Man Leaves Internet; Is Still Himself
That headline is basically the summation from Paul Miller, who spent a year offline (on purpose, he wasn’t in jail or anything) and has now posted an article to tell folks what he learned about himself in the process. He’d hoped that being offline would help him get in touch with the “real” him; he found out basically that he was pretty much the same person online and offline. Being off the Internet didn’t make him into a better or purer person, it just made him a dude who didn’t go online.
And, well. Yes. Not terribly surprised about that. The online world can be distracting and alienating, but it is often so because people are often inclined to be distracted and alienated. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, you’ll still be inclined toward distraction and alienation. You could be in a monastery on the slopes of the Himalayas and get distracted by the snowflakes. No satori for you! On the other hand, dude, snowflakes.
That said, I’ll note that I do think it’s fine to get away from the Internet from time to time, to break some default patterns and to just remind one’s self that there are other things one can do with one’s time than just stare into a screen all the time. I took advantage of being on a cruise earlier this year to remove myself entirely from the Internet for a whole week, which was the longest time that I had done that in years. It was pretty great, actually. And when I got back I had changed my online behavior a little bit, which I thought was beneficial as well. On the other hand, I wouldn’t expect at this late date that being away from the online world would change me in any significant way.
I’ll tell you a story. In 1995 — before this whole Internet thing really took off — I went on my honeymoon, and for the entire honeymoon, I did not look at a newspaper or magazine, because, you know, I wanted to focus on this whole honeymoon thing, not what was going on with the rest of the world. And it was great. And on the plane ride back, the dude in the seat in front of me was reading a newspaper and I put a crick in my neck craning to try to read it. Which amused my wife. She had no illusions as to who I was, even then. These days it’s the Internet rather than newspapers/magazines (mostly), but it’s still the same dynamic. I’m still me.
So, again, not entirely surprised by Miller’s epiphany about himself and the Internet. In the end, the Internet is an external thing. If Miller wanted to get in touch with his “real” self, that’s got to be an internal thing, I think.