Most of the meaningful relationships in my life are either conducted online or at least started that way. So I’ve never been too keen on the idea of “unplugging.” My life is, very largely, lived online. I may take a break from baseball stuff now and then because that’s my job and everyone needs time off, but I’d no sooner unplug from the Internet in a wholesale fashion than I would unplug from the electrical grid.
Casey Cep’s New Yorker’s article is about people who unplug from their online lives, eschewing Facebook, Twitter and the larger online world in the name of purification or simplification.
Upshot: living online is no less real living than living offline. Our online relationships, exchanges and business dealings are no less real than those in the face-to-face world. And indeed, the online world is in many ways more natural that those who would unplug. It’s where the river of societal advancement has deposited us. Those who would unplug are swimming against the current in many important ways.
And, for the most part, those who unplug quickly come back anyway:
Unplugging from devices doesn’t stop us from experiencing our lives through their lenses, frames, and formats. We are only ever tourists in the land of no technology, our visas valid for a day or a week or a year, and we travel there with the same eyes and ears that we use in our digital homeland. That is why so many of those who unplug return so quickly to speak about their sojourns. The ostentatious announcements of leave-taking (“I’m #digitaldetoxing for a few days, so you won’t see any tweets from me!” “Leaving Facebook for a while to be in the world!”) are inevitably followed by vainglorious returns, excited exclamations having turned into desperate questions (“Sorry to be away from Twitter. #Digitaldetox for three WHOLE days. Miss me?” “Back online. What did I miss?”).
In reality, the argument goes, “the goal isn’t really abstinence but a return to these technologies with a renewed appreciation of how to use them.”
If you need to unplug, OK, do it. But I don’t think most people who do it are doing it for the reasons they think they are. And it’s certainly nothing I’m gonna be doing for any major length of time.