31 May, 2012

I often view myself as a connected individual. I have a smartphone, Internet access, and various social media and communications accounts. I respond to emails, chats, messages on Facebook… the works. I buy things online, and pay most of my bills online. And, occasionally, I take a break from it all. But sometimes I imagine a time before the Internet and how things used to get done.

Paul Miller of The Verge has done exactly that. For a year, he cannot use the Internet, or any feature of the Internet, and his journal entries give us a peek into his experience with this. It’s an intriguing thing he’s doing, considering he has grown with and relies heavily upon the Internet, even more so than myself. He has to find alternate sources for news, entertainment, and knowledge, not to mention having to pay bills and contact people using “old fashioned” methods.

Some of the things he mentions having issues with, like figuring out a news paper, breaking the habit of checking his phone, being unable to find answers quickly, and paying bills via phone and mail, I noticed something about myself – while highly connected, using some of the latest technology, I tend to be old-fashioned at times. I read the news paper, despite it having an online digital copy. I pay some of my bills via mail, and up until recently, in person (I’ve since bothered to pay my utilities and Internet online). I prefer to make phone calls at work rather than send emails. These are things that I find normal that Paul, on his journey, finds difficult or frightful.

And yet, I fall into the same pitfalls he does. He talks about some of the old habits he has regarding his devices (as he’s allowed to have them, just not online). Even when there is nothing to do on them, he will pull out his phone and push buttons. He will have his iPad and laptop out, looking at apps, not really doing anything. And honestly, I do the same things sometimes. I’ll pull my phone out when everybody else does, and even if my social networks have nothing new, and twitter bores me, I’ll look at those things, because everybody else is. That’s one habit I’m trying to kill, trying not to pull it out in social situations or just out of habit.

I can waste hours online, doing up the social media sites, checking the news, and doing things. But sometimes, I find comfort that newspaper, prefer to write that check, love hear and see people, and would rather not be distracted by electronics in social situations. As the world moves forward, we can’t forget why these technologies exist, and the people on the other side of that Facebook post or tweet.