I'd read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I'd begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was "doing to me," so I could fight back. But the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.
Paul Miller's experiment has been one of the most controversial, derided, and frequently queried topics in recent memory. Some believe the entire notion of leaving the Internet is a contrived and pointless and endeavor. Others believe it was an attention-grabbing and utterly embarrassing piece of year-long link bait.
In my eyes, however, Paul's experiment has been one of the most fascinating and valuable sociological adventures in a very, very long time.
The Internet has become an inextricable portion of our lives. Regardless of where you are or what you do, the fabric of digital information has pervaded virtually every facet of our daily experience. And the desire to understand the ramifications of this reality is irrefutably important.
Paul, as a religious and self-confessed depressive 26-year-old man, took it upon himself to explore those ramifications. It was not easy. It was not natural. And I take sincere offense with the notion that it was purely for attention.
Reading his 'Offline' journals and watching The Verge's concluding video of the experiment, there's a visceral sense of tension and trouble. Paul embarked on something alien and difficult — something that seems so harmless and pointless from our vantage points — and truly tested himself in doing so. He didn't come out unscathed and we won't truly be able to gauge the impact of this for quite some time.
Paul's 'Offline' experiment has been polarizing, but I reside firmly on the side of admiration and appreciation for his — for lack of a better word — sacrifice. He challenged his profession, lifestyle, and, indeed, modern society, and he kept track of all involved.
I cannot shake the feeling that we'll be reflecting on this experiment over the coming years — particularly with the advent of wearable technologies like Google Glass — as one of intense value. Deride 'Offline' if you must, but I choose to regard the experiment — and Paul Miller — with a very sincere sense of respect.
Returning, Paul's first article begins with the simple and humble statement: "I was wrong." It's a poignant confession — one that ought to resonate deeply within all of us.