Take Two for May 2, 2013

How tech writer Paul Miller survived a year without the Internet

Paul Miller

The Verge

Writer Paul Miller went one year without using the Internet. He wrote about his experience for the Verge website.

Think for a moment about all the things you do on your personal electronic devices. You likely search for online reviews of that new neighborhood sushi joint, discover what your friends are up to on Facebook, maybe even find the cheapest plane ticket to New York. 

Now, imagine giving all that technology up. That's what Verge writer Paul Miller did

For an entire year, the tech writer and self-proclaimed Internet addict chose to abstain from going online. That period of internet abstinence ended on May 1. 

Miller joins the show to talk about his experience.

Interview Highlights:

On why he decided to sign off from the Internet for a year:
"A lot of reasons. I was pretty stressed out, I also wanted a large block of free time to read books and sort of educate myself, I never went to school. I got really fed up with it and I felt that if I could quit the Internet, all this noise in my head would die down and I could finally do something productive instead of just click around all day long."

On what it was like to be Internet-free at first:
"It was really wonderful. It was like a zen high, a natural high of just being ecstatic and so peaceful and calm and happy. Even that very night I went home and I listened to records with my roommate. I didn't have pressures or thought that someone could get ahold of me or track me down, or someone needs something from me, or that there's a billion things I'm missing on the Internet, I just couldn't worry about it."

On if he felt Internet withdrawal:
"I don't know if this would be normal for people, but I did not have any withdrawal. I guess because I was so happy at first. There were all sorts of little things, the fact that I get couldn't sucked into the computer so far, I got up and walked around more often and I was more creative, I was reading more. Every once in a while I would have a dream that I had failed and gotten on the Internet, but I woke up and found that that wasn't true."

On what surprised him about the experience:
"The practical stuff wasn't that hard, but it got much more existential. The first few months went great, but then I kind of folded back in on myself and all of the energy I had at the front, I was taking all this boredom that I had and a little bit of isolation and I was taking it to do things creatively, and also taking it to reach out to people and interact with them. It's just a little harder to do that off the Internet, it's a little harder to stay active, it's a little harder to interact with people, so I found myself not doing that after a while and just sitting in my apartment playing video games for a lot of this year, which is really sad to admit, but that's what happened."

On what he learned about boredom:
"When you're on the Internet you never know that you're bored, because before you get actually truly bored, you start clicking on something and you forget about it. You can kind of numb that sensation. Off the Internet I got really, truly bored and I felt it. At first, that would make me do good things, but after a while it became a little painful and not stimulating anymore for me. It became kind of a weight I guess."

On the first thing he did when he signed back on:
"I tweeted "JK" just to mess with people. The thing that I wanted to do the most when I got back was watch this video my little brother and I made back in 2007 and the only copy I had was on Facebook. That was really my priority coming back. In fact, now that I've been back I've been less entranced by the funny cat videos, as great as they are, and more excited to see Instagram photos of my new nephew. That's really what I want to be more about on the Internet, is about connecting with people. The Internet is the best way to do that, outside of sitting in a room with someone, which is not always possible."

On what his email box looked like when he got back online:
"There was a prediction pool at the office, but it was 22,000 emails across three accounts. I am so overwhelmed by the Internet right now, I'm not used to this level of stimulation and I am not even keeping up with what's happening today."

Advice for someone interested in unplugging:
"I would say instead of quitting the Internet, find something you want to do more. If you're about to see an old friend that you haven't seen in a long time, leave your phone at home and spend your time entirely with your friend. There's not much meaning in quitting or avoiding the Internet. It's about the things you want to do more."


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