By Randi Stevenson / Chicago Tribune/TNS
CHICAGO—Living without cable has become the norm in my group of friends. It’s an unnecessary expense, requires hideous cords and you can stream practically everything online anyway.
But my boyfriend and I aren’t online. We don’t have Internet.
This has never been a hardheaded, deliberate choice or some sort of social stand. It just kind of happened.
I had Internet for a while after college, but streaming hadn’t really taken off in 2010, and I never used it for much else. So when I moved to my own place in Chicago in 2013, it just never crossed my mind. My boyfriend didn’t have it at his old place either. So, like two peas in a prehistoric pod, we didn’t get Internet when we moved in together. To be clear, we have a TV that gets old-school antenna channels. I’m a documentary superfan, and he loves Seinfeld reruns. We both have smartphones, so we can check the Cubs score, work e-mail or Mariah Carey’s Instagram account when needed. If we’re feeling crazy, we’ll even rent a movie from Redbox. We’re not exactly living in the Dark Ages.
But that’s not enough for people. Tell someone you don’t have internet, and a barrage of questions follows. “How do you watch shows? How did you start dating without ‘Netflix and chill?’ What do you even do all day?!” Well, our shows usually consist of whatever is on PBS. We had our first date at a bar. And we live our lives. Not in a pretentious, hipster sort of way—in a normal, average, hang out and eat sandwiches sort of way.
We bike along the lakefront. We play Frisbee. We throw beers in a backpack and walk through Lincoln Park. We split a sandwich somewhere. We talk about our days, about our workouts (cringe, judge, I know). I tell him I’m nervous but excited about my brother moving to New York. He tells me it will give us an excuse to visit—and that we should split another sandwich. Then we walk home on a different route. We snuggle into our respective Ikea couches, maybe tune into “Chicago Tonight” and hit the hay.
When he’s alone, he bikes even more often. When I’m alone, I Rollerblade, read books about Vietnam or organize something that I’ve already organized a dozen times.
We live our lives. According to the Census Bureau, 74.4 percent of US households were connected to the internet, as of 2013. Another recent study found that nearly half of US consumers subscribe to a streaming service, and people 14 to 25 value that service more than paid-for TV.
So we’re definitely in the minority.
I couldn’t find a single study that explored whether or not having internet at home was “good” or “bad,” but a girl can dream…
Cue the 500 studies that show walking helps you live longer. Or that watching TV increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And don’t forget the bohemian souls who think electronic waves cause cancer—a theory I don’t buy into but get a chuckle from, regardless.
Do we fit those stats? I don’t know, and I don’t care because I don’t want to get on an internet-less high horse. I realize that people with internet also have lives in the real world. The two things are not mutually exclusive.
But when someone causes a scene because I haven’t seen the latest episode of “Stranger Things,” a little part of me would rather brag about our unconnected existence than defend it.
Sorry, friend, I was really busy enjoying this beautiful city and breathing fresh air and petting every dog I see while hanging out with someone who appreciates sandwiches as much as I do. No, I didn’t see “Stranger Things,” but all that other stuff I did, you know, like out in the real world, that was pretty awesome too.
But I don’t say that. I keep calm and appreciate that my lack of internet is neither glamorous nor traumatic. It just … is.
Image credits: Elena Elisseeva/Dreamstime