One year ago today, The Verge's Senior Technology Editor Paul Miller unplugged his Ethernet cable, disconnected his Wi-Fi, swapped his smartphone for a dumbphone, and gave up the internet cold turkey. Since then, he's continued his web-free existence by filing numerous stories about his offline experiences via USB drives. He even set up a snail-mail P.O. box for reader comments. Through it all, readers wondered: Once his year-long personal experiment was over, would Miller return to the web enlightened, or ravaged? Was he just trolling us? How would he remember all his passwords? And how, one outspoken reader wondered, would Miller obtain porn without the internet?
At last, we have at least some of the answers, as Miller has returned to the world wide web. Here, a sampling of his reflections:
One year ago I left the internet. I thought it was making me unproductive. I thought it lacked meaning. I thought it was "corrupting my soul."
It's a been a year now since I "surfed the web" or "checked my email" or "liked" anything with a figurative rather than literal thumbs up. I've managed to stay disconnected, just like I planned. I'm internet free.
And now I'm supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I'm supposed to be enlightened. I'm supposed to be more "real," now. More perfect.
But instead it's 8PM and I just woke up. I slept all day, woke with eight voicemails on my phone from friends and coworkers. I went to my coffee shop to consume dinner, the Knicks game, my two newspapers, and a copy of The New Yorker. And now I'm watching Toy Story while I glance occasionally at the blinking cursor in this text document, willing it to write itself, willing it to generate the epiphanies my life has failed to produce.
I didn't want to meet this Paul at the tail end of my yearlong journey.
In early 2012 I was 26 years old and burnt out. I wanted a break from modern life — the hamster wheel of an email inbox, the constant flood of WWW information which drowned out my sanity. I wanted to escape.