This is a guest post by Geri Butner. Follow her on Twitter @geributner.
Today, the senior editor of a prominent technology blog announced that he is quitting the Internet for an entire year. Paul Miller of The Verge claims an Internet sabbatical has appealed to him for a while, and now he’s making it a reality. My initial thought? Paul Miller is crazy.
As someone who spends a lot of time working with social media and online publications, my heart skips a few beats when I think about not having access to the Internet powers that be. Not only will Paul be blocked from social media sites such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook (hasn’t anyone told him you’re not a real person unless you’re on Facebook?), but he’ll also lack everyday resources that we take for granted, like search engine capabilities and online news.
The fact that Paul is the senior editor at a technology blog only further heightens the impact that his hiatus will have on him, as well as those around him. Social media wouldn’t be social without the hundreds to thousands of people you connect with on them, so imagine the confusion that will be caused when all of Paul’s friends and followers realize they can only reach him by phone or traditional mail. Venturing outside of the confines of how this experiment will affect just Paul, the communication patterns of his family, friends and colleagues will be affected, as well.
With that being said, my second thought was this: maybe Paul Miller is not so crazy. In fact, maybe he’s even onto something here. If Paul is able to complete his self-imposed, Internet-free sentence, then his experience will provide interesting insight into the evolution of modern communication. Questions will be answered, such as: can a person successfully function as a professional in today’s society without the social networking, on-demand information and sharing capabilities of the Internet? Are we so dependent on the Internet that we’ve forgotten how to communicate in more traditional ways?
The Harvard Business Review would even go so far as to ask if the Internet is stifling innovation in communication. “Compared with the staggering changes in everyday life in the first half of the 20th century wrought by electricity, cars, and electronic communication, the digital age has brought relatively minor alterations to how we live,” writes Justin Fox, editorial director. “Electricity is still electricity, and still generated mostly with fossil fuels; cars are better but not all that much better, and still propelled almost entirely by fossil fuels. Only communication has been truly transformed, but is the transformation really as profound as the advent of telegraphs, radio, and TV?”
It does seem that Mr. Fox may have a point here. While the Internet has opened up the floodgates for creativity and an unprecedented exchange of ideas, have we allowed it to distract us from true innovation? Will Paul make discoveries about the ways we communicate and innovate that are possible only after he has released himself from the confines of the Internet? This has yet to be seen, but I, for one, am very interested in what Paul will have to say about modern communication at the year’s end.
What will you want to know about Paul’s Internet-free experience?