Disconnecting to Reconnect

You might have noticed my Internet avoidance lately? I’ve been taking some time. I’ve been trying to figure out who I am now versus who I was last year or five years ago. I’ve been doing that “what does it all mean?” thing. That “What’s really important to me?” thing. I’ve been avoiding you folks like the plague.

Oh, and I’ve been writing, building stuff, unbuilding stuff, refurnishing furniture, throwing stuff away, skating, swimming, hiking, learning about different organizations in non-open fields, learning a new language, writing postcards with an actual pen, reading classic novels, going to museums, having lunch, sitting in cafes with friends for like three hours on a Tuesday morning, cooking, philosophizing, traveling, gardening, painting, breathing…

Photo by Ophelia Noor

You know what I’ve learned, like actually internalized in the last couple of months? Life is outside. Offline is a whole different ball of wax, and I think I know why.

In the offline world we allow things to pass us by. We don’t interrupt people’s conversations when we hear someone say something stupid. We don’t inject our opinions or our research into someone elses lunch date. We don’t show up without being invited. We can sit and watch and think and even if we don’t move, other people walk by, they know we exist. We exist.

In the digital space we’re constantly seeking attention, constantly broadcasting.

Look at this thing I wrote, watch my video, what do you think about this or that or the other.

We’re giving attention too, but then we are responding, communicating our thoughts back, sharing our thoughts forward. People judge themselves based on the number of followers, funders, fans. We are defining “success” by measuring ourselves (and others) against our contemporaries. We are always looking for a reason to react. Looking for an input that inspires our output. We’re always asking ourselves not only what we think, but how we should share what we think with our networks.

I think we might be disconnecting ourselves from ourselves.

Out there in the world, while I was away, I started to see the web a little differently. I have been thinking about addictive behavior. My own addiction. I quit cold turkey, and I went through withdrawals. Actual withdrawals from not being involved in my digital networks. Withdrawals from my open community friends. How many people or which specific people commented, retweeted, emailed me – that’s how I was judging my own worth. It’s sad, I haven’t even met many of you physically. I’m admitting to it because I think that this is something that we need to be thinking about when we are teaching people about the web.

I am intending to use again. Is it possible that my addiction can be a healthy relationship instead? Is it possible to teach healthy internet usage? Do we even know what that means? Shouldn’t we be having a conversation about the online versus offline society and the lines we all started crossing since the web came along?

We need to be thinking about what it means to be educated. We should be encouraging people to think while they make. We need to be teaching people how to see what’s right in front of them without having to post it to Instagram first. We need to be injecting a little bit of reality and philosophy into education – and I think that means we need to be teaching the offline stuff too. We need to be reconnecting with nature, reconnecting with ourselves – and I think that going offline for a month once a year might not be enough. I don’t think it’s enough.

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