The “No-Input Internet” experiment

The 24-inch iAltar

It’s probably no surprise that a guy with a Web column and almost 10,000 pending Flickr friend requests is kind of into the Internet. (I’ll get around to re-adding you guys someday, I promise!) But I don’t know if it’s simple age, life experience, or brain chemicals that finally made me realize that I don’t actually enjoy random Internet browsing. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Internet — it’s amazing. The potential for discovery of new and awesome photography is revolutionary. The WSJ’s Photo of the Day site alone is one of the most well-curated and amazing collections of photography I’ve ever seen, and it’s just stuff that happened yesterday!

But oh, you tempting hyperlinks. You start off at one really useful page, and it links to another, and then another, and before you know it you’re reading a Wikipedia link about the mating habits of the three-toed sloth.

The problem is, what do you do with extra time, a concept I am barely familiar with in the first place? Let’s face it — before Westerners wasted time on the Internet we weren’t all reading Sarte and doing one-handed push-ups. We were wasting time in front of the TV. So I’m taking a week to experiment. I’ll publish any interesting discoveries or photos I happen to take that I wouldn’t have taken otherwise here. Right now this is coinciding with a workout kick, so I find myself of being in the strange position of getting an urge to go to the gym right after I’ve left the gym. If you see me at a wedding and my arms accidentally rip through my shirt, blame this experiment.

Of course, what does it mean for someone with a Web column and a blog to go off-Internet? Not only do I genuinely enjoy posting, it’s my job. There are couples who can’t wait to see themselves here! So I will treat the Internet only as an output device for a week. I’ll blog, Tweet, update Facebook, check e-mail, but I won’t read the Internet other than basic New York Times headlines.

Experiences begin below:

Day 1:

I checked my e-mail and somehow ended up on before I realized what I was doing. This will be hard not as a matter of will, but simple muscle memory.

Don’t tell my mother, but this is the first time I’ve looked up the closest public library to my new apartment.

The 96th street library seems all about the schoolkids, which is cool but not for me. Plus, unless it was built by the Romans, I’m going to count that as a typo.

Man, I need to do more shoots in the mid-90s stretch of Central Park. Great atmosphere.

(all photos via iPhone. If I post any that aren’t, you’ll know it).

The sun is now setting in a diffused way unlike I’ve ever seen before. It’s like a golden egg yolk smeared on the sky. I think I might get used to this.

Remember how I said I had an impulse to go to the gym right after leaving? A hard Core Comditioning class after a cardio workout cured that. Ow.

Day 2.

A “man-date” at my assistant Brendan’s house saved me from late-night Internet temptation. Man, that guy can cook. Now, I’m buying a newspaper. You’re welcome, dying industry!

On the subway, I sat next to a young woman carrying a giant laminated, wood-backed photo of Magnum P.I.-era Tom Selleck. Even apart from this experiment, one of the things that I have been trying to work on is to let my ability to connect with people and put them at ease drift over into my every day life. It’s hard, since New Yorkers have the biggest “personal walls” you’ve ever seen. If someone says “Hi” to me on the street, I immediately wonder what their angle is. But this isn’t good. What I do is ALL about connecting with people. I should be as open to new experiences as possible in my daily life if I want to add as much of a human touch as possible to my photography. Plus, talking to people very rarely makes your life worse, and often makes it a lot more interesting.

So I asked about Tom Selleck. It was her mother’s, she said. She’d just gotten back from Las Vegas. Both she and her mother venerated Tom, “even though she’s an NRA member.” She had a small tattoo of a wire hanger on her left wrist, so I’d already guessed she wasn’t president of the Young Republicans. We chatted about Magnum PI, about what it’s like to grow up in Las Vegas, about my theory that New York is a theme park for workaholics, hers that Las Vegas is a place for Peter Pans who can’t grow up, and cheerfully parted ways. Because I broke through the bubble, my ride on the J train was a lot more interesting.

It’s amazing how much time, in the era of cloud computing, you can spend just doing productive output on the Internet. All of my wedding information is Web-based at Shoot-Q, my calendar and e-mail are web-based, etc. It makes me feel a lot better — you can probably tell that I’m a highly productive person, or there’s no way I could handle my workload. But I’ve assumed that if I’m at the computer for hours and not processing photos, I must have been wasting time. Well, I’ve been at the computer for a couple hours, know for a fact I haven’t wasted a second of time, and I’ve only processed six photos.

That’s about to change, though. Back to processing.

This project becomes much easier given how horrible Time Warner cable is. I’m uploading photos to my server for a corporate client — not a huge amount — and not only will it take all day, all traffic has crawled to about zero. Why is FIOS not available in one of Manhattan’s busiest neighborhoods?

Dinner is at the diner near my place. Sometimes you just crave omelette. I’m loving the classes I’ve joined at the gym, and not just because 30-1 gender odds are decent for a bachelor. They push you much harder than you tend to do just walking around the gym. I let them go this summer when I was working 100-hour weeks, but it’s good to be back.

Exercise is important for a wedding photographer. Wedding days can be grueling if you work them right and keep moving. This isn’t a studio where all the good stuff is happening infrint of you. Plus, anything you can do to stay healthy is important for a job without sick days.

Day 3:

It is almost impossible to process photos at the computer and not idly click onto online news before I realize what I’m doing. In the past two days whenever I would get the urge I would head out for a walk. Now, the weather is awful. Despite the weather, though, I have an engagement shoot today, so that should break things up.

Obsessive exercise is going pretty well, though I need to stretch more. I can barely lift my left leg at all after two hard classes. Doing Cardio Kickboxing at all means that I have finally given up on my former days as a martial artist. There is nothing in the world you could do that would have a worse effect on your martial arts form than Cardio Kickboxing. You will better learn how to defend yourself by taking a nap on the couch. But it was fun.

Back from gym. I think it’s safe to say that I’m in the best shape of my life now, or at least it looks it. That’s right, two weeks ago I was just in decent shape. Let your hatred flow.

With no convenient library in sight, I caved and bought a book, The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell. I read one page from the middle about Roger Williams’ contemporaries regarding him as a crank, and knew that this book was written for sardonic American Studies majors such as myself. That should stem the temptation.

Days 4-6

I’m counting on these to be easy, since it would be hard to jab a knife’s edge into my schedule. Today had a great client meeting and now an engagement shoot in VERY challenging weather, followed by a social call with some people who were once clients, but are now friends. “Wordy Shipmates” is excellent, if you’re into 17th century English history — and who isn’t, really?

This weekend marks my last two-wedding weekend of the year! What a long, strange, wonderful trip it’s been.

Published by

Ryan Brenizer

I take pictures.

9 thoughts on “The “No-Input Internet” experiment”

  1. Good luck! I know I waste so much time randomly clicking about the internet, not even reading anything interesting. It’s like Facebook>Twitter>Flickr>Gmail>Google Analytics>Google Reader>back to start< And it's become a very subconscious thing too. I might have to join in on the experiment, and also get my butt to the gym.

  2. Are you saying something negative about being interested in the mating habits of the 3 toed sloth? I agree though, I am trying to break myself of my internet addiction a bit. I say as I comment on a blog…

  3. You have done so well to avoid time wasting. There are so many opportunities in this world to take us away from valuable productive activities.

    Your account of the week was very amusing and enjoyable. Made my time wasting more fun.

  4. My wife and I gave up regular tv and have actually loved that we don’t really know what’s going on with commercials or who the latest 15 minute reality star is. As for the internet, that would be a hard change to swallow. I commend you on your efforts. #haitirelief

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