Midnight Pub

Letting Go of Computers


I have owned computers since I was ten years old, when my dad brought home a genuine IBM PC XT in 1983. They shaped my life and my thinking, even as they shaped the world at large. I loved the magic machines for a good many decades, but now I find much to regret, on both the personal level and in society at large.

I've had to step away from computers, for two reasons. The first is aesthetic. Computing has become a kind of ugly necessity, in which the productive work we do must run in tandem with an endless arms race against corporate and criminal scum. Another firmware vulnerability, another third-party database breach, another search engine rendered useless by AI-generated SEO garbage. The walled gardens get tighter and smaller; the end-user profit squeeze more pronounced.

It's just exhausting to keep track of all the fiscal, personal, and moral hazards extant in using computing devices these days. Preserving some shred of human dignity and autonomy in the digital realm requires more and more technical skill that I simply don't possess and have no interest in acquiring. It's an old refrain, but getting more true by the day: Computers are no fun any more. Why not bow out to the extent possible?

The other reason is very personal: Computers enable and encourage compulsive and unhealthy behaviors in my life.

I got rid of my smartphone years ago for this very reason, but then I transferred that crappy relationship to the desktop. Oh, I tried to 'moderate' the issue. Time- and application-restricting programs. Low-power computers. Good old discipline and self control.

Nothing worked.

Anything Turing-complete in this household will be bent, somehow, to compulsive dopamine hits. Whether it's surfing the net, playing solitaire (as I did when I tried disconnecting the home internet), or even playing freaking Rogue when I was using a terminal-only computer without xserver. Any time my mind started casting about for something to occupy it, well hey, the computer is easy and it's *right there*. Already on, ready and waiting.

It wasn't even pleasureable for more than a few minutes. The web is boring and toxic, and the rewards offered by game-playing have largely leached away, leaving only the compulsion. I would stop, eventually...after an hour or two or three, eyes blurred and burning, another evening gone in which I may or may not have spoken a word to my wife.

It's uncannily like when I would 'unwind' with a drink ofter work, and then wake up at 1 AM with a headache and a dry, rancid mouth and ask myself "why do I do this?" The regret, the earnest promises to do--to be--better that somehow never quite materialize. All exactly the same. This sort of relationship with poisonous indulgences can go on for years, if steps are not taken.

And so, finally, after years of struggle and failure--they have been. The computer is gone.

The key, I think, is to get rid of the accoutrements--the monitors, the keyboards, the cables, the memory sticks and SSDs. It's so easy to say "I have all this stuff, it's a shame I'm not using it. Let me get some $50 box from the used computer store and play around with this or that distro." Well, I've been on that merry go round before. Sunk cost fallacy is real, and real dangerous in situations like this. My friends are hopefully enjoying their new tech peripherals.

There are cravings, as I try to relearn how to be in the world without screens. I eye my wife's iPad, and think about asking her for the passcode. The brain has itches to scratch, and so I must occupy myself...but I also have to be able to be bored. To sit and just let the physical world wash over you, without acute ambition or thoughts of the future--turns out that's a skill one must hone.

I'm writing this in my journal, and my hand is sore. I'm unused to longer-form handwriting. Later, if I decide to post this, I'll transcribe it when I go to the library to check my email. I have a couple of Tails OS USB drives for booting up public computers, as there are still things in modern life for which computer access is regrettably necessary.

I'll still pop into the Pub from time to time. I like all you weirdos, and you've been very patient with my extended digressions.

Maybe I should write a temperance pledge for the computer-afflicted. :)


That's a very brave and a very reasonable decision you took. Many of us spend a lot of time tinkering around tools to avoid the time-devouring digital spaces (bloated web, social networks, etc.). However, the tinkering is as time-consuming as the places it is built to avoid.

Getting rid of the hardware is I think the only real to get out of the spiral.



I think we all need a break from computers every now and again. While I cannot afford to really abandon computers all together I think it's crucial to have hobbies or go outside that don't require computers. It's sooooo easy to get enraged these days and companies just wanna screw users daily.

Best of luck!



i wish i could follow in your respectable footsteps.

maybe not exactly, but closer to 'no computers' than whatever plugged-in nightmare circus i'm currently living in. i could probably get away with just using gps + sms on my phone & lynx + a gemini browser on my netbook... if not for the nature of my remote work.

but i dream of your dream.

and i'd love to see that temperence pledge if you get around to drafting it :-)



Good Morning, ~whiskeyding!

Good luck! May you find pleasurable moments after a while, or may be soon, who knows! I fully agree, that a computer is a TOOL and not a means in itself. I'm dancing close to this cliff myself. At least I do have fairly regular activities not involving computers. So, enjoy riding your bicycle, exploring the neighborhoods again, maybe have a chat with them neighbors?

Cheers! And thanks for letting us know.

~bartender? How far down is that jug of lemonade? Still some available? Good. Would you please be so kind as to fill a bottle for our friend? Thanks so much.



Best of luck. Thanks for taking the time to write about it!



This is hard core approach. Sounds tempting.Thats a change of life style.

I see myself in your story, but didnt go so far.

I tried to dump smart phone twice. Made it to a half a year each time.

Now I am again with two smart phones, ipad and laptop.

Trying to tame it for years.

Locked in that kind of life .. of information and communication.

As majority of people today.

Wishing you good life without computers/ internet.