I never understood Paul Miller’s attempt at breaking away from the Internet for a year, but today, I finally get it. I first thought that he was simply reinforcing what I was doing in the interim between iPhone releases (where I would sell my previous generation iPhone and be forced to use a “dumb phone” before my new phone arrived), but it’s a much bigger concept than that, one that I think many people yearn for but still haven’t discovered a way to completely disconnect.
This week, I managed to break away from my computer. Not for an existential need to find myself, but because I was so preoccupied that I couldn’t allocate the time needed for other activities. I was able to live without being tied to Twitter, AIM, iMessage, anything, and I enjoyed spending that time with physical people and not having to worry about how many tweets had come in, how much stock had changed, or how many followers I’d lost. It was refreshing to have a life that was dependent on things occurring around me instead of actively searching for digital things to consume my time.
I had the chance to live in a world where the Internet was merely a feature and not a world completely controlled by it. Of course, the people I interacted with have probably been on the Internet long enough to have their lives coincide with mine because of it. However, it finally clicked halfway through that Paul Miller had probably taken a break from the Internet for his own personal needs and not solely for an article that would be big news for a week. When I can sit away from computers and not worry about Twitter, I’m able to see things differently. I’m able to build great relationships with the people I converse with everyday. I’ve always called them friends, but the relationship between us now seems stronger and more tangible.
Undoubtedly, there are people who spend time on the Internet and still manage to do all of the activities that I do with the computer on the back-burner, but I wanted to see how much I could diminish the digital filler. I wanted to break away in order to see if lessening my involvement would do me any good. The break was necessary in my life because my life had became a digital screen.
I also decided to take an indefinite break from Twitter because I began to notice how my follower count, relations, and act that I put on to make sure everyone is happy makes me seem like I’m less of what I am. I’m not being fake, but I’m not acting how I want to act. I want the same type of friends that I have in my Twitter followers in real life… that sort of room where everyone in it is your friend, and in that room, everyone knows your name.
When computer screens and relationships contained within 140 characters become the main focus of my life, something is wrong. I started to realize that I have real people in my life, trying to start conversations and get to know me, and I didn’t like how I was leaving them by the wayside. I realized that if I started to abandon these people, 100% of my life would be that digital screen. That screen would become my life, and figures of these people that I’ve known for years would only exist as a semblance of friendship that I’d never know. I decided that the life I had been living needed to pull an entire 180º.
I’m still living this life right now. My connections with Internet folks exist with those people I honestly enjoy talking to, people that I must talk to, and anyone who I need to be in contact with over email. The Internet now has a 10-15% involvement in my life. I don’t post on Twitter much anymore, but I post tons on Facebook because that’s where my real life friends hang out. I don’t need these followers to make myself feel like I’ve done something great when real life is looking me right in the eye.