There Is No Offline Anymore

Technology pervades our lives. But while many writers argue that such a phenomenon should see us rebel and take time away from our gadgets to experience "real life", Nathan Jurgenson has other ideas. Instead, as he sees it, there is no offline any more.

In a fascinating essay for The New Inquiry, Jurgenson suggests that those of us who feel we can escape the thrum of the digital world are living a lie:

"[W]e have been taught to mistakenly view online as meaning not offline. The notion of the offline as real and authentic is a recent invention, corresponding with the rise of the online. If we can fix this false separation and view the digital and physical as enmeshed, we will understand that what we do while connected is inseparable from what we do when disconnected. That is, disconnection from the smartphone and social media isn't really disconnection at all: The logic of social media follows us long after we log out. There was and is no offline; it is a lusted-after fetish object that some claim special ability to attain, and it has always been a phantom."

In fact, Jurgenson goes on to point out, the internet allows us to appreciate the physical world in ways we would have taken for granted in the past. When you leave your phone at home and go for a long walk, it's nice to not be constantly checking your email — but that positive feeling wouldn't be possible if you'd never had an email account. More than that, experiences we have when offline are framed in our mind in terms of the online:

"The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability. It's not real unless it's on Google; pics or it didn't happen. We aren't friends until we are Facebook friends. We have come to understand more and more of our lives through the logic of digital connection. Social media is more than something we log into; it is something we carry within us. We can't log off."

So attempting to escape connection is futile, according to Jurgenson; there is no offline anymore. What do you think? [The New Inquiry via The Verge]


Comments

    become amish

    As a working 21 yr old, I don't have Facebook, Twitter or a YouTube account. I live life tech free almost, I don't need to know or hear about my friends "drinking game" or his new gf, I'm right there besides him.

    I go out walking my girls dogs out, we both work but always get time to unwind and enjoy the real world, go to the beach/park unpack the rugs and let time just fly past. Technology isn't the answer, it's being human and escaping from everyone else which sets the good times.

      The thing is you are more connected digitally than you realize and take alot of it for granted. Being connected is more than just Twitter and Facebook

        How so?

      Dee, so you don't have friends living overseas that you want to keep in touch with? and how are you commenting on this website if you are living tech-free, and more importantly why on earth are you visiting a tech/gadget website if you're not interested in technology? so many contradictions.

      So Tech free that you're actively lurking a Tech Blog?

    This guy is dreaming. Now people are only happy in the absence of emails because they exist? That's like walking along being happy about not being mugged.

    Offline means just what it has for a long time. Not online. The media is not the Internet. The Internet is a tool and so is the essay writer.

    Agreed, I'm 32 and a frequent internet user. I use the internet for making a living. I can't find a reason to post my life on the internet, it doesn't make sense to me. If you have friends that need to see your life online to know you have one then I'm not sure of there value as friends. I would rather wait for for some (geez I can't even use the word facetime) face to face time for an actual social experience. I despise the word facebook coming up in conversation, it feels like the we ran out of things to talk about and have to resort to conversation about facebook. ugggh.

    I just came back from a mountaineering trip in Alaska ... 4 weeks on a mountain with no communication to the outside world (except a satellite phone which i didnt use) was utter bliss, but i still hugged my laptop when i returned to it.

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