Paul Miller, an American technology writer for the website The Verge, will try to live a year without the Internet. He started on May 1st 2012 and is now in his third month.
He cannot use the Internet at home or work or anywhere. He cannot ask anyone to use it for him or look over their shoulder. No email, no Web, no Netflix films streamed over the Internet, no smartphones, no computer games that require the Internet (many do to prevent piracy), none of it.
And no text messages either. Strictly speaking they go over the mobile phone network, not the Internet, but he feels they are too much like the Internet.
He will manfully use the telephone, the post office and the library instead. He can still use a computer and a mobile phone but not ones that use the Internet – like it was 1993.
He will continue to write for the Verge but will not be able to see his work after they post it on the Internet – or read and answer comments.
People told him it was “brave” or “insane” or “inspirational” or a “publicity stunt” or “stupid” or “a waste of everyone’s time”. He says:
I know I am most productive when I don’t have the Internet on. I disconnect, I unplug at a coffee shop with no Wi-Fi to get something done. So why not spend a year getting stuff done?
Miller is more Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (1985) than Thoreau’s “Walden” (1854).
Giving up the Internet felt like the last day of school: the same mix of freedom and boredom.
At first he kept reaching for his mobile phone out of habit - only to find there were no emails or tweets or text messages to see.
After a month and a half he no longer missed the Internet and loved his new-found freedom.
Some of the effects so far:
- His handwriting is better – because now he has to write stuff down. He even filled up a whole notebook – a first.
- He talks to people more.
- He gets lonely. His friends talk to each other in cyberspace while he is stuck in meatspace.
- He gets bored. With the Internet there is never a dull moment: there is always some email or tweet coming in, some burning question about pop culture to settle as well as “the endless spectacle of Tumblr or YouTube”.
- He gets lost: No Google Maps!
- He cares less about what is easy to google.
Things he has noticed so far:
- Smartphones cut people off from meatspace.
- Paying bills offline is a pain in the neck!
- Knowledge and learning are less valued. He thinks about the world of the children’s television show “Arthur” (1996- ) where the Internet has not yet taken over, where book learning is still prized because no one can google anything.
- Where to draw the line: The Internet is an endless sideshow world where you lose all sense of proportion. “Hey, look at this!” “Look over here!” And it goes on and on forever.
- Paul Miller: Offline – read about his experiences. A new post every week or so.
- culture shock
- media diet
- The future that was
- William Gibson - coined the word “cyberspace” and understood, better than any other science fiction writer, what a world computer network would mean.
- Tumblr: yet more Internet crack