Matt Niblock - Product designer, street photographer, tech geek, and human.


My place for general ramblings and ideas.

What two weeks without the internet taught me

Recently I was plunged into a world of no internet. Without getting into the weeds (and for the sake of my sanity - it’s still raw), an error of judgement by an engineer caused my home fibre connection to be offline for over 2 weeks. This may not seem so bad in today’s climate of digital detoxes and #deletefacebook, but I can tell you when it’s forced rather than chosen, it sucks.

I’m writing this partially due to wanting to share thoughts on self-discovery but also for catharsis. We are a self-help society who constantly evaluate our lives, and where some people would gain growth and welcome the space freed up from digital dissipation, I feel the opposite and have decided to use analysis to regain sanity.

I try and lead a digital first life and there are many reasons why. Reducing paper waste for bills, having the ability to search and access documents through Dropbox can’t be understated, 24/7 access to on-demand entertainment; these are all key contributors for me leading an always online lifestyle, but when the means of delivery is sucked away, so too do all the modern day digital patterns acquired from years of defining and refining those habits.

Having a digital dry spell has been an eye opener to say the least and it’s been the single biggest routine disrupter since moving out and having to do my own washing. YouTube videos while cooking dinner; playing Spotify while reading a downloaded comic; streaming every episode of Friends back-to-back; all of these have forcibly replaced with silence, pause, exercise and self-reflection. It’s been absolute hell.

Joking aside there has been a realisation for me that the internet is a utility and I cannot be convinced otherwise. In the developed world we have become so reliant on it that removal can have drastic implications on lifestyle and wellbeing. OK that may sound hyperbolic but think about it, utilities we are used to include gas, electric and running water. They are things we are accustomed to but not essential in the hunter gatherer sense of the word, but take them away and I guarantee you thousands of people will suffer and fall beyond their capabilities. I believe the same is true of the internet. Take it away and the means to earn, communicate, and provide, will be severed instantly, and with huge consequences.

For instance, one doesn’t have to work in an “internet business” per se, but many companies rely on conference calling, some international, for meetings and live visuals. You just cannot have that sort of instant dialogue without the internet, and ultimately that has a measurable effect on outputs, and more specifically, revenue.

Socially there are ramifications too. I currently live on my own, many miles from my family. The internet offers access to casual socialising with friends, and updates on my nephews’ in growth into toddlerdom. But what about families strewn across the globe? Despite all the problems quickly associated with social media, I believe a lot of us are missing the immense value gained from ubiquitous connectivity.

I must admit there were times when I was at home conducting conversations with my ISP while simultaneously making holes in the plasterboard with my forehead, wondering whether I should really we kicking up such a fuss for something that didn’t even exist when I was growing up. Ultimately, the answer, in my opinion, is yes.

Society is at one of its inflection points. We have a new norm where connectivity is an expected utility of modern day living and we shouldn’t be ashamed or worried about change, we should embrace it and fight for keeps. This isn’t to ignore the issues associated with online behaviour. Bullying, addiction, attention times, and more, are real problems we face as a result of constant connectivity. But with opportunity comes risk, and we have a responsibility to face both sides of the coin, whichever one lands facing upwards.

When I think about change, one thing comes to mind. When my dad was growing up he had no option but to use an outhouse. Things change, and I for one am glad they do.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash