Like everyone else, I find myself regularly tangled up in the world wide web.
While it’s easy to look back longingly at the days before we were addicted to looking at digital devices, it’s also undeniable that the internet has enriched our lives with services that we now take for granted on a daily basis.
I can certainly relate to the millions of frustrated Americans who experienced an online blackout last Wednesday, when Time Warner Cable’s service crashed without warning. That’s because Amy and I have been living without WiFi for the last two months.
“WHAT?” I hear you gasp, clenching your buttocks on the office chair, gripping that computer mouse a little tighter than before. “Why?! How are you surviving?”
I appreciate your sympathy. When we moved into our new flat, we bravely decided to wait a little longer in order to benefit from a super speedy new connection that, apparently, would be installed soon. Weeks later, though, we’re still stuck without internet while our future provider makes sluggish moves towards an installation date.
Needless to say it’s been a rollercoaster of emotion, but we’ve actually become accustomed to the offline life – within the confines of our home, at least. I’ve learned a lot from the experience and want to share my wisdom with you, in case your home router ever fails to emit those glorious waves of internet magic.
Watch your smartphone data usage
It’s tempting to think you can rely on the online data that comes with your smartphone package when WiFi is unavailable, especially if you have access to lightning-fast 4G download speeds.
There are a problems with doing this, though – relying on mobile data for all the heavy duty loading and streaming you’d normally use broadband for means that you’ll burn through your allowance much more quickly.
That’s especially dangerous if you consider tethering (using your phone as a WiFi hotspot for other devices like laptops and tablets). For example, if you decided to watch an hour-long programme on iPlayer via your smartphone data, you might end up ploughing through the majority of your data allowance in one fell swoop.
A useful way to get around this is by downloading programmes when you have WiFi access. We don’t have a TV yet (I know right, no telly AND no internet… what are we, animals?), so for us this has been a good way to ensure that we always have a bit of audiovisual entertainment lined up for evenings and weekends.
Make a local WiFi map
Knowing the local spots where you can rely on speedy, reliable WiFi is essential if you’re an internet addict stuck without a connection in your home.
Make an effort to memorise nearby cafés, bars and other public spaces that offer internet access. Even shops offer WiFi nowadays – we have to give props to John Lewis for providing us with both beautiful homeware and dependable WiFi.
Be sure to connect to WiFi and ensure that it works well before ordering a drink in cafés and bars, or you’ll be rushing through your beverage in order to find somewhere better.
In Cardiff, our favourite hotspots include Gwdihŵ (a quirky owl themed boozer, pronounced “goodyhoo”), Coffee Barker (caffeine plus comfy sofas) and the St David’s Centre (a retail mecca with loads of places to sit for a quick web fix).
Local web genius Neil Cocker made this WiFi map a little while ago, which contains plenty of other cosy connection points in Cardiff. A quick Google could well reveal something similar for your home city, but make sure you take note of the best spots before you’re cut off from the web.
You know those wasted hours at home when you plan on doing lots of useful things online, but end up clicking through some stranger’s profile pictures on Facebook instead? That type of procrastination can still be tempting when you have important stuff to do via public WiFi or a limited data allowance.
Write an online checklist to prevent this – send emails, check your bank account, schedule a happy birthday tweet to your best friend. Just don’t spend hours aimlessly scrolling through social media timelines or watching cat videos while you drain your laptop battery.
You’re bound to feel better when all the important stuff you rely on the internet for is done – then you can get on with enjoying your free time without all the distractions that the online environment curses us with.
Read a classic book, walk somewhere that’s far away, go bowling with your friends. Relive the days before you discovered MSN Messenger, Neopets and MySpace, becoming irreversibly attracted to anything that starts with triple W dot.
Of course, one thing the internet will always be good for quick communication, so if you have any ideas about how to balance online with offline more efficiently, be sure to drop us a friendly comment or tweet.
Image credit: Photo by Jane Drumsara