For the last decade, I’ve thought about going offline like Paul Miller. Turn off, drop off, tune in to life offline.
I’ve never done it. Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve been fully offline more than a month since 1999. I do periodically unwire. A night out here, a long bike ride there, a long weekend in the woods.
The last time it truly happened for more than 24 hours was in January in Anguilla, where I took long hikes, paddles, swims or went sailing without a connection. (I didn’t attempt a tweet during my kite boarding lesson.) Or last August, up in Cape Cod. Vacation is now virtually defined for me as being offline, without commitments. Before that trip, the last truly offline time was my honeymoon, in Greece, where, again, there was (often) no connection to be had.
I may still choose to share my experience and stay connected while I’m on vacation, or “paid time off,” as my former employer calls it, but doing so was always on my own time, at my own choosing. Each time I disconnect, I’ve learned something valuable about myself, both in terms of the person I’ve always been and the man I’ve become.
I’m glad Paul Miller did this and shared his experience. I think such reflection is important and the insight derived from it has always helped to shape and guide my subsequent choices about using technology.
In particular, his shift to finding other distractions, from games to television, was a reminder that we have agency in our own lives. We can choose whether and how to maintain our relationships, our minds, our bodies and our professional, intellectual or recreational pursuits, whether we’re connected or not.
It’s tempting to blame “the Internet” for poor choices or bad habits — and there are reasons to be cautious about how games or social networks tap into certain innate aspects of human behavior — but my personal experience with the network of networks has been enormously empowering and uplifting.
Your mileage, of course, may vary.
2 responses to “On unwiring”
This may just be confirmation bias speaking, but as i read Miller’s piece and watched the video i found that his experience worked out exactly as i just suspected it would work out. And as that was the case it was easy to identify w/ the travails he found himself confronted with once there’s nobody else in the room except you and yourself.
For me, ore than anything else, the modern era has been defined by the opening of limitless technological possibilities, constrained by the frailties of human physiology, psychology and sociology.
And that’s the frame for my disappointment regarding how business, technology, and engineering fails to appreciate all of the wonders and foibles of what it means to be us, and to get to what really matters, and on the flip sides where the human oriented endeavors, politics, arts and the humanities fail to see the horizons we could explore.
So, i am sympathetic, but ultimately disappointed by things like going cold turkey on the internet as the solution to problems. It feels like a bi-polar and overreaching reaction to much more complicated (and interesting) set of problems.
I hope we’ll have more opportunity to discuss and reflect on *those* problems.
The people I really respect who are also completely wired in seem to have a gift for getting unwired in small increments.
I think it’s less about having large chunks of time free (although you do have to build that in too) and more about focus. While the human brain can’t actually multitask without quality control issues, we can practice focusing intensely on one thing at a time and then quickly move on.