7 Months Internet Challenge


On 07 January 2023, I decided to put severe restrictions on my ability to browse the internet as an effort to fix my rapidly declining mental health. Although those restrictions were initially planned to only be applied for 3 months, I ended up restricting my access for 7 months. The following is a synopsis of what happened.

Although it was technically two "challenges" taking place back-to-back, I am still going to refer it as a singular thing for simplicity shake.


Trumpet Boy meme edit

I am going to explain the situation that led to this "challenge" in the first place.

Back in 2021, I completed my studies in graphic design. At the end I did an internship at a local graphic design company and this where the trouble started. I have a condition called "hyperacusis" - basically I hear way more sound than everyone else and it fucking hurts.

Although the job of graphic design is not the thing that makes the most sounds in the world, things related to it makes a lot of sound. When I was doing my internship, I realized that most graphic design places would have machines to process the printed stuff (cutting paper, etc). Those make A LOT of sounds.

At first I was not really worried. There were other graphic design places I could apply. Oh boy I was so wrong. Although said places did indeed exist, literally nothing had any open position. Even after going for "generic office job", no one was even willing to interview me. The demand simply was not there. The only real jobs available were manual labor in factories with a lot of sounds, which obviously were not an option for me.

To also add insult to the injury, literally every classmate I went to school with in graphic design got a job. Everyone except me.

Image from Serial Experiment Lain

I eventually just gave up and resigned myself to my fate of being a hikkimori. I was now a total NEET. As such, I was now spending my entire life on the internet.

With time an intense feeling of alienation began to grow. I felt rejected by society, because it was clearly not designed for people with sound sensibility like me. I bought earmuffs had custom earplugs made for me and yet nothing could fix my problem.

Before finishing my studies, I was playing an MMORPG called RuneScape 3. Recent updates (such as the dinosaur island) were slowly steering the game in a direction I did not like. RuneScape 3 is considered the "impure" version of the game for like 70% of the player base.

Since a MMORPG entirely depend on a server to function, this meant that my favorite game was threatened. As a response I made a Discord server called the RuneScape Preservation Unit. I gathered knowledgable people in an attempt to kickstart a preservation effort. It soon became obvious that I was literally the only person that cared about RuneScape was back in 2019-ish. Although I was alone, I was still determined to save my favorite game from the inevitable change that would tarnish it.

After becoming a complete NEET, I started browsing Reddit more frequently. I noticed that the culture of the site started becoming really alien to me. I specifically recall a post where some dude asked how to change the skin color of people via a mod in a local game that he owned. The OP was heavily criticized in the comments. This baffled me, as from my perspective OP was not doing anything wrong since he was not hurting anybody.

I eventually wrote it off as Reddit becoming increasingly toxic and ended up blocking the site entirely. Little did I know that this was only the start of something bigger.

A few weeks later, I started to develop an obsession with "sustainable entertainment". I perceived the creation of art as a problem because it was consuming resources. For example, creating a video game would be "wrong" because it would mean that someone would need to archive it down the line. As a result, any form of consumation started to feel like sinful to me.

In August 2022, I found out about Neocities and Agora Road. I initially was very happy because those communities shared similar value to me and made me feel less alien.

The feeling of being "on the wrong side of history" would however endures. I was constantly being crucified for using Windows 7 and not Linux. This boggled my mind since this was on a forum where people appreciated old things in general. After explaining that I like to write some stories in OpenOffice 2 to entertain myself I was called childish, something that hurt a lot.

Meanwhile in the RuneScape Preservation Unit, an archivist heavily critized me for not using Spotify and having a local library of .mp3 files. This completely boggled my mind. Why were people caring about the technology and methods I was using? I was not hurting anybody.

I started to suspect that there was something inherently wrong with the internet. Upon doing research, I found something curious. Almost no one was ever opposed to the concept of the internet. People always blamed social media and phones. To add fuel to this theory, my house had recently upgraded to modern internet speed. I was really stating to wonder if the speed of information could be detrimental to society.

The thing that broke the camel straw was the announcement of Necromany, a new update for RuneScape 3. This when I realized that my goal of preservation was impossible since the game was ever-changing. This is the exact moment I said "I am done with the internet" and decided to enact draconian measures.


Starting on 07 January 2023 and initially planned to end on 07 April 2023, the rules were as follow:

  • I will NOT use internet on my Win7 computer
  • I will NOT use internet on my Win10 computer
  • I will NOT use internet on my laptop computer
  • I will only use internet on my phone (mainly to check Gmail for important emails)
  • I will not be permitted to use social media without using my real identity
  • Any form of communication used MUST be tied to my real identity.
  • Any download made must be through my phone
  • I am NOT allowed to use the internet on my 3DS/DSI
  • I will NOT use internet on my Switch

As you can see, this was not a complete internet detox by any means. I still allowed me to use the internet on my phone, although I did this sparingly. This might sound like a recipe for disaster, but in my case it worked because virtually all my internet activity was done on my computer and I hated browsing the web on my phone - thus providing a strong deterent.

The main objective was not to connect with anyone anonymously on the internet. Furthermore, I also had two unspoken soft rules I followed:

  • Avoid anything RuneScape related.
  • Avoid anything Genshin Impact related.
  • Avoid the Agora Road
  • Avoid anything that may mentions manpaint
  • Avoid main social media sites (except Facebook)

My thesis was that interacting on the internet was the main problem but that it being "read only" was fine. I essentially wanted to avoid anything that would trigger me or lure me back on the internet. Although those were followed to various degrees, I successfully prevented me from going back.


Bliss.jpg (Default wallpaper of Windows XP)

The early days were very good. I finally felt free from all the alienation. All was well. I had finally reached utopia. That is until I started cleaning my bedroom. Turns out my intense year of internet browsing made me completely neglect it. I learned about mold the hard way. I also found a non-neglible amount of carpet beetle larvae (I advise not to look this up).

Once a basic cleaning was done, I started working on improving my life. I wrote down any negative thoughts I had and made "anathema report" where I would identify things that created the most negativity in my life. It then dawned on me that everyone wants to suppress negativity to some degree and that this was probably the meaning (or rather function) of life.

I found that many of my fears (although not all) disappeared. I notably got the courage to ask a girl out. She rejected me, but curiously enough it did not result in the massive depression episode I was expecting. I was maybe sad for 3 seconds max.


LEGO bricks

I was eventually approached by a relative. The person wanted me to locate to sort a massive pile of LEGO, rapatriating pieces of a given set back into the box they belong to. I initially was like "uhm wtf no that would take forever". Said person however REALLY wanted me to do this and was ready to pay me, so I accepted.

While doing so, it became clear that the whole "Sustainable entertainement" thing was solely caused by me not having a job and thus needing some kid of hobby to fill the void.


Pierro playing chess. Image is from a Genshin Impact story trailer

I finished dealing with the LEGO on 03 April 2023. The time for me to return on the internet was quickly approaching. I felt that this occupation kinda tarnished my experiment, plus I did not feel really healed up yet. I was still dreading negativity very much. As a result, I decided to extend my challenge up to 14 July 2023. On 07 April 2023, I briefly went back on the internet to inform the RuneScape Preservation Unit and Agora Road of my extended departure and then resumed my mostly offline experiment.


Hackerman meme

Now I was completely free to do whatever I want. I briefly became obssesed with the idea of "hardware agnostic security". After some thinking, I concluded that a offline Linux live preview with Virtual Box built-in would be the ultimate way have both absolute security and preservation. So I got to work.

My idea was simple: Modify the Linux Elive live preview to have TrueCrypt pre-installed. My deep dive into UNIX territory became a massive source of negativity. As an avid Windows 7 user, I learned about root acess, Linux filesystems and siglinks the hard way. It seemed that Linux was a sentient thing and was trying to do anything to block my path.

In the end, I managed to sucessfully edit the live preview and create a prototype. The last roadblock was to remake the Linux Elive ISO. This is when I realized my hypocrisy. I was seeking to secure my computer and yet I was still trusting my main machine for everything. I decided to drop the project after realizing the futility of it.


Image is from opening of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The next thing I did was to index the content of my bedroom and scour any archives I could find to learn more about my life. Aside for the rare drawer beetle, this activity was mostly devoid of any negativity, so I enjoyed it a lot. Indeed, it was me being able to fully concentrate on my passion. There, I concluded that the meaning of life was likely to chase after positive things.

While scouring the archives, I found something that absolutely destroyed my hopes for the future. I found a medical paper detailing my autism diagnostic. For unspecified reasons, I was forbidden to live alone and drive cars. My fear of the future was back. I already knew about the car thing to some degree as I believe there is something very wrong with my eyesight, but the fact I would never be able to live alone was news to me.

The reason this was terrifying for me is that the place I live was historically very bad at handling autists. They tended to group the whole spectrum together. When I was a kid, I was once sent to a place with highly dysfunctional autists and it made a huge blow to my self-esteem. Plus, my goal was to eventually live alone as to avoid sounds.


Once the LEGO sorting was over, I found myself having frequent periods of intense boredom. I would often rest on my bed doing nothing, waiting for time to pass. I eventually realized that this was due to my lack of job. As getting an actual job was out of the window for me, I decided that the next thing would be to create a "job emulator".

I eventually came up with something I call "Chinjob". It involves making physical piles of handwritten Chinese characters. This sucessfully solved thr problem of boredom.


Image is from a fan-made Genshin Impact video called Epoch Winter

While scouring the archives, I made sure to write down any important information I could find. I then made a system that generated a timeline of events of notable events. My goal was to understand the causality in my life and to understand wtf went wrong with my life.

After compiling the data, I made a very curious observation. In the past, it appears that any worry I had about the future was suppressed by me making games. As soon as I stopped, I suddenly began worrying about the future. This pattern was observed a couple of times at different places.

Image is from a Genshin Impact story trailer

Upon realizing this, something snapped in my mind. My worries, my fear, my desire, my goals. All those were fake and merely the product of circumstances. My worry of the future instantly dissapeared. It felt like I suddently realized that I was in the Matrix or a lucid dream.

Shortly after this event, I noticed that my nostalgia for RuneScape HD music was gone (I was listening to it often). Now I could barely stand the MIDI music. My face was entered a permanent state analogous to fatigue (which thankfully do not actively make me tired).

Something changed inside me. I was no longer giving a fuck. Not in a "nothing matters" kind of way, but it rather feel like I have become completely detached to reality.


Image is from a Genshin Impact story trailer

Everything is made of signals. Signals have no inherent meaning, only our brains think they have one. There is no such thing as "bad" or "good" because every human is the sum of signals they have encountered before. Even those who engage in in-depth discussion are still shacked by the signals they have been exposed to.

I will never be on the "good" side of history because that would imply there is a "bad" one and there is none. The closest thing to "good" is a democratic interpretation of signals, but even then pursuing the interpretation of others is futile since you are bound to "wrong" anyway.

I now reject the notion of pursuing "happiness" entirely because it is pursuing signals that have assigned by the conditions in which I live in. Any sadness I previously had is long gone since I realized it was all fake.

Do not be mistaken. I am still as bound by the signals as everyone else. It's not because I see the chains that I am free. I am well aware that what I am writing sound edgy AF but I literally do not care anymore.

Society is just a game whose goal is to replicate the interpretation of certain signals as much as possible.

The internet question is now clear to me. It provides humans with a fuckton of signals which amplifies and create interpretations. I was personally just drowning in a sea of negative signal interpretation. Now that I see everything as a massive signal constructs, I cannot take anything resonate with anything anymore.

The best way to win is not to play the game.

Written by manpaint on 20 July 2023.