Who are we without the internet?

By Aimee Whitcroft 02/05/2013


‘I’m Paul Miller and I just spent a year without the internet. Can you tell?’

Paul Miller. Credit: The Verge

Paul Miller – tech writer for The Verge, amongst other things – has just completed a full year ‘without the internet’. On April 30th 2012, at a minute before midnight, he unplugged his ethernet, wi-fi and stopped using his smartphone (he got a ‘dumb’ phone instead).

Why?

As he describes it:

In early 2012 I was 26 years old and burnt out. I wanted a break from modern life — the hamster wheel of an email inbox, the constant flood of WWW information which drowned out my sanity. I wanted to escape.

He wanted to find himself, to see who the “real” Paul Miller was. The results may (or may not, depending on where you fall on the Great Internet Debate Spectrum) surprise you.

I’m not going to spoil it for you – read his full article about the experience, and watch the brief doco he made, over at The Verge. The project was a beautifully designed and written-about experiment in the effect of modern technology on our selfhood and, I hope, you’ll find value in it.

There is one thing I wanted to draw out, though, and it’s this. For years I’ve been trying to point out to people that technologies like the internet aren’t in themselves good or not, con- or destructive. They are _tools_ and, like any tool, it’s how they’re used by their human masters which makes all the difference.  It’s good to see Miller back that up, and highlight the power of the internet as, above all things for many people, a connector.

So, take some time to spend with people in meatspace. Enjoy your online relationships and connections. And next time you find yourself blaming a piece of technology for something you don’t like about yourself or others? Remember it’s not the technology at fault, and use that as an impetus to do something positive 🙂

Something we would all do well to consider as countries around the world (including NZ) wrestle with how best to guide their sociotechnical and scientific progress.