It’s late at night on a Thursday. I am parked in my minivan outside my friend’s home using her Wi Fi browser to connect to the internet.(with her permission of course) I am searching for on line resources to help me with the new science curriculum I am teaching. I am also checking my email, connecting with friends and maybe even shopping.
It starts to rain, and I’m getting hot sitting in the parked car. Life would be so much easier if we just had an internet connection in the house! But would it? The decision my husband and I made to not have any internet access in our home or on our phones is often met with surprise and sometimes frustration.
After I finished work on my masters, we discontinued our internet service, as we no longer considered it a necessity, and it was just an unnecessary expense. In that bygone era, about eight years ago, few others considered home internet an absolute necessity either. At one point, when a member of my family was in the hospital for long term treatment we did have internet so that we could skype with him. (Which I never did find satisfying in place of a visit.)
Recently the question came up again. I would be home for extended maternity leave, then I would go back to work as a limudei kodesh and science teacher in a local high school, where the expectation is definitely that all students and faculty have regular web access. Being that our children are enrolled in local yeshivas that either do not promote, or disallow internet use by young children, we would only consider internet that can be blocked and filtered as necessary, and as recommended by many gedolei yisroel. And yet, we decided, No.
We would not sign up for a free trial of optimum online. We would not install a Wi Fi router in our home, although in the short term it would definitely make my life easier.( My husband is a Rebbe, and does not need to use the internet on a regular basis, and my kids are still young enough to not need or want what they don’t have in terms of the internet, so this question mainly concerned myself.)
Why you ask? If I really need the web for work I can feel comfortable with getting a suitable filter and set up internet security, password etc. True. But I much prefer this way. I find the internet completely distracting and enticing. It’s inconvenient that when I want to get pictures from our vacation or hear about a sale at my favorite children’s clothing store, I can’t just go on the web and “accomplish” my school supply shopping or order prints of our pictures. Yet when my kids come home from school, I feel blessed that they are the only people I can easily connect to during those precious afternoon and evening hours. I have left work and my colleagues behind at the work place. I have left the sales behind in the mall. I have left my friends to attend to their own private affairs.
As the evening progresses I hear my husband reviewing pesukim from tehillim with my son. The younger kids are sleeping, my daughter is making her lunch. What can I do before I start the next round of bedtime? Chat with my daughter about her day? Squeeze in a mincha? Fold the laundry? I am thankful that when I have short quiet moments, (and for some reason all my quiet moments are short?!) the web doesn’t grab at me with its enticing pull. I pray that I utilize those moments correctly and more consistently engage in sincere quiet reflection. If I had web access I don’t know that I would resist its pull when I should, and I admire those that do and can. Checking my email quickly, or shopping for “just one thing” is not an option during those moments. That will have to wait until later, perhaps during a lunch break at work or when I am parked in my minivan outside my friend’s home. And when I am hot and tired, suddenly the sales can wait, and my online browsing becomes very to the point. So I get “offline” as quickly as I can and head home.
When I walk through my front door, I am enveloped in the warmth of the home my husband and I strive to carefully maintain. We try to know what is going on in every nook and cranny of the house. No bob on TV is telling my kids information I am unaware of and no “friend” on face book, or blogger, is sharing their unsolicited advice and opinions on a screen in my kitchen. I feel safe. I feel my kids are safe. This is where we can unwind and let our guard down. I know this simplicity is not forever or complete. Our approach will have to adapt as time goes on. It would be naïve to think my children will always be under our watchful eyes. However it is undeniable that limiting internet and TV access certainly adds a tremendous measure of protection to the minds and souls of every member of our family.
It is our hope that these limitations will also reduce distraction and allow us to more consistently and deeply tune into the quiet strivings of those well protected souls. May Hashem answer all of our tefillos for an inspired, prosperous and healthful year for all of klal yisroel.