What happens if you give up the Internet for a year?

Paul Miller chronicles his journey.

And now I’m supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I’m supposed to be enlightened. I’m supposed to be more “real,” now. More perfect.

But instead it’s 8PM and I just woke up. I slept all day, woke with eight voicemails on my phone from friends and coworkers. I went to my coffee shop to consume dinner, the Knicks game, my two newspapers, and a copy of The New Yorker. And now I’m watching Toy Story while I glance occasionally at the blinking cursor in this text document, willing it to write itself, willing it to generate the epiphanies my life has failed to produce.

I didn’t want to meet this Paul at the tail end of my yearlong journey.

Actually, he begins his year more active, productive, focused, and happy. But eventually feels cut off.

The economist’s interpretation: the partial equilibrium (one person cutting out) is negative. The general equilibrium (all cutting out) could be positive. Although I doubt it.

I’m influenced by the sense that Americans had a back patio culture rather than a front porch culture well before the Internet, so offline life is not nearly so interactive even without the Internet.

8 thoughts on “What happens if you give up the Internet for a year?

  1. I’m currently 10 days into my self-imposed six week hiatus from FB, Twitter, and news sites, I still read my RSS feed (hence my seeing this), but I severely trimmed the number of blogs in it. (Even if I wanted to stop using the net entirely, I would have to quit my job.)

    I’m trying instead to read more books, more longer form articles (from actual print magazines). I do think that is working out. Frankly, there’s just not enough news to make even a daily perusal all that necessary, more frequent updates yield very rapidly diminishing returns. But for me news sites seem to be a bit like potato chips, it’s probably easier to just not have any than to try to have only one.

    Instead of whipping out my phone to look at facebook when waiting around, I’ve reverted to my pre-smartphone habit of whipping out a magazine. Not a bad trade off, because as much I like my friends, FB just doesn’t lend itself to hearing the actual interesting things I know they have to say. So I’ll let a stranger say interesting things, then invite my friends out for beers and have an actual conversation.

    The urge to “share” stuff is still really strong, though. And I haven’t entirely succeeded in not doing frequent refreshes. I seem have substituted mlssoccer.com for nytimes.com, which is probably not a good thing, over all.

    Nonetheless, it’s been refreshing, but I’m still not sure the improved focus I was looking for is or will be there. My work productivity enjoyed only a couple of day bounce, I fear.

    But I’m still going to tough it out.

    Anyway, ramble over. Back to work… or mlssoccer.com.

  2. Your line about back patio culture vs. front porch culture is apt.

    I’m reminded of the Michael Moore documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” in which he wanders around Windsor, Canada, checking to see whether homes are locked (as in the U.S.) or unlocked.

    They were all unlocked, and he had to explain to the (bemused but friendly) inhabitants what he was doing this for.

    (It was to show that other places are different, that American home life is more cloistered and less trusting than similar countries elsewhere.)