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Your lifestyle, your quirk
Paul Miller is trying something that will make many of us shudder: he’s going offline for a year. Yup, absolutely no Internet for 12 months. That’s 365 days. That’s 8,760 minutes. That’s…well, you get the point. And if you think he may be cheating by disconnecting his PC but still stealing glances at his Facebook and Twitter on his smartphone, you’re mistaken – he’s ditched his smartphone for a basic phone sans Internet, and he won’t even text (gasp!).
So what’s the deal with this guy? He’s not some sort of hermit living in a cave or a tree; he’s actually a prominent tech reporter for The Verge and will continue to work despite his self-imposed Internet exile.
Let’s get one thing straight: it’s not that he hates the Internet.
"I love the Internet," he told ABC News. "The majority of my waking life, since I was 13 or 14, I have been on the Internet. I have been obsessed with it since we had AOL. I was young enough when I started using the Internet that I didn't understand what life was like before people started using it."
So what prompted the 26-year-old to give up the Net? He began to see it not as a tool, but as a giant set of distractions, and he wants to learn to live without it for a little while. When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so crazy, huh?
For the next year, when he needs to post something to the website that employs him, he will give his editors a thumb drive with his stories saved in offline files (he writes them on his iPad, which he’s now keeping in Airplane mode). Of course, he can’t read the comments or know about the reaction online readers are having to the article. If he needs to look up a phone number, he'll get on the phone and start calling people – who hopefully know people who know the person that he's trying to reach for an interview, since he has no access to professional websites and directories, he said.
If this sounds painfully archaic to you, I’m sure you’re wondering what the point is.
"Since 2005 I have had a job that required me to be on the Internet for at least 12 hours a day. And whatever I would do after work would be on the Internet too," Miller said in a statement that hits pretty close to home for me (and many of you, too, I’m sure).
"But I found it very distracting and I wanted to spend time studying and writing uninterrupted. I wanted to read books that I could have read at any time, but instead I was reading Reddit. I wanted to write things I wanted to write for a long time, but instead I was tweeting."
Part of this year's mission was to learn about other areas and read more. Since ditching the Net in May, Miller has been spending more time in bookstores.
"I just want to know how it's impacting me and the parts of it that might not be good or might not be good for me," Miller said in the interview. "That's why it's an experiment, not an indictment."
It’s pretty ironic that a tech reporter (for an online outlet, no less!) is taking on this social experiment and I, for one, applaud him. I work in the technology industry and can tell you that it would be impossible for me to do my job without the Internet, so I think it’s great that his employer is supporting his decision and allowing him to do his work in a different way (and I’m sure they’re getting a lot of publicity for it, which is to their benefit) – although you have to wonder how many breaking tech stories he’s missing by not surfing the Net.
While we can’t all disconnect ourselves from the wireless world as completely as Miller has, I do think our dependence on technology in general has gotten out of control. According to a market research study from Martin Lindstrom, the buzz of a vibrating phone is now one of the top three "most powerful, affecting sounds" – after a baby giggling and the Intel chime. It might not be such a bad idea to at least take a weekend holiday from the Net every now and then to reconnect with reality (Facebook and email will still be there on Monday, I’m sure).
Miller says he is much more productive, he writes more, and his mind is "less cluttered” – which isn’t surprising!
If you’re considering some moderate web rehab, check out the book Web Rehab: How to Give Up Your Internet Addiction Without Giving up the Internet (and don’t worry; there’s a Kindle edition!).
Would you ever consider quitting the Internet cold turkey?