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The GOOD "Unplug at 8" Wrap-Up: We're Addicted to the Internet

We came, we tried to get off the internet at a reasonable hour, we failed.

Another month, another completed GOOD 30-Day Challenge, and this one was perhaps the hardest yet. Throughout August we asked you to protect your sanity and your relationships by getting off the internet at 8 p.m. every weeknight. It seemed like a tall order, especially after we asked the GOOD community if they were addicted to the web and many of them responded in the affirmative. In our offices, too, where being online is a huge part of our jobs, the sense of addiction was palpable.

So, what did 30 days of avoiding the internet teach us? Would you hate us if we said we didn't know?

Indeed, despite the fact that we know internet addiction is a real affliction, despite the fact that we know smartphones are constantly used rudely, despite the fact that GOOD readers and staffers have admitted to being online for literally half the day, despite all that, we just couldn't find it within ourselves to let go.

Our reasons for failure are threefold:

  • Work—Our jobs, like many other people's, require us to be online during for most of the day. You can't publish articles online without the internet, nor can you send emails to sources or clients or off-site editors. Once we leave the office we're stuck checking email at dinner to make sure stories are in or important questions are answered. The fact of the matter is that we need the internet to do business, and with so much business bleeding into personal life these days—consider the meteoric rise in home offices—getting offline when you go home simply isn't an option for a lot of us.
  • Smartphones—Now that we're all carrying computers in our pockets, checking email, Twitter, or the game score has never been easier. In the old days, getting online and offline via a modem was a pain. Avoiding the internet would have been easier back then. Nowadays you carry it with you at all times, making your email literally inescapable.
  • Convenience—There's no getting around the fact that computers make life easier. Asking people to get offline at 8 p.m. means asking them to not use Google Maps to find directions to a party or Yelp to pick a restaurant. It means sending them to a tangible newspaper to get movie times and to the phone book for the number to a hardware store. Some people don't even receive phone books anymore! What makes the internet simultaneously so great and so awful is its ease of use: It's made life eminently simpler, but it's also created a generation of people who rely on it to solve practically everything at all times of day.
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We'd imagine your war stories from this month are similar to ours. Be sure to leave them in the comments or, if you're so inclined, via Twitter with the hashtag #30DaysofGOOD. We'll be checking both past 8 p.m. tonight, just as we always were.

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