May 1, 2013

The Verge

Tech writer Paul Miller’s dreams of an analogue existence during his year away from the Internet didn’t come true: “I just didn’t really do much of that,” he says about going to the library and using the post office.

He planned to leave reporting altogether, feeling like “there’s always more and more news to cover,” as he says in a video about his experiment. But instead of feeling free, he writes in an essay, he became something of a hermit: “Instead of taking boredom and lack of stimulation and turning them into learning and creativity, I turned toward passive consumption and social retreat.”

A year in, I don’t ride my bike so much. My frisbee gathers dust. Most weeks I don’t go out with people even once. My favorite place is the couch. I prop my feet up on the coffee table, play a video game, and listen to an audiobook. I pick a mindless game, like Borderlands 2 or Skate 3, and absently thumb the sticks through the game-world while my mind rests on the audiobook, or maybe just on nothing.

A spiritual journey that included a visit to Polygon’s Managing Editor Justin McElroy’s house helped convinced him “there’s only so much navel-gazing that one guy can do, and, you know, there’s people in the world with real problems other than that they use Reddit too much.”

Miller — who plugged back in Tuesday night live, on the Internet — shared one other lesson from the year: “My problems were much more internal than external.”

Another benefit, from Miller’s essay:

My sister, who has dealt with the frustration of trying to talk to me while I’m half listening, half computing for her entire life, loves the way I talk to her now. She says I’m less detached emotionally, more concerned with her well-being — less of a jerk, basically.

Google engineer Matt Cutts spent a month away from news last year, an experience he described halfway through as “curiously freeing.”

Last February, Pew surveyed Internet experts and others about the longterm effects on millennials of being always on. A little more than half the respondents …

“…said many of the young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web and counting on the internet as their external brain will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in key respects.”

At the same time, these experts predicted that the impact of networked living on today’s young will drive them to thirst for instant gratification, settle for quick choices, and lack patience.

Miller has tweeted vigorously since he plugged back in, and has shared his plans for the rest of Wednesday.


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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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