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Offline: day one of life without internet

Offline: day one of life without internet

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Paul Miller describes his first 24 hours away from the internet.

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paul 1020

Dear Diary,

I just spent 24 hours entirely without the internet for the first time I can remember in my adult life.

I think there are two kinds of people who live with technology constantly in their face: people who freak out when they're forcefully separated from their devices or connectivity, as if their arm has been cut off, and people who feel really chill when they're forcefully separated from their devices or connectivity, as if they've been let out of prison. I've spoken to many of both kinds as I've prepared for leaving the internet, and thankfully I fall in the latter camp.

I've lost my phone for weeks at a time before (in my pre-iPhone days), and let my current dumbphone run out of charge numerous times, and I always feel at peace knowing nobody can call me and demand anything of me. I know it's really frustrating for people who do want to reach me, and I'm always in danger of missing out on a party or failing to make a rendezvous, but overall I feel like it's a positive.

I felt like school was out for the summer

The moment I reached down and unplugged the ethernet cable from my computer, I felt like school was out for the summer, and the simultaneous relief and boredom that last bell brings. I stood up, and I realized that I'd been anticipating this moment for ages, but for some reason I hadn't made any plans. It was a stark contrast to the hectic day I'd just experienced, which had culminated in a 3-hour, ultra-insane livestream of myself playing StarCraft and Minecraft simultaneously while Skyping with friends and playing jams in Turntable.fm.

I stood up, stretched, and then played local-multiplayer video games in the office for a couple hours, naturally. All that was missing was a beanbag and string cheese and I would've been 12 again.

To get my PC rig home I took a cab. Since Jordan, one of our video producers, was following me with a camera, recording this momentous evening, my cab driver asked me what we were shooting.

"Oh, I'm leaving the internet for a year," I said.

"Why?" he asked.

It was a good question, and he didn't seem to find my answer very interesting. Our conversation ended there.

I deleted the app, tweets unseen

At home I listened to records with my roommate and the peaceful boredom continued. I found myself really engaging in the moment, asking questions and listening closely, even more than if I'd just closed my computer or locked my phone, because I knew neither of those things could demand anything of me. Not tonight, and not for another 364 nights.

My first major temptation came the next morning, when I pulled out my iPad. I had forgotten to turn my iPad's Wi-Fi off for about five minutes after midnight, so I knew there were post-disconnect tweets cached on there. They'd be about me. They would stoke my ego, or maybe deflate it. I was very curious.

I deleted the app, tweets unseen. In fact, I've been keeping my internet-reliant apps in a folder on my iPad, so I deleted all of those. Twitch.tv: I'll miss you most of all.

I went into the office a couple times for various errands, and heard snippets of news, but didn't stay long. I'll let the second-hand information stream start some other day. I heard something about a "BlackBerry 10" and something about Diet Coke that I plan on searching for in the next issue of my daily paper. More interesting to me was hearing Joshua Kopstein talk about some of his first-hand experiences that day with the Occupy Wall Street crowd. I guess I'm a bit of a first-hand fanboy right now.

It's almost intimidating to have someone be that attentive to you

I spent much of the day catching up with a friend from out of town. He's actually a major authority on limiting phone-based distraction. He doesn't text, and his phone is often off. While I had to field a bunch of calls the whole time we were hanging out, he wasn't interrupted a single time by any of his gadgets. It's almost intimidating to have someone be that attentive to you.

The whole day was really refreshing. All my internet-based social engagement the day before had been about how what I was doing was "brave" or "insane" or "inspirational" or a "publicity stunt" or "stupid" or "a waste of everyone's time," as if I was planning on going on a hunger strike or basejumping off the Empire State Building. But while hanging out with a fellow Luddite, it felt like my undertaking is the perfectly natural thing.

I haven't settled into a rhythm yet. In fact, I haven't even made a new schedule for myself. I've done a little writing, a little reading, and a lot of chilling. I don't really know what the next days and weeks are going to look like. All I know is that so far I'm loving it.

Paul Miller will regularly be posting dispatches from the disconnected world on The Verge during his year away from the internet. He won't be reading your comments, but he'll be here in spirit.

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