4 Aug 2022

Taking it offline

Our lives are increasingly lived online. Many of us work online, we rely on banking apps, use our phones for cashless purchases, shop online, communicate with our friends by WhatsApp and email, post on Twitter and Instagram and use online dating sites. We’ve become progressively more accustomed to communication without a human face: we fill in online forms, discuss our problems with chatbots and accept that help lines are hard to access. We’ve reached the point where we’re hesitant about impetuously picking up the phone and calling our friends; we text ahead to agree a mutually convenient time.

Most of us accept that simply conducting everyday life without the internet is impossible. We dread losing our phones, are paranoid about our WiFi connections, and compulsively monitor our screens throughout the day.

As a result we’re exposed to a vast information overload on a daily basis, and our attention span is getting shorter. We are over-stimulated by the digital universe and respond by skimming, moving on and forgetting. We are becoming human goldfish, which are famous for their short, 9-second attention spans.

Perhaps we should recognise that we have shackled ourselves to an online existence, which is over-stimulating us and at the same time depriving us of many of life’s slower pleasures, and experiment with living an offline life:

Enjoy the journey

Navigate your way around town with a real map or ask a stranger for directions. Allow yourself plenty of time (no last minute phone calls explaining that you’re late) and look at the world around you. When you’re driving somewhere new, try looking at a map before you leave and memorising the route, rather than blindly following your satnav. You’ll find yourself much more alive to your surroundings if you take back responsibility for finding your own way.

Revel in the written word

Try reading a book, magazine or newspaper when you’re on a train or on holiday. Enjoy the tactile pleasure of turning the pages and breathe in the scent of print on paper. By consciously distancing the reading process from your online devices you might find that you regain your powers of concentration and lose yourself in the text.

Communicate directly

The online world facilitates communication but keeps contact at a distance. Meeting in the flesh will open you up to a world of non-verbal communication, where body language, facial expression and gestures all speak volumes, allowing chemistry to flourish and intimacy to blossom. Talking to someone on the phone will remind you of the subtle nuances of the human voice, which are totally lost in the world of texts and emoticons.

Write a letter

Rediscover the satisfaction of the written word – you can experience the joys of choosing stationery, writing with a real fountain pen, and even strolling down to the post box. You can also feel confident that the recipient of your letter will be delighted to receive your missive, and will appreciate the effort you have put into writing.

Do your own research

Google hands you the world on a plate, but sometimes it’s good to look things up in books, make phone calls, or ask friends. It’s slower, but you might find it more satisfying, and you are more likely to uncover quirky and intriguing nuggets of information.

Rely on serendipity

The internet has turned us all into control freaks, endlessly researching every option before we commit. Sometimes it’s much more fun just to follow your instincts when you’re out and about – you might stumble on a wonderful pub, restaurant or hotel by chance, and then you’ll experience the thrill of discovering something for yourself, rather than reading the reviews, assessing the ratings and following the herd.

Drop out of the online rat race

The endless networking, blogging, tweeting and chatting can all continue without you. Sometimes it’s relaxing to just switch off the information deluge and spend some time with friends and family, or have a real-world adventure. You can hop back on to the internet merry-go-round at any point.

Work on your real-world persona

It’s easy to become a ‘personality’ online, constantly posting opinions, tweeting, blogging, instagramming. The online world gives users an endless forum for self-projection and self-promotion. But the real world isn’t like the internet. You will have to interact with other people, respond to them, adjust your behaviour to accommodate their needs, improvise in challenging situations, listen and empathise. Remember, this is the real you, not your carefully curated online persona.

Stop wasting precious time

The online world is infinitely distracting, and sometimes it’s better to actually cook a meal, go for a run, go to a film, visit a music festival, rather than just reading about it online. If all your conversation is based on facts/insights you’ve gleaned from the internet, people will suspect you of not having a life.

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