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Living offline Living offline

Imagine your life without the option of going on the Internet or using your smartphone. Older generations might think:” When I was young, there was no Internet nor did we have cell phones, so yes, it is not that difficult”. But in this society, where everything is happening online, connecting with people is just one touch away. It seems almost impossible, anti-social and insane to be offline for a longer stretch of time. And is it even an option for this generation which grew up with technology? We all think about technology as a good thing, but that is not always the case. The Internet can cause a lot of distress and being connected can make us more distant from the people around us. For example, have you never been frustrated when you’re with friends and someone starts texting, checking Facebook/Foursquare… in the middle of a conversation? So, what would happen if we put the first sentence of this blog to the test?

Een jaar offlineBram van Montfoort is a Dutch journalism student. He is online 24/7 checking his e-mail, visiting Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Spotify… It may sound very familiar to most of us Millennials. In an attempt to get away from his addiction, Bram decided to go offline for a period of one year. He even wrote a book about it: “Eén jaar offline” (Offline for a year). His book is about the difficulties, the problems but also the advantages of being “unplugged” for an entire year (offline). He describes how he got better grades at college, how he traveled, how appointments went all wrong and a lot of other stuff.

Bram is not the only one who wanted to go offline for a longer period. Paul Miller was in the same position as Bram and a lot of other Millennials. The only difference with Bram is that Paul could still use his cell phone to call people, although he would not text or use the Internet on his “new” old Nokia. The reason he went offline was that he found the Internet too stressful and demanding. During his preparation to go offline, he immediately bumped into all the advantages of the Internet that he will have to do without. For example, he was searching for an old Nokia but spent 3 hours looking for it, only to come home disappointed and empty-handed. Using his computer, he found one on eBay in just a few seconds. Pretty ironic!

You may think why for goodness’ sake would one want to be offline for a whole year? A whole year may be slightly exaggerated, but the idea of being completely disconnected from the world might appeal to more people. Just leaving your phone at home or forgetting it might scare some people. But it might actually have some advantages too. The relationships you build when being offline may be much more intimate and more satisfying because you are not distracted constantly.

The following YouTube video illustrates perfectly to what extent people nowadays depend on their smartphone. They use it all the time for all kinds of purposes and sometimes that is very frustrating.

Could this be a new trend? Going offline for shorter periods of time just to do other stuff without being bothered all the time? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

At Pennsylvania’s Longacre summer camp they did an experiment to teach kids how to balance their technology usage with the rest of their life activities. In the first week everybody’s technology gadgets were taken away. The second week they were given back their gadgets and for the first few minutes/hours everyone went crazy. They all checked their social media and were completely obsessed with the gadgets. But after a while, they were getting aware of this extreme use and they began self-policing each other when their music-listening and texting got out of hand. After camp a boy even said: “I’m gonna go home, get an iPhone and not use it as much as everyone else does, but I’m gonna get one”. So you could say the experiment was somewhat successful.

But I still wonder how much more difficult it will be for the next generation to go offline because technology is not stationary, it is advancing and it only gets more and more difficult to go offline. When was the last time you were completely disconnected from the world? 

Posted in Insights