it – and it was throwing up some interesting conundrums.

I had made lists of where money had appeared in my life since childhood – how it came as objects, rather than currency, how my dad and uncle always unpeeled their cash from a money clip and steered away from banks; how easy it was to spend my student grant from my first account, using a bank-card like a magic wand and how easy it was to glide through this abstract world until I ran out and of the necessity of cash in my hand to make my world go around again.

That’s what this felt like, I thought. Having no internet felt like having a bank account – but with no bank-card.

However, it felt curiously liberating to suddenly have no standing in the world; to go off-grid and have a bona fide excuse for not returning calls and emails.

“House wife” Annemarie Mullan

I had used up all of the Data on my phone on the first weekend during an on-line Ceramics Congress sited in Korea, Italy, Spain, England and India – boy, did all those global clay-building demonstration videos ever burn up data!

So, mysteriously – BUT not surprisingly, I now couldn’t make or get telephone calls.

Family and a few friends knew what was happening so nobody was panicking….yet.

I could die in the next few days and get a by-ball for at least a week.

I lived alone. My son was in a flat across town. My potter-daughter was in America. My partner lived across the river. We were incommunicado. Getting on with things. Meeting up after the art-fair. No way was he dipping his quarantining toe into that public affair!

There was a surreal post-apocalyptical feel to my days.

I ate. I had an Epsom bath. I made a bed up for the PHD student who was coming to rent an upstairs room in February.

I wrote a busy-sounding ‘I’m looking for work’ message to Universal Credit, my new employment buddies, who were aiding and abetting my computer up-skilling shenanigans and then, virtuously sent it – knowing it might be days before it actually arrived.

I then weeded the front steps, between the cracks; emptied all of the out-of-date jams, pickles and sauces from the larder, washed them and filled up the glass recycling bin.

I changed and washed sheets; cleared the kitchen counter; the cupboard under the sink, washed the bathroom floor and the floor behind the bath – which I hadn’t seen since it was re-tiled a year ago.

The house began to have a different, cleaner, emptier echo to it.

I cleared the table in the den, changed the light bulbs in the lamps and hooked the laptop to the printer. I started to write. I wrote all of this down – knowing I was just scratching the surface….I mean, the money thing? That was a whole fresh rabbit hole I’d just unearthed.

My father used to take the miniature paintings I made, (as a teenager) and give them away to his lorry driver friends – like little party favours. He once threw my entire Bunty comic cut-out doll collection-meant for an elaborate landscape collage –  onto a bonfire, right in front of me – admittedly I’d burnt two of his lorry tyres prior to that. It was Halloween – a long, other, story…

Was that why I had such a hard time putting a decent price on my work?

Daddy issues?

Well, now, pull up there, missy….

There was plenty of other stuff piling up to think about.

And then – it kind of struck me. I was Thinking. There were several conversations going on in my head. It even ached a little.  I hadn’t been thinking like that since…I hadn’t been questioning deliberately since…. had my synapses blazing with questions and theories for…

months?…no, I tell a lie….years.

The Internet had taken me out of myself, distracted and wrapped me up in bright mind-numbing, time-stealing, shiny pieces of information; gossip, scandals, stranger-than-fiction-cute cats, dogs, dancing parrots, amazing essential kitchen, garden and building gadgets and washed me in a technicolour miasma of Ted Turner-tinted movie snippets that sucked me deeper and deeper into an electronic algorithmic entertainment vortex…

Now there was a thought. This Internet deprivation was triggering an awareness of all my sins of time-waste, omission, lack of motivation.

Christ – this felt almost evangelical.

Had my internet/social media over-usage been depriving me of vital intellectual  oxygen?

So – I started to write. I was onto something. I felt euphoric….light-headed. This was hard-core.

I had to get this down, deconstruct, analyse…realise…..formulate….

conclude…

I hit Print….nothing happened. It only worked online. I hit manual. The light flashed up.

I was fresh out of ink.

Smartphone addiction or nomophobia” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY

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