The Observer: 'I feel more fulfilled without the internet'

This weekend The Observer carried a really interesting article from Jake Davis who was banned from using the Internet because of his activities under the banner of “Internet Feds”, “Anonymous” and “LulzSec“.

If you are a reasonably regular visitor to this blog you’ll know that one of the themes that we return to quite regularly is the impact of modern technology on our brains and information addiction.

Jake has been banned from using the Internet and has been away from a keyboard for 12 months. His observations in the article are very interesting for anyone who spends a lot of their time using technology:

I’m often asked: what is life like without the net? It seems strange that humans have evolved and adapted for thousands of years without this simple connectivity, and now we in modern society struggle to comprehend existence without it. In a word, life is serene. I now find myself reading newspapers as though they weren’t ancient scrolls; entering real shops with real money in order to buy real products, and not wishing to Photoshop a cosmic being of unspeakable horror into every possible social situation. Nothing needs to be captioned or made into an elaborate joke to impress a citizenry whose every emotion is represented by a sequence of keystrokes.

It seems clear that Jake’s life was highly immersed in his Internet world and that removing the connection has allowed him to find a more serene place.

He goes on:

For it is our attention spans that have suffered the most. Our lives are compressed into short, advertisement-like bursts or “tweets”. The constant stream of drivel fills page after page, eating away at our creativity. If hashtags were rice grains, do you know how many starving families we could feed? Neither do I – I can’t Google it.

I’ve noticed this effect in my own attitudes and the attitudes of others. My ability to read for long periods has become severely impaired, and I have to make huge efforts to remove all of the distractions from around me if I’m going to focus on one particular thing.

In conclusion Jake says:

I hope, then, that others in a similar situation may decide to take a short break from the web (perhaps just for a week) and see if similar effects are found. It can’t hurt to try.

I try to make my holidays Internet free, but it’s increasingly difficult, it’s a practice I recommend to others, but see an ever-increasing number of people who find the disconnection too much to cope with.

Many years ago we recognised that using a keyboard too much and in the wrong position gave us RSI. In the UK we responded to this by implementing regular assessments of people’s workplace to try to avoid the physical problems. I wonder whether, in the future, we’ll do the same for the impact on our mental state.

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