Tough living without Web
2-week cutoff for Yahoo users
By SOO YOUN
DAILY NEWS BUSINESS WRITER
September 22, 2004
[photo] David Armstrong with son Massimo rediscovered reading without
use of the Internet.
Imagine being cut off from life as Internet users know it -
communicating, shopping and paying bills. For 28 members of a
Yahoo-sponsored study, two weeks of online withdrawal redefined their lives.
"It was a really hard thing to do. I thought I wasn't that Internet
dependent but I was kind of helpless - like an infant," said
Northwestern University senior Russ Nelson, who took part in the study.
"I got paid $700 - but I earned every penny of it," Nelson told the
Nelson and his fellow guinea pigs were subjects of a behavioral study
testing just how bad it was to do without the Internet for two weeks.
Some used the break to rediscover more traditional lifestyles. One
family went bowling.
David Armstrong from Belmont, Mass., rediscovered reading, but found the
withdrawal so severe, "I can't believe I'm looking forward to getting
spam," he said.
For Nelson, who is used to doing his schoolwork or planning trips
online, the 14 days of withdrawal cost him time and money. For a trip to
Thailand, he had to book tickets, complete loan applications and read up
on vaccines, without using the Net.
"I had no idea how to get plane tickets through a travel agent and look
things up in the newspaper. Just going out and buying a paper is
difficult. I'm not used to paying for goods and services. I'm used to
getting everything for free off the Internet," Nelson said.
Without mapquest.com, Nelson often got lost, having to shell out money
for one bus instead of two, or on taxis instead of public transport.
That's consistent with the other participants in the survey, who found
daily living more costly and time-consuming.
The researchers said buying stamps to pay bills through the mail, not
being able to comparison shop for bigger purchases, calling 411 and
paying airline surcharges for paper tickets added to daily expenses in a
The participants also complained of feeling out of touch with society -
contact with friends disappearing.
Clearly, people do spend a lot of time online. As of August, 158 million
Americans were plugged in - averaging 26 hours online per month,
according to market research firm comScore.com. Now 23 million Americans
bank online, and 60 million Americans use instant messaging. Yahoo said
getting people to participate in the story was difficult - though each
household was offered almost $1,000.
For Josh Weinberger, 32, a freelance editor in Manhattan, it wasn't
nearly enough. He's been without home Internet access for 10 weeks now.
And though he's working on a novel, he said he's keeping his day job at
CRM Magazine for broadband access.
"I don't remember how I did live in the city before I had Internet
access but I must have. I wouldn't go without it for $1,000," Weinberger
Originally published on September 22, 2004