The Blog

Why I'll Never Sign Up to 3G

A few days ago I was in a hotel, about to sit down for a long internet browse, when I realised the WiFi wasn't working...

A few days ago I was in a hotel, about to sit down for a long internet browse, when I realised the WiFi wasn't working.

This was, of course, a disaster. What about all the stuff I was missing? All the emails, Facebook messages, and Twitter notifications? What if somebody was trying to send me a Snapchat? Or tell me about a breaking news story?

I picked up the phone to call reception only to be met by a dialling tone. This wasn't good.

I immediately felt detached, miserable, and out of the loop - a feeling exacerbated by the fact that, by this point, I'd already been internet-free for more than two hours.

I assessed my options: I could either head down to the lobby and use the communal WiFi or I could stay in my room and watch TV while stewing in my lack-of-internet inflicted misery. There was, it seemed, no contest.

However, as I was putting on my shoes I realised something - I didn't necessarily have to go downstairs; in fact, I didn't have to log onto the internet at all. For the past few weeks I'd been increasingly attracted by the idea of a 24-hour digital detox, and this was my opportunity. After all, I was already two hours in, so another 22 couldn't do any harm, could it?

So, instead of using the internet, I sat and watched dubbed Polish TV for the 30 minutes until dinner, and immediately felt a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders.

By dinner, I was already beginning to lose my withdrawal symptoms. Sure, I harboured a vague curiosity about what I was missing, but this mattered far less than it had just half an hour before. After all, I still had my smartphone, and I was still sending text messages and taking photographs, but the absence of push notifications and news feeds was enough to make me feel instantly rejuvenated. Ignorance, it seemed, really was bliss, and the next 22 hours passed without a hitch, or a Twitter update.

And this is why I'll never get 3G. Most people I mention this to are pretty appalled: "How do you know where you are?" they'll say, or "what do you do if you need to book something at the last minute? Like a train? Or a taxi? Or a pizza?"

Of course, downsides do exist. I still remember the time my sat-nav broke on the way to Milton Keynes and I had to ask for directions, like an absolute caveman, or the time I spent a day trying to remember the name of the actor who plays the manservant in Titanic (David Warner, incidentally).

Generally, however, the benefits outweigh the risks. 3G makes self-imposed detoxes far more difficult than WiFi, whereas those without 3G have numerous options.

For instance, one trick is to deliberately set a long, confusing password for the WiFi router, write it down, then hide it somewhere or, better, give it to somebody with strict instructions not to return it for a few hours (and not to lose it). While not ideal, this is still preferable to using aeroplane mode which, in a short lapse of willpower, can be deactivated in seconds.

Still, it's always a good idea to hang around with others with 3G; after all, how else are you going to Shazam that muzak playing in the lift?