Link: Back online after a year without the internet

Here’s the story of a guy that leaves the internet for a year in order to solve all his problems:

“I’d read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I’d begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was “doing to me,” so I could fight back.”

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work:

“As it turned out, a dozen letters a week could prove to be as overwhelming as a hundred emails a day. And that was the way it went in most aspects of my life. A good book took motivation to read, whether I had the internet as an alternative or not. Leaving the house to hang out with people took just as much courage as it ever did.

By late 2012, I’d learned how to make a new style of wrong choices off the internet. I abandoned my positive offline habits, and discovered new offline vices. Instead of taking boredom and lack of stimulation and turning them into learning and creativity, I turned toward passive consumption and social retreat.”

This story is a great example of how a few blinded ideologists can distort our perception. Whether they sustain that the web is the ultimate evil or our last hope for salvation, we have to understand this: Their shrill voices are overrepresented in the media, simply because they are being quoted by anybody who needs an “expert” to support his case. Any case, really. But media exposure ≠ truth.

From a personal sovereignty perspective, this is a good lesson: We all should remember to do some good research before jumping to conclusions. Our own research, specifically.1

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As for the web, I’d say it’s a task for each of us to learn how to use it wisely and in a self-directed manner. In recent months, I have made great experiences with blocking web access for several hours a day, especially in the morning. This allows me to focus on more important matters when starting the day.

Currently, I will normally be offline from 11pm to 11am, and then some hours during the day as well. SelfControl.app helps with this. As does living without a smartphone, as Milo correctly pointed out to me in Oslo.

Cutting it off altogether? No way! From the conclusions of the article quoted above:

But the internet isn’t an individual pursuit, it’s something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.

Well said. And that’s by far the best reason to be here.

  1. Also, a great reminder that life is seldom black-and-white. It’s the shades of grey that matter, not just in dubious bestselling book titles! []

Comments 6

  1. mary May 6, 2013

    so agree! I find the more interesting I make my off line life the less I want to spend time dititally but I’ve made amazing connections and friends through it I certainly don’t want to cut myself off.

    • Fabian May 6, 2013

      Thanks, Mary! And cheers for spending time offline to do photowalks, as reflected in your blog! :)

  2. Greg May 6, 2013

    The digital vs. analog distinction referred to in the original article is one manifestation of bigger underlying issues. Personal sovereignty is one, but there are also insidious forces at work, such as marketing delivered through mass and social media. Perhaps, I should qualify that as poor or unethical marketing practices.

    Many web site and blogs utilize marketing techniques and forms to convey and construct a “need” for the reader to take an action, such as clicking on a “buy” button or to sign up for a list. If such actions align with a reader’s values and goals, that’s fine. However, if they run counter to those values, then they create anxiety. In either case, nurturing self-awareness seems to be a critical ingredient in fostering personal sovereignty.

    BTW, you mentioned in Beyond Rules that writing a book about helping people become marketing proof might be an idea for a future book. I hope you will write that one, especially if you can share your thoughts on the proper or acceptable role of marketing within a friendly business.

    • Fabian May 6, 2013

      I’ve got a lot of material gathered for that one, Greg. You’re right that it’s an important topic. Maybe the reason why I’m still hesistant to write the book is that I would like to experiment more by myself.

      I find myself in a position now where I will be relying on income generated through my blog, so marketing will be a necessity. At the same time, I decidedly *don’t* want to become just another marketing asshole.

      So there’s quite a task in front of me, I guess. Finding the balance between marketing and value is certainly an integral part in building a friendly business.

  3. Milo May 8, 2013

    For me this was a missed opportunity. I think he quickly discovered that the internet wasn’t his real problem – it was internal. This was similar to me when I gave up drink, as I soon realised that although I had escaped hangovers I could still feel terrible on a regular basis because I didn’t have good habits, full stop.

    Yet Paul didn’t seem to go any further than that, replacing the internet with video games instead of finding something more positive..I get the impression he hasn’t really learnt anything about himself.

    In my case meditation and exercise were the things that really helped me feel better, not giving up drink. But I probably wouldn’t have taken up, and more importantly stuck to those new habits if I hadn’t first given up one that was holding me back…

    • Fabian May 8, 2013

      I agree with you, Milo. The article was in many ways a disappointment. No attack on the author, as we’re all mere human beings. But I also think that this year could have probably led to some other insights if he had decided to investigate the issue further, be it on his own behalf or for his employer. The lesson you describe is probably somewhat related to “replacement habits”, right? It’s not (always) enough to give up a bad habit, but to replace them with something positive.

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