A year ago, technology writer Paul Miller decided to go off the grid for the sake of his own sanity. Just before midnight on April 30, 2012, Miller shut off his WiFi, got himself a dumb flip phone, and set out to discover all of the wonderful parts of life he had been missing while surfing the web. The best part? The Verge paid him to do it.
While the rest of us were googling "is gmail down? smh," Miller was busy trying to better himself and acclimate himself to life without the Internet. He lost weight, cared about his sister, started his novel, and cried during Les Misérables. Now, a full year later, he's written a lengthy personal essay about his experience.
Without the retreat of a smartphone, I was forced to come out of my shell in difficult social situations. Without constant distraction, I found I was more aware of others in the moment. I couldn't have all my interactions on Twitter anymore; I had to find them in real life. 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.
But then, as he became accustomed to life offline, he began to slip into old habits.
By late 2012, I'd learned how to make a new style of wrong choices off the internet. I abandoned my positive offline habits, and discovered new offline vices. Instead of taking boredom and lack of stimulation and turning them into learning and creativity, I turned toward passive consumption and social retreat.