I just spent 24 hours entirely without the internet for the first time I can remember in my adult life.
I think there are two kinds of people who live with technology constantly in their face: people who freak out when they're forcefully separated from their devices or connectivity, as if their arm has been cut off, and people who feel really chill when they're forcefully separated from their devices or connectivity, as if they've been let out of prison. I've spoken to many of both kinds as I've prepared for leaving the internet, and thankfully I fall in the latter camp.
I've lost my phone for weeks at a time before (in my pre-iPhone days), and let my current dumbphone run out of charge numerous times, and I always feel at peace knowing nobody can call me and demand anything of me. I know it's really frustrating for people who do want to reach me, and I'm always in danger of missing out on a party or failing to make a rendezvous, but overall I feel like it's a positive.
The moment I reached down and unplugged the ethernet cable from my computer, I felt like school was out for the summer, and the simultaneous relief and boredom that last bell brings. I stood up, and I realized that I'd been anticipating this moment for ages, but for some reason I hadn't made any plans. It was a stark contrast to the hectic day I'd just experienced, which had culminated in a 3-hour, ultra-insane livestream of myself playing StarCraft and Minecraft simultaneously while Skyping with friends and playing jams in Turntable.fm.
I stood up, stretched, and then played local-multiplayer video games in the office for a couple hours, naturally. All that was missing was a beanbag and string cheese and I would've been 12 again.
To get my PC rig home I took a cab. Since Jordan, one of our video producers, was following me with a camera, recording this momentous evening, my cab driver asked me what we were shooting.
"Oh, I'm leaving the internet for a year," I said.
"Why?" he asked.
It was a good question, and he didn't seem to find my answer very interesting. Our conversation ended there.
At home I listened to records with my roommate and the peaceful boredom continued. I found myself really engaging in the moment, asking questions and listening closely, even more than if I'd just closed my computer or locked my phone, because I knew neither of those things could demand anything of me. Not tonight, and not for another 364 nights.
My first major temptation came the next morning, when I pulled out my iPad. I had forgotten to turn my iPad's Wi-Fi off for about five minutes after midnight, so I knew there were post-disconnect tweets cached on there. They'd be about me. They would stoke my ego, or maybe deflate it. I was very curious.
I deleted the app, tweets unseen. In fact, I've been keeping my internet-reliant apps in a folder on my iPad, so I deleted all of those. Twitch.tv: I'll miss you most of all.
I went into the office a couple times for various errands, and heard snippets of news, but didn't stay long. I'll let the second-hand information stream start some other day. I heard something about a "BlackBerry 10" and something about Diet Coke that I plan on searching for in the next issue of my daily paper. More interesting to me was hearing Joshua Kopstein talk about some of his first-hand experiences that day with the Occupy Wall Street crowd. I guess I'm a bit of a first-hand fanboy right now.
I spent much of the day catching up with a friend from out of town. He's actually a major authority on limiting phone-based distraction. He doesn't text, and his phone is often off. While I had to field a bunch of calls the whole time we were hanging out, he wasn't interrupted a single time by any of his gadgets. It's almost intimidating to have someone be that attentive to you.
The whole day was really refreshing. All my internet-based social engagement the day before had been about how what I was doing was "brave" or "insane" or "inspirational" or a "publicity stunt" or "stupid" or "a waste of everyone's time," as if I was planning on going on a hunger strike or basejumping off the Empire State Building. But while hanging out with a fellow Luddite, it felt like my undertaking is the perfectly natural thing.
I haven't settled into a rhythm yet. In fact, I haven't even made a new schedule for myself. I've done a little writing, a little reading, and a lot of chilling. I don't really know what the next days and weeks are going to look like. All I know is that so far I'm loving it.
Paul Miller will regularly be posting dispatches from the disconnected world on The Verge during his year away from the internet. He won't be reading your comments, but he'll be here in spirit.
In this Storystream
Paul Miller: OfflineView all 37 stories
It is a challenge that would send shivers down most children's spines.
Could they go a whole month without watching TV, surfing the internet or playing video games?
Almost unthinkably, this means no Ben 10 or Hannah Montana on the box, no chatting online on Bebo and no more Super Mario on the Wii.
A brave group of youngsters from Colchester Karate Academy in Essex decided to take up the challenge. The children, who even had to switch off their mobile phones, each kept a diary of their experience.
So how did they get on? And how did their mums and dads cope?
BETH LAWRENCE-SKITCH, 1: DVD FOR MY BIRTHDAY BUT I CAN'T WATCH IT!
I don't think it's going to be that bad without TV. Daddy took me to the park today, and after that I helped my mum make dinner.
Oh dear, I'm bored. I told mum so she took me on a long walk through the woods with the dog. She said if I was desperate for something to do I could tidy my room. I played with my brothers Quinn and Hugh instead.
I had to go shopping with mum today. Afterwards I went to the park and played a game with my brothers. We were adventurers and played a game with brothers. We were adventurers and had to watch out for baddies.
I went to granny's today. I didn't feel very well and I wanted to cuddle up on the sofa with a film but I couldn't. Mum read me a story instead which was really nice. I miss family film night.
I helped my mum tidy up today. It was a bit boring but then I went to gymnastics and I love gymnastics! I've been so busy I haven't even thought about TV or video games.
I didn't do much this morning. It would be nice to watch telly but mum says I should stick with the challenge as I'm doing so well. We went to granny's house and then the park.
19 I've had a boring day. I had to go shopping with mum and then I had to tidy my room. Wish I could have played on my DS! Oh well, it's my birthday in a few days' time!
I went to granny's and I built a den with my brothers out of grandpa's wood. It was really cool. Mum gave me some biscuits and drinks and I had them in the den.
Today was my birthday and my friends came over to play and we had cakes. I got a DVD and some games for my DS but I'm not allowed to watch them or play them! I really wanted to watch the film. I can't wait for the challenge to be over.
I went to granny's and I played Jenga with everyone. I won twice!
I've been practising on the piano today. I'm getting really good. I went to granny's and played at the park. The challenge is over at last and I'm going to play the game I got for my birthday!
Mum Zoe Says: "I'm very pleased that they have all done this challenge because it's been good for them to find other things to entertain themselves.
"When it was over the children were very keen to get back on their games, but now things have settled they still want to go to the park more than they used to.
"I hope they continue to remember the fun they've had once the winter is over and keep getting the extra fresh air - they sleep much better for it!"
ROWAN SCOTT, 10: IT WILL BE HORRIBLE
No TV or electronic games for a month! It'll be horrible! We played Roulette and snakes and ladders. I'd get bored if I played them every day!
It's rainin g, and I'm bored. Me and my brothers got our LEGO from the garage. I wish I could go online to look for spare pieces.
We drove to Southend to visit some of my stepmum's friends. I missed my DS on the long car journey.
Went to the library. I haven't done so much reading for ages. I think I'll try to read more, even when I go back to surfing the net and playing video games.
Me and my brothers went to stay with my dad. I normally play on the internet but we played Monopoly and Cranium instead.
We made up our own game of Harry Potter and made our own wands. My mum thought it was funny as we're normally in my room playing Harry Potter on the computer!
We went to the forest. I made some stickbread by putting dough on a stick and cooking it over a fire.
Went shopping and bought a pumpkin, then carved it into a face.
Stayed at Colchester Zoo until closing. I can't believe it's been a month since I've watched TV or been on the internet. It's been more fun than I expected. Need to find my DS, I forgot where I put it!
STEP MUM LANDI FOURIE SAYS:
"They were dreading it, but they found it easier than they'd expected. I found my children were much calmer and easier to put to bed at night."
HAMISH LUCAS, 9: ONLY A FEW HOURS IN... AND I'M BORED
It's only been a few hours and I'm bored! It was strange, I didn't know what to do, but I started reading a book called Zero End and I really got into it.
Went to Cubs and all my friends were talking about what they saw on TV yesterday. When I told them I was going without TV or video games for a month they thought I was crazy.
I think mum and dad are getting fed up with me and my sister Imogen complaining that we're bored! Went to a Connect afternoon where we had to build something out of Meccano. I built a helicopter and it was so good they took a picture of it to put on the website.
I've been practising my karate moves as I have a grading day as I have a grading on Saturday.
I did really well in karate and went up a grade!
I wanted to play on the Wii but cooked a banana cake instead.
Went out cycling with dad then went shopping with mum and bought a present for dad. We decorated a T-shirt - it was fun.
Dad says the games I play on the Wii are better in real life, so he took me skateboarding. It was fun. We're tenpin bowling tomorrow.
Me and Imogen made our costumes for a Halloween party. I'm going as death and Imogen made a vulture costume. My dad told me today is the last day without TV and I didn't even remember. It's been fun going without it.
Dad Hamish Says: "Apart from the first day after the challenge finished, when Hamish and Imogen spent all day playing computer games and watching TV, they aren't that bothered about it any more. I'd recommend this to every parent."