For over a week now I have been without internet connection at home due to the usual technical problem that Numericable seem never to find a solution to. It’s not the first time I go into “forced internet detox” and I often wonder about the benefits and pitfalls of being informationless.
Internet detox is actually a three-fold process as it involves:
1) Detox from the internet as a pathology.
2) Detox from information processing.
3) Detox from social media.
I am a Social Media analyst for the European Commission so obviously this rehab process only applies to my free time. I actually sit all day on a desk monitoring, using and engaging in social media so I should better talk about partial detox. Nevertheless, part (if not most) of the remaining hours of my day are usually spent online. Even when I go to the gym or out for a beer I’m keeping an eye on Twitter or Facebook (as sad as it sounds).
Anyway during these few days I really went back to living as if I was in the 90s. I usually listen to music in online streaming and now I’ve had to browse through some old hard disks to find some music to listen to while tiding up my room or cooking. I couldn’t remember the last time I listened to Ten by Pearl Jam, Nirvana’s In Utero or Dream Theatre’s Images and Words. It felt like I had completely forgot about these legendary records. Still, after a while it got boring and I started missing my www.virginradio.com . The same thing applies to movies and TV series. You never expect a sudden internet cut out (unless you live in Belgium) and never think about storing your best movies and shows in case the Apocalypse falls upon us.
On the other hand, one thing I do appreciate is the body-and-mind cleansing deriving from the lack of information processing. Being constantly online also means to be in constant information-gathering-and-elaboration mode. Considering my professional occupation I often realize how much my brains get tired of this and how useful scheduled breaks are. Coming back home and switching off for a while (whenever possible) can only be beneficial. I feel more concentrated, efficient and focused both at work and while doing sports. Information overload is lethal. Regular internet detox is the medicine.
Recently, I read a Forbes’ article entitled “3 reasons to quit Social Media in 2013”. I didn’t agree with most of the piece as I see social media as “the means” rather than “the end”. I think the article was more addressed to those who are on social media just “to be” there. I strongly believe in the benefits that #socmed can bring to people if used sensibly i.e. to create a professional or personal and social network, keep in touch with people far away (especially if you are an expat) and rationalizing your inward and outward information fluxes. Anyway, a short abstention from social media can help you realize how much more “quality time” you can have for yourself instead of wandering around Facebook and browse through your high school mates’ holiday pictures (because we all do it).
However, we eventually bound to realize that there is no other way than having social media embedded in our lives and as part of our social interactions at whatever stage. For the tiniest thing requiring a bit of organization, social media comes and help us and we take for granted that platforms X,Y,Z will help us maintain our social interactions “in real life” too.
It’s good to get out of the “online reality” but it’s even better to learn how to use the internet, in all of its forms and services, at our advantage and not at our disguise.