No Internet for a week. This is not happening. This is not happening! But it actually did happen for five digital natives who volunteered to give up their phones, laptops, tablets and other connected devices for a "No Internet Week" last month.
Timed to correspond with Europe's Internet Week, the disconnection experiment was captured in a 13-minute film by Mother London.
As expected, all the participants died horrible deaths, screaming into the void for one last hit of digital immersion, heads exploding like props from a pre-CGI horror flick.
Kidding, of course. No digital natives died in the making of this film. They did, however, struggle mightily sans emails, IMs, texts, social media and the always-on stream of engagement to which we've all become addicted. "I'm powerless over it," admits participant James Brown, a journalist and editor of Sabotage Times, after three days of Web deprivation. "The Internet is in charge."
Addiction, in fact, is a recurring theme, with Brown and his cohorts looking tense and strung-out as they suffer a kind of low-intensity withdrawal. "I'm fucked, basically," Brown says. We see him spend time doing more archaic tasks, like chopping wood. "Logging is the new blogging," he explains.
The experience does have positive aspects. James doesn't go berserk with his ax a la The Shining and terrorize his family. In fact, his young son finds dad nicer when he's not tweeting all the time. Then there's Mother strategist Katie MacKay, who appreciates being liberated from the "constant stress" of digital media. In a telling segment, Katie attends a reception and frets because she can't share pictures from the event in real time. The next day at work, however, she's delighted when a friend presents her with an old-school analog scrapbook of posts and tweets about the function. "This feels real," she says.
Indeed, the film's subjects ultimately enjoy their brief journey through analog reality, learning first-hand that the physical world can be more than just a place to gather material for digital sharing, and that lives needn't be irreparably interrupted when our beloved screens fade to black.