Technology journalist Paul Miller spoke to Honors College students about the year he spent without any use of the Internet.
Miller, a former journalist for an online technology news media network in New York, gave his talk in the Thad Cochran Center Tuesday. He talked about the life experiences that led to his decision, some of the feelings he had while he was “off the grid” and what he plans to do now.
While without Internet, Miller was able to write a column about his experiences for The Verge, his employer at the time. He said he was getting exhausted and fed up with the Internet and realized it took up a lot of his time. Most of his waking hours were devoted to the Internet in some way.
He thought he would be more productive if he took a break from it. Miller officially went offline on May 1, 2012, and didn’t log back on for a year.
“When I first left the Internet, my first feeling was like this Zen, this calm. The Internet wasn’t the boss of me. I felt like I was 14 years old and no one could tell me what to do. No one could get in touch with me if I didn’t want them to,” Miller said.
For Miller, the first month was the hardest. After that, it just felt normal to him. Two of the biggest feelings he had to overcome were boredom and loneliness.
“You have the ability to connect so quickly and without that ability I found myself trying harder to connect to people,” he said.
Miller took up many hobbies during his time without Internet such as reading books, riding his bike, playing lots of video games and listening to audio books. He still continues some of these hobbies.
He noticed that he was more engaged when speaking to other people. However, he slowly started to fall out of sync with others. When this happened, he stopped making an effort to reach out to others, which left him feeling even more isolated.
While disconnected, Miller noticed people’s behavior in regard to the Internet. He noticed people were always on their phones.
He thought people used the Internet as a way to fill an emptiness that people naturally have inside them. He said it’s not the same with older generations.
Miller spoke of how his parents use the Internet for a few, specific tasks. He said that because we have smartphones that can access the Internet almost anywhere it’s hard not to use them as part of everyday life.
“It’s awesome, but dangerous,” he said.
Miller also said how the Internet has made people crave instant gratification. With the Internet, we can download movies, music and books with just a click. Miller joked that he was sitting in a coffee shop and wished he could’ve clicked to instantly get a refill on his iced coffee instead of walking to the counter and wait for it.
Students in the Honors College had a positive reception of Paul Miller’s story. Madison Ralph, a sophomore special education major, took away a different perspective of how people use the Internet.
“Paul Miller’s account of his experience without Internet can only be described as thought-provoking,” Ralph said. “His response was one I least expected: that our dependence on the Internet has become a necessity.
“The lecture, as a whole, caused each student to reflect inwardly on the way we live our lives and how the Internet truly affects our social interactions,” she added.
Some people don’t see our reliance on the Internet and the technology that allows us to access it as a problem. It is simply the way people live their lives. This is especially true for an emerging generation that has not known much of life without the existence of the Internet.
Ashley Pate, a freshman psychology major, said that she noticed the way people interact face-to-face versus virtually.
“I see people constantly on their phones as they walk around campus, and I know I do it too,” she said. “It’s become a way for us to interact with people without really having to interact with actual people. I admire what he did and even though I would never do it, hearing about it was an eye-opening experience.”
What will Paul Miller do now that he is back on the Internet? For the past few months he has been living in Colorado with his sister-in-law and her three children while his brother is deployed. He plans to write a book about his experience and possibly try to go to college.
Miller said he probably wouldn’t go without Internet for a second time. He missed people, and now he can’t go a weekend without using the Internet.
Read more about Miller’s experience on TheVerge.com.