Imagine banning yourself from the internet for a whole year. Could you do it? Paul Miller decided that he needed to learn who he was away from the internet and distractions that are bundled with being online and decided that unplugging himself from the web world would be the way to go.
This is the second time I have watched Paul Miller’s ted talk, “A year offline, what have I learnt.” The first time I watched it I remember being pretty disappointed. I was expecting to hear a TED talk littered with profound nuggets of wisdom that could only be learnt from spending a year disconnected from the grasps of the digital world. I expected to see a changed-man beckoning for us all to join him in this post-digital movement. A new reality that offers liberation from notification beeps and instant messaging. I expected him to be giddy with excitement and enthusiasm for his new lifestyle. This was not the reality that Paul presented.
Okay so thats not entirely true. In the first few months of Paul’s break from the internet he did notice changes. His attention span increased and he was able to live in the moment and found himself having deep meaningful conversations with his friends and family without the interruption from notification beeps – all good things, but after a few months he noticed something else, he was also missing out on all the good stuff that happens from being online. He missed hanging out on Skype with his niece who lived in another state and he was drifting away from his social circle who kept in touch and made plans online. He was also bored. Really bored. Paul says that boredom is awesome if you do something with it but not if you spend hours playing video games.
Why this matters
The second time I watched Paul’s Ted talk I understood why his year long project didn’t have the outcome that he had hoped for. We live in a connected world, trying to disconnect from it also disconnects us from each other. Landlines and snail mail have been replaced with cell phones, Skype and email. We need to embrace it but in a balanced way. That could mean setting boundaries on the amount of time you spend online or even having a web-free day on a regular basis.
It also comes down to balance and learning to be present in the moment to the people around us. On day 63 I published a post about how mobile-phones are making us antisocial to the people standing right next to us. Personally this is the biggest drawback of the digital world. I find it crazy that people meet up and have lunch but spend most of that precious time starting down at a phone screen.
The internet is not going anywhere. We need to learn to embrace all the good stuff but we also need to be aware that it’s just one part of our life.
Have you ever taken an extended break from the internet? What happened? I’d love to hear about it in the comment box below.