Spending 24 hours without internet: Is it worth it or not?

1 / 2
Saudi youths spend large amounts of time online in a country where mobile usage and internet penetration are nearing 100 percent. (Shutterstock)
2 / 2
Short Url
Updated 04 May 2020

Spending 24 hours without internet: Is it worth it or not?

  • Arab News reporter went off the grid for a day to find out its impact on one’s life and she found it ‘therapeutic’
  • It’s reassuring to know that if the internet goes down, I won’t starve or die of boredom — there’s plenty to do offline

RIYADH: Being a millennial, my first reaction to this assignment was one of skepticism. I, like most people I know, rely on the internet for almost everything, and the idea of functioning without it for a whole day did not thrill me.

Just take Google: “How to freeze egg whites,” “how to get tomato sauce out of a white shirt,” “what’s the difference between white, red, and yellow onions,” and “where can I legally watch The Office in Saudi Arabia” are just one hour’s worth of questions in my search history. (For the record, The Office is streamable on Amazon Prime Video. You’re welcome.)
But for the sake of journalism, I decided to take on the challenge. I spent 24 hours on Wednesday completely internet-free. Here’s how it went.
 
The rules:
Since it was Ramadan, and my sleeping hours were skewed, I decided to observe my internet “fast” from Fajr (dawn) on my day off to Fajr the next day. I disabled my laptop’s internet, turned off Wi-Fi and data services on my phone, and told my friends and family I would be offline for the day. They could call, they could send texts, but WhatsApp, social media, and everything else would be forbidden.
I could do anything I liked for work and entertainment, but using the internet was strictly off-limits. So no social media, no Netflix, and worst of all, no Googling recipes.
 
The cons:
I’ve been watching a sitcom on a binge, The Nanny on Amazon Prime and I had to interrupt my streak.
Then forgetting how much baking soda I was supposed to put in the water while making soft pretzels led to a kitchen catastrophe.
Another blow was not joining my siblings to watch a movie on Netflix. I instead went to the piano and re-enacted Eric Carmen’s 1975 song “All By Myself” even though I don’t play the piano and can’t sing either.


I also had to put off writing an article because I needed the internet for research. Now I’m behind on my workload. That’s not a major con because there’s virtually no chance of catching up to one’s workload in journalism; now I’m just even more behind than usual.
After 24 hours of being offline, I turned data back on and my phone was bombarded by emails, WhatsApp messages, Facebook and Twitter notifications and Instagram likes. I also missed an important work email from someone who can’t have been informed about my assignment.
 
The pros:
Times are tough with coronavirus hanging over all our heads, and working in the news industry makes it especially hard to avoid reading about the developments. Getting a break from all the negativity was incredibly therapeutic, even just for a day.
I’m in the bad habit of collecting cookbooks, but I run to Google as my go-to-guide when I need something. I spent the evening flipping through some of my favorite chefs’ books, including one by the renowned French chef and culinary writer Georges Auguste Escoffier that I’ve owned for more than a year now and have only just cracked open. It inspired me to make sahoor (late dinner before fasting) for my family by cooking the most perfect fluffy omelets I’ve ever made.

HIGHLIGHTS

• During the 24-hour challenge, I was not allowed to use WhatsApp and social media.

• Only calls and text messages were allowed.

• Netflix and other streaming services were strictly forbidden.

• The challenge, however, helped reconnect with old friends and family members.

Another pro was getting to call a few friends I haven’t spoken to in a while. It was really nice to hear their voices and to catch up.
Before my siblings ruthlessly excluded me from movie night, we played Scrabble, sitting around a board. I enjoyed it immensely, even though I lost. Spending less time staring at my screen all day made me sleep better than usual. And as an overworked journalist, I love a bit of sleep every now and then. Okay, a lot of sleep.
 
The verdict:
Detoxing for a day was incredibly comfortable. I would consider it a luxury, maybe once or twice a month, but I would definitely do it again.
Our reliance on the internet is on the heavy side, and social media is both a blessing and a curse — we should always remember that. It’s reassuring to know that if the internet goes down, I won’t starve or die of boredom — there’s plenty to do offline.
I’m considering setting aside one Wednesday every month as an offline day, ensure that everyone I work with is made aware of it, tell all my friends so they don’t bother me, and see what happens. But if I download an episode or two of my favorite shows from Netflix to watch before the detox, don’t tell anyone, okay?


Saudi aerial photographer reveals secrets of AlUla Old Town to global audience

Updated 25 November 2020

Saudi aerial photographer reveals secrets of AlUla Old Town to global audience

  • Use of drones by cameraman brings history to life in one of KSA’s most famous archaeological sites

MAKKAH: A Saudi aerial photographer’s passion for history has won him global acclaim for images revealing the secrets of AlUla Old Town.

Ali Al-Suhaimi’s eye-in-the-sky portrayal of the famous Islamic city has helped to provide a fresh insight into the past lives of the inhabitants of the now deserted settlement.

AlUla Old Town, located in the north of the Kingdom about 20 km from the archaeological site of Mada’in Salih, is seven centuries old and filled with mosques and markets that reflect its beauty and heritage.

Rich in history, the region was an ancient trade station linking the north and south of the peninsula and one of the main stopping-off points for pilgrims traveling between Syria and Makkah.

Al-Suhaimi told Arab News that his inspiration to photograph the area from the air came from his deep-rooted desire to find out more about the country’s ancient civilizations.

“The idea from the onset revolved around simulating the history of AlUla region, which has become one of the most important heritage attractions on a local and international level.

“The location includes stone landmarks and high mountains which set a breathtaking rocky harmony depicted by the drones of aerial photographers.

“It was the place of people who set the link with us on architectural and human levels. 

The region is one of the great forgotten treasures of antiquity. (Social media)

They built a town which bears witness to the magnificence and cultural depth and momentum of its human legacy,” he said. Studies of AlUla’s castles have proved that the site was once a thriving community, Al-Suhaimi added. “Photographing these places in all their detail only adds to my enthusiasm for transmitting images to a world craving for the secrets of these places of old times to be unveiled.”

The high-flying lensman has snapped all of AlUla Old Town’s castles and villages, as well as the castle of Musa bin Nusayr, and the Aja and Salma mountains which rise to 1,000 meters.

By using drones, Al-Suhaimi has been able to get close-up pictures of the houses and buildings that occupy the site. “There are monolithic houses that reflect the depth of relationships that linked those people who fused with each other as if they were one family.”

HIGHLIGHT

AlUla Old Town, located in the north of the Kingdom about 20 km from the archaeological site of Mada’in Salih, is seven centuries old and filled with mosques and markets that reflect its beauty and heritage.

He pointed out that although the houses seemed to be randomly clustered together, they were actually “architectural enigmas” which had been cleverly designed to ensure a smooth flow of air in and around them.

Aerial photographs of the town had also raised questions about how its people had been able to move around from building to building in such a close-knit environment.

Al-Suhaimi said he had gained all the necessary licenses to operate drones in the area. “We were keen on taking pictures and transmitting them to the whole world, as internationally it is one of the most outstanding Islamic cities. Its mud houses are living witnesses that resisted time.”

He added that he had been astonished by the positive global feedback from his photographs of the region. One notable feature of AlUla Old Town is the Tantora sundial. The shadow that it cast was used to mark the beginning of the winter planting season.

“They set stones atop one another so that the shadow would be projected on the tip of the stone once per year, which is evidence of the astronomy legacy of the people of the region,” said Al-Suhaimi.