Life

Taking a break from the Internet

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I think about the internet all the time, I also think about taking a break from the internet all the time.

This isn’t an announcement about me taking some time off, it’s just something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently and I want to talk about.

My job is online. My life is online. I don’t see a distinction between IRL and URL anymore; all of it is real life. The idea of going a day without the internet or without my phone doesn’t sound appealing at all. I also wouldn’t say I’m addicted to my phone (maybe I’m in denial) but even though I always have it on me, I’m not checking it constantly and sometimes I do feel like throwing it across the room and running away from everything beeping at me.

More and more recently I’ve been wanting to run away from it, completely cut myself off from digital civilisation and just relax.

There’s a lot of anxiety that we feel around our devices – push notifications of horrible news, will they/won’t they text me back?, trolls on Twitter, likes on Instagram, does anyone even give a shit about me?! I really do think that everyone gets these feelings to varying degrees. But it’s fine, the internet is amazing and I love social media so you deal with a little bit of stress because on the whole it’s worth it.

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But I just need to know. My curiosity is getting stronger and stronger each day and I need to know what it feels like to completely unplug. I keep saying that I need a holiday. And you might be thinking, ‘but Hannah, you go travelling all the time!’ Exactly, “travelling”. When I go away it’s always so full-on with friends and exploring and no real time to just chill out and rest. I worked out that the last time I had a holiday that just involved a pool, a beach, good food and a fuck-ton of books was 5 years ago. Fives years ago. I’m dying to, my body is begging me to, my brain is craving it so hard. Please.

All I’m asking for is to lie in the sun for a week, to eat good food, go swimming and read and read and read. Maybe one day I’ll go on a bike ride or explore a local town but for the most part I want to do nothing. But I can’t. I’m scared to leave the internet for too long. I have a wall that’s stopping me from doing it and the wall is built on fear.

  • I’m scared I’ll miss important news/events/memes/jokes
  • I’m worried that people will forget about me
  • It might sabotage my career
  • I think you won’t even notice I’ve gone

I thought maybe I could pre-film videos and schedule them and schedule loads of tweets and Facebook posts but I’d want to see the reaction, I’d want to read and reply to comments. And you can’t schedule things on Instagram, and then what about snapchat!? I could pay someone to look after all my social media and keep it ticking over but who in this world do I trust that much to feel relaxed with them in control of my passwords, my image, my audience and my voice? No-one.

So this is my dilemma. My first world problem, if you will. If I had a different job maybe I would find it so much easier just to drop everything. Can I take a week off work? I don’t even know what that feels like.

What are your thoughts on taking a break from the internet? Have you ever done it? How did it feel? Please give me advice in the comments!

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26 Comments

  1. Ahhhh this is such a real fear when your work revolves around being noticed and being known. That said, in my life, I have unwittingly taken breaks from social media that I had previously used lots like Twitter simply because my phone started being a poop and I have found that seeing as though I don’t rely on it on a professional level, it was quite easy to sidle away.

    And I found that when I came back, I stepped right back into the shoes that I was in because the people that cared were still there. But I guess the problem for you comes in that not everyone will continue to care and it takes a lot of work to stay relevant, so to speak though I do find it hard to believe that it would take a week for you to disappear into the ether.

    Responding is probably the best part of social media though, I completely agree, it’s hard to be half in the door when it’s not the same. It’s like a shell of yourself. I think that’d be more dangerous than a break in itself because then at least people would know that you’re completely not there rather than not really investing and putting the fullest version of yourself on the internet.

    Such an interesting topic Hannah! Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Hi Hannah,

    I completely understand how you are feeling at the moment, although my issue is on a smaller scale haha!
    I do think that having some time away from the Internet, and by extension the people on the other end is really healthy. I do see that it would be hard for you to stay away from the Internet because of work, but I can assure you, a week away would not be a bad thing for your followers. I know we would enjoy having you back refreshed and happy after and break, having allowed yourself to be relaxed and get your head back in a happier place. At the end of the day, a job is just a job and being happy in yourself and your life is what really matters.

    Hope this gives you something to consider further,

    LOL, Bella x

  3. Hannah I have exactly the same thoughts and I don’t even have my livelihood depending on my access to the Internet. The closest I’ve come to going “off the grid” as such was when I went to Cyprus two years ago and the shitty hotel wifi didn’t work. But even then I managed to steal wifi from the hotel next door for a few days and I did take my laptop with me to keep me occupied. I also long for just a week by the pool doing nothing, not even watching Tv or reading books but literally doing nothing, but I know I wouldn’t cope or rather am scared to let myself find out if I could cope without the World Wide Web. It’s bad enough some days at work where I have no phone signal and want to stay in touch with the world and those times where the Internet service goes down for a few hours. And the thing is that when it does come back, when I finally have access again, nothing remarkable has ever happened in that time. The world hasn’t been forever altered by me not having the Internet and I haven’t died or been injured by not having it. So maybe it would be okay. But it’s like any addiction, it’s too scary to go cold turkey.

  4. Firstly, love this blog post! I can relate a lot 😂 I haven’t got a career or anything on the internet but when I went on holiday to Malta, the internet in the appartment went out for 2 days, and I couldn’t even think about going to see the cathedrals without worrying about losing my streaks on snapchat 😅

    But when the internet came back, even when I wasn’t using it, I felt like I had a better time 😕 I went to the Azure Window where the Dothraki wedding was filmed for season 1 of GoT and also visited the oldest building in the world which was pretty incredible, but the sad thing is my favourite part was telling everyone in social media 😅

    However, I think if you have your social media to someone you trust and love for even a week to get away to the beach or a pool it would be so good for anyone, especially someone like you who’s life is on the internet ❤

  5. I must say that your fear that a holiday may badly affect your career hit a note with me. After five years without a proper shut off from the rigour’s of your life and your career, why should a week off affect it? And, if it would, have you ever thought that your career is asking way too much of you?
    I find your online content amusing and though I’ve never considered myself a groupie, I follow you on most social media and enjoy the stuff you do. If you were to vanish for a week, two weeks, a month, my interest in your online persona will not have lessened. Your ‘fans’ need to take your needs to heart if they want a happy Hannah. Plus, no-one should ever get between anyone and a fuck-ton of books 😁
    My advice. Unplug, unwind. Drink some wine, read some books… Relax. You deserve it.

  6. You really should take a break!! I think your audience will understand that you need a break, and it could even inspire new and creative ideas! Go for it!

  7. I went to an art camp this summer and on the second day a sculpture fell on my phone so i didn’t have excess to the Internet for eight days all I did was call my parents from other people’s phones and sometimes watch a YouTube video from the tablet of the girl that I was sharing my room with.
    But when I got back home I realized how much I didn’t miss the Internet and how I made so many great memories.
    Also nothing happened in the world at the end of the day if something super special would happen you would still hear about it just not instenly.
    I think going a week with out a phone is a great way to get a new perspective.
    About not instently riplying to comments if you schedule a video the comment will always be there and when you get back you could
    reply .
    I think a small vacation from the Internet is a great way to clear you’re mind.

  8. You must have at least one or two ‘write only’ video ideas. Or perhaps the kind where you challenge people to do something and then report back, which requires that they take the time to actually do the thing and not shoot back from the hip without actually doing it. That’s your week away sorted… ‘By the time you see this I’ll be on holiday for a week in a place with no internet, so I’ll be excited to see what you all do with this idea. I won’t be reading any comments dated earlier than xx/xx, because that would defeat the whole point of this challenge. See you in the comment section when I get back…’

    Pin a tweet at the top of your timeline saying ‘I’m on holiday for a week from xx/yy in a place with no internet. If you want to tweet me, please hold that thought until I return!

    Take photos while you are away if you like, but upload nothing, read nothing, log into no social media, do’t guilt yourself about it. When you get home you’ll have loads of stuff to spam intstagram with & you can blog about how awesome it is not to be online 24×7 for a week 🙂

  9. And yes, a lot of people in all sorts of jobs/roles get into a place where they convince themselves that their job, their career, their department, their company depends on them continuing to work 20 hour days and never taking a holiday lest it all goes to crap the moment their back is turned. They’ll be the ones only getting through the days with chemical or liquid assistance soon enough if they aren’t already, and if the fear of not being in control, of juggling to keep the 17 balls that they are convinced will come crashing down around them if they take a week off is more than just a nagging feeling, it may already be a symptom of a stress related malady that is not going to get any better, it’s only going to get worse until they either end up having a full on breakdown and not being able to function at all in the way they are used to for a while or indeed as some people experience, ever again.

    999 times out of a thousand, it’s a delusional fear. If you don’t schedule your week off to coincide with some career defining event that you are supposed to be the star or hub of, and don’t break a bunch of commitments already made to book it, nobody will care, nobody will have a freak out that you’ve taken a week off, or two, or even 6 weeks over a year.If you are worried that you are one of the 1 in 1000 where the wheels really do all fall off if you don’t personally go round every morning, noon & evening obsessively tighening every wheel nut, then for many people the answer is, they are in the wrong job, and they eiyther need to be paid a lot more so they can retire really early and have a life after they’ve finished killing themselves at work, or they need to resign and find something less ridiculous to do. As a self employed person, you’ve kind of defined your own job, and if you have genuinely defined for yourself a role that does not allow the possibility of taking a week off ever lest your career ends in a smoking crater (‘Here lies the abandoned channel of Hannah Witton, took a week off in 2016 and thus committed career suicide. Currently stacking shelves in Lidl. Let that be a lesson, kids… Never take a holiday!!!’) then it would be up to you to redefine it in such a way that you can, something that is completely within your power and that you really need to do for your job/career, whatever to be sustainable.,..

    I believe these days it is called work/life balance. Just because your life partly _is_ your work, doesn’t mean it’s not a thing…

  10. Everyone needs a break at some point and considering yours was like 5 years ago I think you damn well deserve one man!! The other week TomSka had a sort of holiday like shut up his office and only carried on his Last Week series, you should totally follow suit. I’m sure you won’t miss much I mean any important news/memes will still be there when you get back and if it’s like major news you’ll deffo see it on tv/papers. People won’t forget about you ! It’ll take more than a holiday to get people to forget about you, I reckon you’d be surprised how many people would miss you! Plus it won’t end your career because everyone/thing that you leave behind for say a week will still be here. Do a shia man, just do it. <3

  11. Hey Hannah,
    This is something that I think a out regularly. I’ve now started taking monthly breaks. Just a weekend or a couple of days. I turn my phone notifications off and put it on flight mode. I let my friends and family know and just go dark. It’s bliss. Honestly.
    I do then come back after a few days and catch up and get bombarded by emails and notifications but it’s worth the minor stress for a brief reprieve.
    Hope that helps.

  12. Hi Hannah!!

    I know the feel, and let me tell you that it’s not hard at all.
    When my cellphone died it was so hard for me, but then I realized that this was the opportunity to take some time away from the internet, so I spend a year and a half without cell and social networks at all times, and suddennly all the anxiety he felt to be aware of the phone was disapear and I really enjoy the moments with friends , family and me , without selfies or tweetting. It was as if that part that was lost long back and it felt so good.
    Now I organized my time and left an space for check all my social networks and not let it consume my life.

    A tip I give you is to start slowly blow to not feel the absence of the internet jejejeje and don´t worry, nobody will forget about you.

  13. Everyone needs time away from the internet and if your body is telling you that you need to relax, then listen to it… RELAX! All your followers will already appreciate how much content you are always putting out for them and all the hard work that goes on that we don’t see. It isn’t healthy to disregard your personal needs, especially after not having a break for 5 years!! Take the time YOU need, no one is going to forget about you! Then you can allow yourself to come back, happier and recharged. I really loved this post, the internet is extremely powerful in this generation and we can all relate to your words.

    Hope this helps.

    Nadia x

  14. I tried taking a break from the internet just because i wanted to see if i can do it. I do not work and have a lot of free time do things like be on the internet lol. I did not last long only a few hours becuase i am a gamer and I love to type on my computer. The internet is such a big part in daily life that it very hard someone to just unplug and not use the internet. Evn if that person does not work or is busy all the time.

  15. Even people who work 9-5 jobs are allowed two weeks vacation per year. Take some time off. Don’t worry about all of that stuff, it’s just one week. Film a bunch of things and have scheduled uploads. Don’t worry about the stupid news, memes or people’s comments. Missing those is like putting up with the stress of social media: it’s worth it. The internet will still be the same when you get back, don’t worry, it’s not going to change.

  16. I’ve actually taken breaks before – during final exams in college – but since I’ve graduated I haven’t done one, or had a true day to myself (like the full vacation mode time to myself) since then. So I’m going on three years myself. It’s really nice. And I’m sure the internet will forgive you if you did it for a few days to recharge. 🙂

  17. I’ve thought about this a lot lately… not just taking a break from the Internet, but leaving it altogether. In some ways, being on the Internet has been incredible, but in others, it’s brought so much more stress to my life than I ever knew pre-Internet.

    It’s strange; I can remember exactly when my Internet life started. Tuesday, September 23, 2008. I’d just watched the first episode of The Mentalist, and I loved it! I wanted to talk to someone about it, so I went online and looked around for people discussing it. I found that cbs.com had a message board where all their shows could be discussed. I joined and started chatting with people about that show. I soon drifted over to other shows on their site that I watched, and made several friends on the Criminal Minds message board that I’m still friends with today.

    I got a myspace page (lol, that was all the rage back then, right before it died out) and posted some of my writings on it. A few years later, I joined Facebook and Twitter, but I only really started using Twitter at the beginning of last year. Facebook was my go-to website. Once I started using Twitter regularly, things got out of hand. I started following tons of people online, and began watching lots of videos. I spend most of my free time online now. In some ways, it has enriched my life, but I don’t think it’s improved my life overall. I feel a lot of social anxiety I never had before chatting on the Internet, and I mostly read online articles now instead of books. I miss books. Worse, I spend so much time writing comments online, I’ve stopped writing creatively.

    So I’ve been thinking of giving up the Internet entirely. The main reason I don’t is because all my friends are online now – people I’ve never met who mean the world to me. I also enjoy following people like you, Hannah, who put information online that broadens my views. I feel like I have gained so much by being on the Internet. Yet I feel like I’ve lost my balance, my calm, and my focus. A break would be nice, but I don’t know when I’d do it. I’ve only used the Internet on a daily basis for the past two years, but it feels so much longer!

    I wouldn’t blame you if you did take a break. I understand the impulse! I’m there with you. I would miss seeing you online, but I can see how unplugging for a while would be beneficial. My job isn’t dependent on the Internet, so I’m sure it’s harder for you than me in many ways, but saying goodbye to the Internet also means saying goodbye to my friends, and that’s a bit heartbreaking for me. It’s a hard habit to break, that’s for sure!

  18. For me, it’s not the internet I have a problem with, it’s being constantly contactable. Sometimes I just want to do my thing without having to talk to people, online or offline. Phones and messaging and push notifications and such just get too much for me sometimes. I only got a smartphone like 2 years ago so I was never at the beck and call of notifications before that, but I was and still am almost permanently attached to my laptop. If I wanted to go on Facebook or Twitter and engage with people then I would log on and be like, “Hey, whaddup?” and if not, I wouldn’t. I do the same thing with my phone now. If there are too many pings when I’m at home trying to chill, even if I’m online, I just turn it on silent for a bit and carry on. Maybe that’s just that I really don’t like being told what to do… I’ll look at Instagram when I want phone!

    I don’t do a full week long social media cleanse or anything like that because let’s be real, sometimes friends and family actually need to contact me and there are always emails and things, but even just an evening without social media is a sigh of relief, and that’s only with a couple of hundred Facebook friends. I can’t even imagine how many notifications you must be assaulted with on a daily basis!

    I don’t think you should feel bad about needing time off. You’re working basically seven days a week; people in other professions wouldn’t even consider doing that, and they get holidays as well as weekends. If you need a week off, take it! Think of it as some well-deserved long service leave. We’ll be thrilled to see you when you come back!

  19. Dear Hannah,

    I never have commented on anything on the internet befor (hm….), but since I can relate to your problem I thought I would give it a try 😉

    The thing is that those 3 fear-points (I´m refusing to take the 4th one seriously 😉 ) are never going to change no matter how old you are or how far along you are careerwise. All of them are totally valid points (hate to admit that), but never ever will they just dissolve into nothingness. So what´s the consequence? Never going on vacation ever again? Or going and then feeling guilty or anxious the whole time? I think you already know that you could use a battery-recharging-week. So do yourself that favour. (It´s not even a treat – more like a long-term-functioning-requirement…!) I don´t think any of your fans (me included) would take a week of you not posting anything as a sign of you not caring or just beeing lazy or anything. So take that time off and report about it afterwards. I think lots of people that are working have trouble taking time off from work or internet/phone. If you´d share your experience it might inspire others to do the same thing and shake off those fears.

    I hope I don´t come across as to lecturing but since I am freelancer myself I can relate to your thoughts. I wish I´d have had the courage to ask others for help on that subject in the past. I think it´s so brave of you to vocalize your situation!
    Whatever you decide to do – take care of yourself and care for yourself.

    Katharina

  20. I really get where you are coming from. Right now I’m in Spain on holiday and it is so nice to take a break from the Internet. I’m 14 and sometimes the pressure of the Internet really makes me anxious, but being here as I can really use social media as the wifi is so bad it takes a massive weight off my mind. Normally I stress about not talking to my friends, I feel like they are forgetting about me and it scares me but being away makes me feel better.

    When I’ve been sitting around the pool I’ve been listening to audio books and to podcasts and it makes sunbathing less tedious. Btw I love the banging book club podcasts, yes I’m 14 but I understand mostly everything you talk about and it really is an eye opener.

    But anyway I really recommend taking a break, people will miss you and expect you to post but don’t let other people’s thoughts stop you from taking a well deserved break.

  21. I’ve actually just got back from doing this and oh my gosh it felt amazing. The hotel I was in had wifi and I tried to use it but it was so slow, I couldn’t use it and I was forced to switch off everything. To just be with myself and really give my brain a break. I will admit, however, I was very worried people and been trying to contact me and thought I was rude for not replying or I was worried I would be behind on watching YouTube videos but what I found is that you really need a balance so after a week, every evening for about 30 mins I would go to the local internet cafe and catch up, only on important things. Let people know I was okay, replied to texts and emails, but I didn’t post anything. It was so refreshing to juts be with myself as well as the people closest to me. When I got back, I did spend about a day organising my life back to normal again, catching up on YouTube, replying to emails etc, but after that I found myself reaching fir me phone less, not caring if I had kept up with my Instagram or if I didn’t snapchat something. Take photos for memories, sure, but you don’t have to share them. I found this one holiday really changed my mental perception of the internet and it seems like less of a chore to use social media and more of a break. I’m sorry I can’t put myself in the POV of someone whose job is online bit everyone needs a break and 5 years is much to long without a proper one! Relax, Hannah! You’re doing brilliantly!

  22. After reading this, I completely understand how that feels, in fact, I’m relieved someone else feels the same. Obviously, not on a similar level, and I don’t have a career revolved and dependant on the internet, but I have realised that it’s very easy to get addicted to wait on a reply or constantly check your twitter. In my opinion, if someone with a higher status online that people listen to or look up took a break for a while, it might influence others to do the same or become less addicted to scrolling down your screen, which is potentially a positive thing.

  23. Hello Hannah,

    first of all: I’m still a student, so I don’t need the internet for my work. Every summer when my family takes a vacation, I leave my phone, laptop etc. at home. That means two and a half week of no internet, but instead hiking, taking photos, reading, cooking …(my eyes and brain thank me) but I can’t fully escape the internet, because my parents and brother bring their phones along. Even though I know my parents need theirs for work, I sometimes feel a bit lonely when everyone around me is on their phone. But still I would never take my phone with me, as long as I don’t have to, because I feel a bit more free and I feel like I can talk and think more fluenlty when taking a break from the internet (which sounds really weird when writing it down). Besides, I have the same “loneliness-issue” when, for example, I’m in school and all my friends are looking at their phones and I simply don’t want to look at mine because there’s nothing important to look at, at that moment.
    Anyway, I can tell you from my experience that it is worth the risk (even though, from your view it might my higher for you) and just leave the internet behind for a bit. Those who do care about your online-content surely won’t forget about you.
    (I apologize for any grammar mistakes, since English isn’t my native language)

    Another Hannah =)

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