Why Are The Most Connected People Taking A Break From The Internet?

“I did, I left the internet for an entire year.” Paul Miller says nervously as he begins his recent TEDxEutropolis talk.

Paul Miller, a reporter for the tech site The Verge, left the internet for a year starting in May 2012. The news was a little shocking at first and, for a technology journalist, it seemed almost impossible. Miller did in fact make it an entire year offline and came back to an expected information overload.

My immediate thoughts of people disconnecting themselves from the internet aren’t ones of awe, they’re ones of Skepticism. Stories like Miller’s or Baratunde Thurston’s, a former writer at The Onion, unplugging for an extended period of time always come off as extreme cases that I don’t need to seriously consider for myself. After listening to Paul Miller talk briefly–roughly 17 minutes–about a few moments and experiences during his disconnected year, however, I didn’t feel like I thought I would, I actually felt conflicted.

Hearing stories about disconnecting from the internet, I try not to ask myself the question, should I unplug? I mean, I couldn’t finish this post without stopping more than 5 times to check email, respond to messages, and follow related and unrelated links. Voluntarily disconnecting might lead to exactly what Miller mentions, loneliness. By disconnecting it feels like I would directly be choosing boredom or even something worse.

At the end of Miller’s talk he doesn’t suggest or even imply that we should all try living without the internet. Doing so would be a huge turn off, instead he shares a seemingly simple, but very tangible way his life is different than it may have been otherwise. It took longer than that internet-less year, but he changed unplugging from something about himself to being about others, hopefully prompting the less intimidating question, could I unplug long enough to connect with someone and make a difference in their life?

 
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